It is important during the aftermath of the Paris attacks at the hands of the Islamic State to examine the United States relationship with Saudi Arabia. Where exactly does ISIS receive its funding for such attacks? It has become pushed, and force-fed to the American public that ISIS is a self-funded organization.
An NBC News report last year stated ISIS was using a lucrative underground market to fund itself, reportedly valued at $7 billion. “Priceless pieces of history snatched from illicit diggings or swiped from museum cases have become one of the four most common commodities- next to drugs, weapons and human beings – to be trafficked by smugglers,” said the report.
It is not uncommon for mainstream media to neglect their responsibility of telling the whole story, or simply be lazy. Daniel Lazare made an astute observation in his Nov. 20 article “The Saudi Connection to Terror” on consortiumnews.com.
But the $7 billion total is dubious considering that the contemporary art market, entirely above board of course, amounts to only $2 billion. Black markets are all but impossible to measure for the simple reason that participants scatter like rats as soon as the lights go on.
Lazare also brought up the fact that no buyers want to be caught “funneling money to ISIS.” The US air attacks on tanker trucks containing oil caused an estimated $350,000 worth of damage, a relatively small blow when considering several factors.
ISIS reportedly pays their fighters around $400 a month, double what other groups in the region offer. In September of last year the CIA estimated ISIS had between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters. I am no good at math, but that seems like a rather costly monthly budget for a self-funded organization. So where is the money coming from?
The obscenely wealthy and corrupt Arab Gulf states would seem to be a likely answer. The current tension in the region is difficult to understand. Lazare provides an excellent summary of the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict and its implications on current tensions in the Middle East.
At its most basic, the Sunni-Shi‘ite conflict is a war of succession among followers of Muhammad, who died in the Seventh Century. The more one side gains political control in the name of Islam, consequently, the more vulnerable it becomes to accusations from the other side that its claim to power is less than legitimate.
The Saudi royal family, which styles itself as the “custodian of the two holy mosques” of Mecca and Medina, is especially sensitive to such accusations, if only because its political position seems to be growing more and more precarious. This is why it has thrown itself into an anti-Shi‘ite crusade from Yemen to Bahrain to Syria.
While the U.S., Britain and France condemn Bashar al-Assad as a dictator, that’s not why Sunni rebels are now fighting to overthrow him. They are doing so instead because, as an Alawite, a form of Shi‘ism, he belongs to a branch of Islam that the petro-sheiks in Riyadh regard as a challenge to their very existence.
Civil war is rarely a moderating force, and as the struggle against Assad has intensified, power among the rebels has shifted to the most militant Sunni forces, up to and including Al Qaeda and its even more aggressive rival, ISIS.
What this means is that Saudi Arabia is funding Sunni terrorist organizations, such as ISIS. Hilary Clinton, while serving as Secretary of State, stated in a leaked memo “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” Let me remind you again, we are allies with Saudi Arabia.
Why you may ask? Money. The United States is largely dependent on the Gulf States for oil, and the Gulf States have an increasing need for high tech weapons. An example would be the Saudis use of smart bombs purchased from the US to be used against Yemen and the Shi’ite Houthis.
Just last month, the Pentagon announced that it was selling to the Saudis up to four Littoral Combat Ships made by Lockheed for a total of $11.25 billion, while last week it followed up with the news that it was selling the Saudis $1.29 billion worth of smart bombs manufactured by Boeing and Raytheon to replace those the kingdom has dropped on Yemen as part of its crusade against the Shi‘ite Houthis.
It is a known fact at this point that Saudi Arabia donates to groups such as ISIS. So again, why are we still allies with the Saudis? It’s simple. We need oil and they need weapons. The relationship is too important to both nations for anything to change. It’s why the government tells us the Islamic State is self-funded. It’s why classified documents from 9/11 have not been made available to the public, 15 of the 19 terrorists involved were Saudis.
Indirectly, the United States contributed to what happened in Paris on Friday. That may be a harsh statement, but it is true. We need Saudi Arabia and they need us. A viable solution to the corruption in the Middle East does not seem possible, either. Unfortunately, the Saudi-US alliance will continue to be business as usual.
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