May 14, 2015 by John Crapper
I recently had a conversation with a young man who had just finished serving a tour of duty in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I asked him what, in his opinion, was the reason we had become militarily involved in those countries. Without hesitation he immediately said, “oil”.
U.S. intelligence officials revealed in September 2014 that they believed the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, was reaping as much as $3 million a day in revenue, making it one of the wealthiest terrorist groups in history
That report listed the main sources of ISIS funding.
Much of the fundraising for Syria’s extremist groups occurs in the Arab Gulf states, where wealthy private donors raise millions to hand over to Islamist fighters at the Turkey-Syria border. The governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait also covertly provide millions in aid to radical Sunni groups fighting Assad.
“It’s cash-raising activities resemble those of a mafia-like organization,” a U.S. intelligence official told the AP last week. “They are well-organized, systematic and enforced through intimidation and violence.”
3. SMUGGLING AND TAXES The Islamic State also levies taxes in the areas it conquers.
The group is also believed to have earned millions of dollars from illegally trading antiquities. The Guardian reported in June that the Islamic State had made at least $36 million in one particular Syrian region by selling items that were up to 8,000 years old.
4. OIL As reported in the Huffington Post 9/14.
Oil appears to be the largest source of income for the Islamic State today. The militants pump crude oil from about a dozen oil fields they have captured in Syria and Iraq. They either sell the crude oil directly or send it to small refineries to produce low-quality fuels. It is then transported via decades-old smuggling routes over the border and sold at low prices on the black market in Turkey and in smaller volumes to the Syrian regime.
The price the Islamic State group fetches for its smuggled oil is discounted —$25 to $60 for a barrel of oil that normally sells for more than $100 — but its total profits from oil are exceeding $3 million a day, said Luay al-Khatteeb, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center in Qatar.
In the early days of the Syrian civil war, the Islamic State group was funded in large part by donations from wealthy residents of Gulf States, including Kuwait and Qatar, American officials have said. “A number of fundraisers operating in more permissive jurisdictions — particularly in Kuwait and Qatar — are soliciting donations to fund … al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” David Cohen, the Treasury department’s top counterterrorism official, said in a speech in March. ISIL is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.
That stream of funding has diminished in recent months as the group’s violent tactics have drawn worldwide attention, U.S. intelligence officials say. The group’s reliance on oil as its main source of revenue could easily be disrupted by American airstrikes, officials say. But so far, no decision has been made to target Iraqi or Syrian oil infrastructure, which is serviced by civilian workers who may have been conscripted.
Well more recent reports point to that disruption in oil revenue coming true. As reported by Berlin (AFP):
The Islamic State group has lost control of “at least three large oil fields” in Iraq, depriving the jihadists of a crucial source of income, a German newspaper report said Thursday. In the face of a large-scale Iraqi counteroffensive, the extremist group now controls just a single oil field in the country.
But the success has been achieved through military means. Military options continue to be our weapon of choice in the fight against terrorism since 9/11 and the limits with this method should be self evident.
I would like to posit a new approach. What if the United States, along with our Western allies, made a concerted and sustained effort to unplug from these Muslim countries?
This begs the question: why are we involved with them? Is it because we consider Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq our natural allies as we do Great Britain? I think not. I think it is because of oil just like the soldier who recently returned from Afghanistan said to me.
There is an ebb and flow to the sources of terrorist funding depending on the circumstances they find themselves dealing with. It is a complex system but individuals and charities continue to play a significant role. How does it work? Here is a Saudi Arabian example provided by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security
This Gulf monarchy is a rentier state in which no taxes are imposed on the population. Instead, Saudis have a religious tax, the zakat, requiring all Muslims to give at least 2.5 percent of their income to charities. Many of the charities are truly dedicated to good causes, but others merely serve as money laundering and terrorist financing apparatuses. While many Saudis contribute to those charities in good faith believing their money goes toward good causes, others know full well the terrorist purposes to which their money will be funneled. What makes penetration and control of money transactions in the Arab world especially difficult is the Hawala system–the unofficial method of transferring money and one of the key elements in the financing of global terrorism. The system has been going for generations and is deeply embedded in the Arab culture. Hawala transactions are based on trust; they are carried out verbally leaving no paper trail.
