“We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it. We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.” - Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East (August 2014)
When I did some searches for information on I.S.I.S (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) about 1.5 months ago what turned up was very contradictory and incomplete. Maybe you are wondering who I.S.I.S. is and how they get their money. This short post provides an overview of the information published so far and pulls from sources other than mainstream as well. The links will give you sources for getting more info if you want. Or, read on to understand my best guess to this political and military mystery based on who wins and loses in the regional balance of power and where the money ends up.
- CNN paints a picture of using oil revenues from captured oil fields and extracting money from local people. I find both of these hard to believe. Locals have to be tapped out after all this time. And, how does ISIS have the necessary infrastructure to run an oil extraction process and transportation system to provide $1-2M per day as the article says?
- NBC tries to put the source as wealthy Qatarians. This also does not seem very credible to me. Qatar is wealthy but unless they have been flying way under the radar for 30 years have always stayed out of mideast politics.
- This article says it is Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. I find it more than plausible that the Saudis are involved and would think them the kingmakers.
- There were several reports that ISIS robbed $420M from a central bank in Mosul and then other reports that said that was false. It is hard to believe a bank would actually hold that much cash in actual bills.
- Newsweek says that ISIS is mainly supported by Kuwaiti donors, through smuggling routes established during Saddam's regime and taxing the local population. The article, while seemingly containing lots of details does not really add up. It takes millions per day to run a war of the proportions ISIS is operating at right now. Think about just the amount of gas it takes to move all the equipment. Where do all the armaments come from? Running a war at multiple fronts at the scale ISIS is operating requires an operation like the US was running in Iraq or Afghanistan. ISIS must be getting funding and arms support from a big and rich country(ies) that have access to vast munitions stores.
- The Russian based RT news source interviewed British Labor MP, Jeremy Corbyn who mostly lamented about civilian casualties. RT opined the "Key to ISIS fighting - concerted pressure on its funding and sources of arms", which is correct but one wonders why they are coming down on the righteous side of this argument. Is it because the US, Brit and French arms suppliers are making the most money off this conflict and not the Russians?
The amount of conflicting information in the news media makes me believe that the real story is not something the general public is supposed to know or understand. A veil of misinformation is being created to confuse everyone so when the real story comes out, there is enough confusion to provide political cover.
Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (huh?) in Washington, has shown up all over the place and I bet his background could be interesting reading. So, here is a story of the biggest barbarians loose in the world today and a question as simple as where does all the money come from to fund them cannot be answered. And, it takes lots of money for bullets, gas for equipment, food for soldiers, payments to soldiers, etc even if they got most of the guns and heavy equipment for free when the US withdrew from Iraq.
Is there a diplomatic Solution? - I found this interview with Phyllis Bennis (fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of Before & After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis) which provided a counterpoint to mainstream media.:
PHYLLIS BENNIS:"Yeah. Well, I think, unfortunately, much of this is politically driven. There were moments of crisis in Iraq, as there had been moments of crisis in Syria, where there was the question of would the U.S. intervene militarily. One of the big problems is we don’t hear options. We hear the choice that George Bush gave the nation on September 12th, after the September 11th attacks back in 2001, when we were told the choice is either we go to war or we let them get away with it. Presented with those two options, the support for going to war was 88 percent, and that’s not so surprising: If the only alternative is do nothing, people will support war. The problem is, all of the options that have to do with diplomacy, with disarmament, with arms embargoes, none of that was on the table.
