In my last blog I observed that the systems that banks use to find the funds of the terrorist groups are largely pointless, on the grounds first that terrorist funding takes place in the cash economy, second, that the funds needed for each outrage are small.
But this doesn’t mean that the the funds required for building and sustaining the terrorist groups are small. On the contrary, these will be large. They can only come from sovereign backers or individuals operating with the support of a sovereign. The question for the international community seeking to starve the groups of the oxygen of money is the identity of the funder.
A number of factors need to be assessed to help our understanding of who and why a sovereign may be funding the IS group:
Firstly, we need to understand the Middle East context, where the West-backed Saudi Arabia (with Egypt, UAE, other Gulf states, Bahrain others) confronts Qatar, with its Iranian support.
What are the implications of the boycott of Qatar by these groups? Qatar of course has been alleged by the US administration to be supporting Middle Eastern terror groups.
Then, we need to understand the squeeze now on IS, which is being driven out of Syria and Iraq. This is freeing up large numbers of oilfields, it is also starting to point the way to a resolution of the Middle Eastern refugee crisis, as refugees now stuck in Jordan and Lebanon take tentative steps to regain their homes.
Fourth, we see a resurgence of Al Qaida in Afghanistan and possibly in Libya. This would seem to set up the possibility of conflict with IS,
Fifth, we have seen a consistent assault on the leadership of IS, with the removal of many leaders and many skilled operatives. One might speculate that the incompetence of bomb-making operatives led to the explosion in Spain some days before car-ramming that killed 14 people in Barcelona.
The murderous force of IS looks completely self-defeating. But it must be seen in the larger context of Middle Eastern forces competing for leadership. In this brew are oil revenues, a mere fraction of which can keep terror groups alive and active, even as the price of oil hovers at low levels. Finance cannot be divorced from political scapegoating and machinating. That innocent people pay a high price in lives for the power-games of others far away is tragic.