To delve into Daesh’s convoluted money trail, one must first explore its equally convoluted origins. And in both areas, the role of the U.S. and its allies can not be ignored.
Out of nowhere, it seems, Daesh, also commonly referred to as ISIL or ISIS, spontaneously formed, a group that perverts aspects of Islam for its own violent ends, and threatens, we are told, all that the civilized world holds dear.
The “war on terror,” governments inform their citizens, has a new front. And that front is Daesh.
Let us not be too hasty. Things are not always what they appear. Daesh is well-financed, and that money must be coming from somewhere other than a ragtag band of malcontents. Daesh soldiers have advanced weaponry and sophisticated communications methods. They have tanks and Humvees. None of these can be obtained without significant funding. Though the source is quite illusive, there is some evidence that will lead to a trail.
First, we must look at Daesh’s origins, and even that is not easily discernible. Writing for The Guardian in August 2014, Ali Khedery suggests:
“Principally, Isis is the product of a genocide that continued unabated as the world stood back and watched. It is the illegitimate child born of pure hate and pure fear – the result of 200,000 murdered Syrians and of millions more displaced and divorced from their hopes and dreams. Isis’s rise is also a reminder of how Bashar al-Assad’s Machiavellian embrace of al-Qaida would come back to haunt him.
Facing Assad’s army and intelligence services, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Shia Islamist militias and their grand patron, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Syria’s initially peaceful protesters quickly became disenchanted, disillusioned and disenfranchised – and then radicalised and violently militant.”
It is interesting that Mr. Khedery says that Assad’s “embrace of al-Qaida” came back to haunt him. It brings to mind a parallel situation in the United States. (Actually, there are many, but we will look at only one.)
Examining the theories of the origins of Daesh
In the early 1960s, when the U.S.-supported leadership of Iraq was becoming just a bit too big for its britches — at least in the United States’ view — in wanting to challenge Israel as a major player in the Middle East, the U.S. decided that its leader, Abdel Karim Kassem, had to go. Selecting a virulent anti-communist party to throw its support to, the U.S. worked closely with a young man named Saddam Hussein. We all know how well that ultimately worked out. The source of much, but not all, of the unrest in the Middle East today can be traced back to that U.S. decision.
Other theories on the formation of Daesh are also worth considering. Yasmina Haifi, a senior employee of the Dutch Justice Ministry’s National Cyber Security Center, asserted that Daesh was created by Zionists seeking to give Islam a bad reputation. “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It’s part of a plan by Zionists who are deliberately trying to blacken Islam’s name,” she wrote on Twitter in August 2014.
And finally, it has been more than suggested that Daesh “is made-in-the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region,” as Garikai Chengu, a research scholar at Harvard University, put it in September 2014.
Yet if the United States’ role wasn’t that blatant, it certainly existed, according to Seumas Milne, a columnist and associate editor at The Guardian. He argued in a June opinion piece:
“[T]he U.S. and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of ‘Islamic state’ – despite the ‘grave danger’ to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.”
No matter how one looks at it, there are many possible causes that spawned Daesh. As we look at its funding sources, it may all become clearer.
Funding and materiel, courtesy of Uncle Sam and his friends
In Daesh’s role as opposing Syria (just one of its many roles) the terrorist outfit is believed to have received funding from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as part of their opposition to the Assad regime.
But it also generates its own income, having taken control of local businesses, taxing others, and selling oil. Among its customers, incredibly, is Syria. Since Daesh controls much of the oil-production infrastructure in the country, Syria has little choice but to purchase oil from the very group that seeks to overthrow its government.
Reports also indicate that Israel is a main buyer of Daesh oil. The sale is not direct; oil is smuggled by Kurdish and Turkish smugglers, and then Turkish and Israeli negotiators determine the price. As a result of these oil sales, Daesh has annual revenues estimated at $500 million, according to data compiled by the U.S. Treasury.
In November of this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Daesh is being financed by at least 40 countries — including G20 members. With such widespread financing, it will be difficult to defeat Deash.
The U.S., in its misguided and destructive foreign policy toward the Middle East (its misguided and destructive foreign policies toward the rest of the world are topics for a separate discussion), also provided Daesh with a vast arsenal.
Last year, the Department of Defense, bragging about advances against this new “enemy” in Iraq, issued a press release: “The three strikes destroyed three ISIL armed vehicles, and ISIL vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft artillery gun, an ISIL checkpoint and an IED emplacement.” Commenting on that statement in Alternet, Alex Kane wrote:
“What went unmentioned by the Pentagon is that those armed vehicles and artillery guns they bombed were likely paid for with American tax dollars. The arms ISIS possesses are another grim form of blowback from the American invasion of the country (Iraq) in 2003. It’s similar to how U.S. intervention in Libya, which overthrew the dictator Muammar Gaddafi but also destabilized the country, let to a flood of arms to militants in Mali, where France and the U.S. waged war in 2013.”
The U.S. left untold amounts of weaponry in Iraq, and as that country descended into civil war following the United States’ odd salvation of it, that weaponry was free for the taking.
So even if, as suggested above, the U.S. didn’t give birth to Daesh, it has certainly nourished it.
A merry-go-round that never stops spinning
It is interesting to note that U.S. taxpayers are spending $615,482 every hour to fight a “war” in which the “enemy” is being well-financed by countries with whom the U.S. has full diplomatic relations. Does this not make it appear that “victory” over this enemy is not the goal? With many countries financing and supplying Daesh, might the world’s largest supplier of weaponry, the U.S., not be too interested in losing such a lucrative market? It’s worth noting that the United States’ “foreign military sales rose to a record high of $46.6 billion for fiscal 2015.” With such a healthy cash cow, would the country’s power-brokers really want to end war? Why kill the goose that is laying such pretty golden eggs?
As the U.S. and its hapless allies continue this “war on terror,” an ill-defined and nebulous “enemy” if ever there was one, Syria and Yemen seem to be bearing the brunt of the violence. As in every modern war at least since World War I, innocent men, women and children are the most frequent victims, suffering unspeakably and dying horrible deaths. And, somehow, the world’s most powerful military machine, owned and operated by the U.S., is unable to defeat Daesh. It must, therefore, continue to arm its allies, which are arming Daesh. So the U.S. provides funding to countries to fight Deash; some of those countries transfer money and armaments to Daesh, who the U.S. is bombing. And it seems that this deadly merry-go-round will continue its endless spinning.
And why shouldn’t it? The U.S. can, with ever-decreasing credibility, pretend to stand as a beacon of freedom and liberty, arming revolutionaries and destabilizing governments that displease it, while arming allies of the country in revolution, which in turn assist that country. So this “war on terror” never ends, and neither do the abundant profits from war-making. And when possession of the moral high ground is just an illusion, when rhetoric spewed from the mouths of hypocritical politicians to get the citizenry to wrap themselves in the flag and shed a tear for apple pie, motherhood and Old Glory, and when the almighty dollar is always the bottom line, nothing is going to change.