Who is Financing ISIS?

The recently established US led coalition aims to act against the massacres committed by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. What is peculiar, is that the more...

The recently established US led coalition aims to act against the massacres committed by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. What is peculiar, is that the more one looks into the issue the more one understands that a lot of countries in the coalition are either funding ISIS or helped in the creation of the group.  This leads to one question; what is the interest of the US led coalition, it is the total destruction of ISIS or containing the latter in a limited geographical area where it can pursue the objectives of the states that have led to its creation or are currently funding the organization?

The chairman of the Iraqi Parliamentary Commission on Security and Defense MP Hakim Zamili has revealed the following in a press conference: “The coalition aircrafts violate the Iraqi sovereignty and the international norms in order to prolong the war with ISIS by providing it with aid by air or on land”.Yet, the Iraqi Foreign minister Ibrahim AL-Jaafary has denied the existence of evidences proving the involvement of the Coalition in dropping aids and weapons to ISIS.

However, finding solid proof related to the involvement of one of the US led coalition states in the creation or in the funding of ISIS is very difficult. However scholars insist on the fact that Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are funding the organization, with the objective of taking down the regime of President Bashar al Assad in Syria, while rich individuals, so-called “angel investors”, in the Gulf keep sending small but steady flow of money to ISIS.”

It seems the Gulf region is playing the blame game. Qatar, which allegedly represents the biggest sources of private funding for ISIS claims, according to a Qatari official, that “ISIS has been a Saudi project.” The US has pressured countries like Qatar to develop new anti-terrorist financing regulations while discouraging privately its support to ISIS. In addition, Kuwait has been strengthening its tax anti-terrorist financing rules due to International pressure. In fact, Kuwait constitutes the staging areas for individuals sending money to ISIS due to the existing banking system and its money changers.

When it comes to Saudi Arabia, the kingdom has enacted regulations prohibiting private donations to ISIS, since the latter is considered as a threat to the kingdom’s security. Nevertheless, citizens of Saudi Arabia represent a significant funding source for Sunni groups operating in Syria.

According to a former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, ISIS got started through funding from US friends and allies as a strategy to destroy Hezbollah. Oil rich countries led to creation of a Frankenstein’s monster by arming rebel groups. Moreover, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford criticized Turkey and Qatar for considering Al Nusra Front as a  homegrown, anti-Assad force since it constitute an  al Qaida affiliate. In fact, money and weapons flooded into Syria from the Turkish border with Qatari and Saudi support. For instance, the Turkish town of Gaziantep in southeast Turkey is one of the places where funds are being transferred to ISIS.

Donations are being made also in the form of “Fake Humanitarian Aid”. These donations are laundered through unregistered charities with terrorists coordinating geographical drop-off points for payments using cellphone applications. Funds are being sent even from Canada through unwitting banks not directly to Syria but through conduit countries like Lebanon and Jordan which make financial transactions very difficult to catch.

What is more, it turns out that the United States, Israel and Iran are again dominating the region justifying their presence in the fight against ISIS. In fact, Cuba’s former president Fidel Castro accused the US and Israel of creating ISIS, not to mention the Sudan President has publicly stated that CIA and Mossad stand behind these terrorist organizations. Additionally, the captured Pakistan Commander of Islamic State has revealed that “he was getting funding by the US to recruit young people to fight in Syria,  while receiving around $600 (£395) for every recruit he sent to Syria. However, Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba considered ISIS “as a tool being used by Iranians and Syrians regime”.

In fact, the US invasion of Iraq leading to the creation of a failed state divided between different religions has contributed to the creation of ISIS, which existed since 2006 in small numbers. Additionally, the arms sent to the free Syrian army by the US were sold to ISIS and members of the same group have joined the organization while ISIS has ceased all the heavy American military equipment that were left in Iraq by the American army. Furthermore, the US is currently opposing several forces fighting ISIS such as Iran, whereas the latter is presently involved in the biggest offensive against ISIS launched by the Iraqi army to take back the city of Tikrit.

Even if the funds and aids were stopped completely, ISIS would still receive revenue from oil smuggling and organized crime within the territories it controls. That said, the Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has rightfully asked whether the US led coalition aims at containing terrorist organizations like ISIS, or at destroying it.

The answer on this question would lead to the assessment of the real mission of the US led coalition. In case the US led coalition is aiming at containing ISIS, countries of the coalition could be suspected of sending arms and funding to ISIS as the policy is to contain the organization for specific objectives such as fighting the Syrian regime. On the other hand, if the objective is to completely destroy the terrorist group, it will be difficult to justify why certain members of the coalitions are indirectly financing the group.

Imad Ibrahim

Imad Ibrahim is a PhD Candidate at Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy. In his Phd thesis, he examines the issue of transboundary groundwater governance from a legal perspective. He is specialized in energy, water, environmental and climate change law and also deals with matters related to international trade and intellectual property rights. He has been working for the last 3 years as a Research Associate at the think tank Global Law Initiative for Sustainable Development (gLAWcal). He is also an EU commission Marie Curie Fellow at Tsinghua University and at Beijing Normal University (Beijing, China) and Energy policy expert at the Lebanese Oil & Gas Initiative – LOGI, Beirut Lebanon. Imad holds a Master in European Interdisciplinary Studies from the College of Europe and an LLB with a specialization in European, French and Lebanese Law from the Lebanese University, Beirut.
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