It is not a coincidence that much of the cash falling into terrorists hands comes from the oil monarchies in the Persian Gulf. Oil and terrorism are entangled. Most of their wealth comes from oil. Once again take Saudi Arabia.
Oil revenues make up around 90-95% of total Saudi export earnings, 70%-80% of state revenues, and around 40% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP)….Most wealthy Saudis who sponsor charities and educational foundations that preach religious intolerance and hate toward the Western values have made their money from the petroleum industry or its subsidiaries.
Saudi Arabia has been largely the financial engine behind radical Sunni Islam and Iran is the powerhouse behind the terrorism associated with radical Shiite Islam.
Iran, OPEC’s second largest oil producer, is holder of 10 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and has the world’s second largest natural gas reserve. With oil and gas revenues constituting over 80 percent of its total export earning and 50 percent of its gross domestic product, Iran is heavily dependent on petrodollars. It is a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism and supporter of some of the world’s most radical Islamic movements…
The line between oil and terrorism is clear. Oil money is being systematically used to keep semi-feudal royal families in power, propagate hostility against the West, modernity, non-Musslims, and women. If the United States and it’s Western allies made a concerted effort to reduce and eventually eliminate their dependence on Middle Eastern oil, funding for terrorism would be dramatically reduced and we might actually begin to eliminate the threat posed by terrorism around the world.
And that’s not all. There is a line between the effects of climate change and unrest in a country due to it. Take for instance the upheaval we’re witnessing in Syria.
The conflict that has torn Syria apart can be trace</a>d, in part, to a record drought worsened by global warming, a new study claims.
In what scientists say is one of the most detailed and strongest connections between violence and human-caused climate change, researchers from Columbia University and the University of California Santa Barbara trace the effects of Syria’s drought from the collapse of farming, to the migration of 1.5 million farmers to the cities, and then to poverty and civil unrest.
But don’t take my word for it. Once again, take the word of the Institute for Analysis of Global Security.
Hence, America’s best weapon against terrorism is to decrease its dependency on foreign oil by increasing its fuel efficiency and introducing next-generation fuels. If the U.S. bought less oil, the global oil market would shrink and price per-barrel would decline. This would invalidate the social contract between the leaders and their people and stem the flow of resources to the religious establishment. It will likely increase popular pressure for political participation, modernity and reformed political and social institutions. Reducing demand for Middle East oil would force the petroleum-rich regimes to invest their funds domestically, seek ways to diversify their economies and rethink their support for America’s enemies. Only then financial support for terrorism could radically diminish.
Figuring this out and coming to this conclusion is not rocket science. A cursory analysis of the situation and it becomes readily apparent yet we seldom if ever here our leaders from the president on down mentioning it.
Instead we continue to hear of the need to increase military budgets, beef up homeland security, monitor our every word and give our support to covert special operations and drone attacks.
We are told to be vigilant but I still can’t figure out exactly what that means they’re asking us to do.
How about trying something new? How about asking citizens to really take some everyday actions to directly assist in the effort? What if we declared war on our fossil fuel dependency and waged a WWII type effort to wean ourselves off of its use and transform our economy to a non-polluting , renewable energy based one? What if we set a goal of being totally free of our need to import foreign oil in 10 years. Impossible you say? If you said yes I would have to say you are very wrong.
There are many good reasons to justify the declaration of this war on fossil fuel; for the President to declare a state of national emergency and invoke the special powers afforded to the office during times of war. Let me just name a few.
1.Fossil fuel is compromising our national security, altering our foreign policy priorities and ensnarling us in conflicts around the world.
2.It is polluting our air, water and land.
3.It is damaging our health and raising our health care costs.
4.It is altering our weather patterns and disrupting ecosystems around the globe.
5.It is inhibiting our economic growth.
6.It is seriously deteriorating our overall quality of life.
Isn’t this list enough proof that a state of war is justified? When a nation’s way of life is threatened isn’t it proper to declare war on the cause of that threat?
To date the energy issue has been a sideshow. It needs to be the issue that is woven into every facet of American public opinion. The American people need to be sold on an “Energy New Deal” to fight our “War on Terror”. The American people need to be sold on an “Energy New Deal” to tackle climate change. The American people need to be sold on an “Energy New Deal” to retool our economy for a green energy future. The American people need to be sold on an “Energy New Deal” for a healthier, cleaner environment.
The ideas are endless. It’s the focus that is needed.