PHYLLIS BENNIS: Absolutely. You know, Saudi Arabia is the source of the largest amount of money, from what all the reports are indicating, that is going to ISIS as well as a host of other Islamist and other organizations, the al-Nusra Front, the official franchise of al-Qaeda, and others. Some of it probably comes from the government, although that’s never been confirmed. But this is a very tightly controlled society, where if there was an interest by the government in stopping its own citizens, whether they are Saudi princes or ordinary citizens, who are the source of a huge amount of the money funding these organizations, including ISIS, it could be contained. The Saudi government has been very eager to keep ISIS out of Saudi Arabia. The fact that the U.S. has an enormous base in the region makes it very vulnerable for those who see the U.S. role as something to be challenged, something to be opposed. The Saudis don’t want to talk about that alliance with the United States. But there is $60 billion worth of arms that they’ve been engaged in buying from the United States over this last two years. Many of those arms are the ones ending up in the hands of ISIS. It’s U.S. arms and it’s Saudi arms that are ending up there. Whether it’s individuals or whether it’s part of the government, that money is coming to a large degree from Saudi Arabia, from other parts of the region, as well—from Qatar, from Kuwait, from UAE, from a number of countries—but Saudi Arabia is very much at the center of this. And the U.S.-Saudi alliance is such that if the U.S. chose to challenge the arms sellers in this country, who are making a killing on this new war, this Iraq War 3.0, we might say—if they were to prepared to challenge those arms suppliers, and thus challenge the Saudi government, there could be a real effort to put a stop to the funding and arming of these terrible organizations like ISIS.
Jeremy Scahill is always provocative and can provide analysis outside the norm. His complete transcript is at this link. He talks about the Orwellian nature of the fight in the Mideast which is how I have personally felt since the Iraq War and the lies and deception regarding WMD's.
Here it is a month and a half after I started to put together this post and nothing has become clearer to me so I decided to publish what I have gathered so far. The deliberate obfuscation by governments and media continues. Comment if you can provide some clarity on who ISIS actually is, where they are getting money, and whose armaments they are using.You know, the Obama administration, in engaging in this policy, is continuing a Bush administration outcome of the decision to invade Iraq. And that is, they’re empowering the very threat that they claim to be fighting. Who is ISIS? What is this group made up of? Is it just people that are radical Islamists that want to behead American journalists? No. One of the top—and this almost is never mentioned in corporate media coverage of this—one of the top military commanders of ISIS is a man named Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri al-Takriti. Who is Izzat Ibrahim? Izzat Ibrahim is the leading Baathist, who was on the deck of cards, that the United States has not captured. He was one of Saddam Hussein’s top military commanders. He was not just some ragamuffin Baathist. He actually was a hardcore general in the Iraqi military during the Iran-Iraq War, and he was a secular Baathist.Why is he fighting with ISIS? Well, when Bush decided to invade Iraq, and then he put Paul Bremer, who was a radical neocon ideologue who had cut his teeth working for Henry Kissinger—when Paul Bremer was put in charge of the occupation of Iraq, one of the first things he did was to fire 250,000 Iraqi soldiers simply because they were members of the Baath Party. As one senior U.S. official at the time said, it was the day we made a quarter of a million enemies in Iraq. All of these Baathists have been jerked around by the United States, and the Sunnis in western Iraq, jerked around by the United States for a very long time.
Based on the available information, reading between the lines, and then just doing the math regarding the amount of money involved to run a military operation in Iraq and Syria with the numbers of troops involved, one quickly arrives at the conclusion that ISIS:
- Must be funded by a country or countries with very deep financial pockets.
- The supporting country or countries must have access to large amounts of arms.
There are only a few that fit the bill.
- The Arab Gulf States with tacit support from the US, Britain, and France are the ISIS supporters with money and arms. Western arms manufacturers are making lots of money and have established arms distribution channels with the Arab Gulf States.
- Possibly Israel because the Shiite government in Iraq and Assad/Syria are kept very weak. Plus, the Iranians are put on the defensive due to concerns ISIS could eventually attack them.
The Saudis and Gulf States can feel like they are in control of the mayhem. Israel feels better because their biggest and formerly best armed enemies of Syria and Iraq have been cut in half by ISIS. And, even the oil companies get to see the oil keep moving from ISIS occupied territories.
NY Times article In Battle to Defang ISIS, U.S. Targets Its Psychology
Good article by Amir Ahmad Nasr on why ISIS has grass-roots support around the world, and, in Syria and Iraq