Kuwait might want to ask for its money back

Now that ISIS has declared the founding of an Islamic Caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq, I’d like to briefly review the extent to which its success has turned the Middle East upside down.

To wit: After years of embargoes and threats of war, the United States finds itself cozying up to Iran. Israel’s army might soon find itself taking up arms alongside Jordan. Meanwhile, “news” broke two weeks ago that ISIS received a substantial portion of its angel investment from putative American allies. So sayeth The Daily Beast:

As ISIS takes over town after town in Iraq, they are acquiring money and supplies including American made vehicles, arms, and ammunition. The group reportedly scored $430 million this week when they looted the main bank in Mosul. They reportedly now have a stream of steady income sources, including from selling oil in the Northern Syrian regions they control, sometimes directly to the Assad regime.

But in the years they were getting started, a key component of ISIS’s support came from wealthy individuals in the Arab Gulf States of Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Sometimes the support came with the tacit nod of approval from those regimes; often, it took advantage of poor money laundering protections in those states, according to officials, experts, and leaders of the Syrian opposition, which is fighting ISIS as well as the regime.

OK, so maybe not quite as egregious as the headline promised, “America’s Allies Are Funding ISIS“, but moderately disquieting nonetheless. Kuwait, the author noted, was an especially unlikely source of funds for ISIS:

It’s an ironic twist, especially for donors in Kuwait (who, to be fair, back a wide variety of militias). ISIS has aligned itself with remnants of the Baathist regime once led by Saddam Hussein. Back in 1990, the U.S. attacked Iraq in order to liberate Kuwait from Hussein’s clutches. Now Kuwait is helping the rise of his successors.

What the article did not mention is just how raw a deal Kuwait was getting out of all this. At least Saudi Arabia and Qatar appear to have bought some measure of immunity in exchange for their financial largesse. But as this self-published once and future map of ISIS ambition clearly shows, Kuwait’s contributions to the Caliphate appear to have merely earned it the right of founding membership — a revelation I imagine does not fill Kuwaiti donors with glee:

People like to repeat the mantra, “Terrorism doesn’t pay”, but that admonition isn’t always true. Better advice might be, “Don’t pay the terrorists.”

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