Terrorists today would like you to think that they thrive because their cause is just. It plays well with the foreign media but the truth is that they have developed a sophisticated global fund raising system that utilizes everything from Internet appeals to directly tapping into some country's defense budgets. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a great example of how modern terrorism finances revolution. Take their recent rape of Syrian resources.
ISIS targeted and captured Eastern Syria because that's where the nation's oilfields are located. In the name of revolution, the conquerors were soon exporting oil to the world and spending the proceeds on munitions.
Like locusts, ISIS minions then spread out throughout Syria gathering up and smuggling out of the country antiquities and other treasures for even more money. In just one Syrian region alone, they netted $36 million by selling a boatload of 8,000 year old relics. But it was in Iraq where they really hit the jackpot.
As town after Iraqi town were annexed in their drive towards Baghdad, the capital, ISIS rolled up an increasing cache of money, supplies and American-made equipment including arms, ammunition and assorted vehicles. In invading Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, their operatives pulled off the largest bank heist in modern history, netting the group over $400 million. Most experts believe ISIS has amassed roughly $2 billion in their war chest while continuing to write a new page in terrorist fund raising.
ISIS has also expanded the use of the Internet. They have learned the value of social media from groups such as al Qaeda. They are now using various Internet sites to raise awareness and contact individual donors. Those who contribute are kept informed of their donations at work via progress reports on special operations, body counts and new advances by revolutionary fighters.
Funny enough, ISIS owes its existence to America's allies in the Middle East. Specifically, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have been funneling donations to the group in their bid to blunt the resurgence of Sunni-led forces in the region. They have argued that the U. S. failure to oust Assad, Syrian's strongman, left them no choice but to support those forces in Syria that could oppose the regime.
The Sunni-Shiite sectarian war has forced almost all the countries in that region into feuding religious camps. The U. S. objective of promoting peace and stability in the region is definitely on the back burner among these nations. The terrorists have tapped those sentiments and developed a financial pipeline through Turkey or Jordan into Syria that is worth hundreds of millions in donations, especially from Kuwait. Kuwait, where this kind of activity is still legal, acts as an assembly point for money throughout the Gulf States from charities, religious groups, fund raisers and even raffles. The effort is so widespread that U. S. officials have charged that their country's minister for justice and Islamic affairs is a major terrorist financier. It appears to make little difference to that government or its people.
So in a roundabout way, our energy dependence on that region has spawned much more than higher prices at the gas pump. It has and still is oil money that supports terrorists, whether we are fighting ISIS, al Qaeda or a hundred other militant groups. The longer we wait to gain energy independence, the longer the problems of terrorism will continue to plague us.
Bill Schmick is registered as an investment advisor representative with Berkshire Money Management.
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