June 20, 2016    7 minute read

Who Really Funds And Supports ISIS?

   June 20, 2016    7 minute read

Who Really Funds And Supports ISIS?


There are few key players in the region with the resources available to prop up such a brutal, atrocious regime and it is almost certainly to attain particular political ends both within the region and globally that makes a mockery of Islam by using an otherwise beautiful religion as a means to political ends that causes unjust hardship for and discrimination towards the vast majority of innocent Muslims and peoples more broadly.

We can explicitly rule out Iran and Israel as there is simply no incentive whatsoever for them to help fund this terrorist organisation since they are openly hostile toward them and have a vested interest in seeing them toppled. More recently, speculation has started mounting upon Turkey and Saudi Arabia. However, let us examine both of these more closely (particularly the latter) – I contend that the money and possible coercion that the House of Saud faces that (potentially) compels it to work with Da’esh can be traced back to the Chinese government (amongst others, indirectly) and that they must also play a far larger role in dealing with this terrorist organisation and the humanitarian tragedies that have resulted.

While Turkey has been caught red-handed buying oil from the terrorists, it is unlikely that they can do so in large quantities and that they have been doing so for extended periods of time – otherwise they would have been able to cover their tracks far more easily – since they are supposed to be a key ally in the region against this threat. This could be merely a scare tactic by the Turkish government against Turkey’s allies since many NATO member-states are seen by their administration as becoming dangerously close to (Syrian) Kurds who have historically been viewed as a threat by the Turkish government. Indeed, the Kurdish peoples have, both historically and contemporarily, faced persecution and called for greater autonomy and subsequent independence as a result. Nevertheless, Turkey cannot single-handedly be propping up the terrorists, and it is unlikely that they can be seen to be continuing to (significantly) do so even if malicious elements of the Turkish government are complicit in this.

The House of Saud, however, is relatively money-rich in the region, due to its vast oil wealth. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia is also facing difficulties due to historically low oil prices and, therefore, it is worth looking at who buys Saudi oil before laying (all) the blame squarely on the House of Saud. Here, therefore, is the context for those who may have been previously unaware (or would like reminding) according to The Observatory of Economic Complexity at the MIT Media Lab:

In 2014 the GDP of Saudi Arabia was $753B and its GDP per capita was $52k. The top exports of Saudi Arabia are Crude Petroleum ($232B), Refined Petroleum ($19.8B), Ethylene Polymers ($11.4B), Acyclic Alcohols ($7.37B) and Propylene Polymers ($6.6B), using the 1992 revision of the HS (Harmonized System) classification.

Its top imports are Cars ($13.6B), Refined Petroleum ($10.7B), Delivery Trucks ($3.48B), Planes, Helicopters, and/or Spacecraft ($3.06B) and Packaged Medicaments ($3.01B).

The top export destinations of Saudi Arabia are China ($44.2B), Japan ($42.5B), the United States ($41.8B), South Korea ($33.1B) and India ($30B).

The top import origins are China ($20.5B), the United States ($15.4B), India ($13B), Germany ($11.5B) and South Korea ($8.29B).

This brief overview reveals that the largest export destinations are China, Japan, the United States, South Korea and India respectively. Although there will be several conspiracy theories, we can say with some confidence that the vast majority of people in power (intelligence agencies, politicians, corporations, etc.) in the United States will not want to prop up this terrorist organisation as it is simply not in their interest and such vast contributions are unlikely to go unchecked when there are so many checks-and-balances on power (albeit insufficient in many regards).

Similarly, Japan, South Korea and India do not benefit from a destabilised Middle East whose consequences are spilling over into both the European Union and the United States and, thereby, destabilising them through causing seriously alarming social divisions and (political) risks. Japan and South Korea mainly rely on the United States for security in East Asia (given the growing threat of China and an ever-volatile North Korea) while India is growing ever closer to the United States as both countries see the need to counter-balance China. Therefore, it is logical to turn to China.

The Chinese government still largely controls vast, significant portions of the Chinese economy, there are far fewer checks-and-balances on power, and there is significantly less transparency due to the lack of a genuine democracy regarding freedom of speech, expression, press freedom and even elections that bear some semblance to the ideal of democracy.

Given the fact that the Chinese government is the largest export destination of Saudi Arabia, that China is enjoying relatively high (albeit slowing) economic growth compared to the other countries (with the exception of India) and that it too has a general interest in waging warfare of the hidden, covert and indirect variety against NATO so that NATO member-states and allies are in a weaker position to contain its alarming rise to ever-greater regional and global prominence, the Chinese government has significant incentives as well as the financial muscle required work with corrupt elements of the House of Saud or even actually corrupt them since the House of Saud also seeks to maintain stability in Saudi Arabia in the face of historically low oil prices.

Of course, there can be some rhetoric from the Chinese government that Uyghur Muslims are also at threat of being ‘radicalised’ but this is selective representation of the facts since there is no true press freedom in China and we cannot be sure of the extent of that truth. What can be said, however, is that the threat posed by this terrorist organisation is far greater to everyone in the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

Thus, one must be wary of laying (all) the blame squarely on Turkey, Saudi Arabia or otherwise. Who funds Da’esh’s suspected sponsors? Indirectly, though, significantly, the Chinese government does. Of course, it can be argued that China also exports largely to the European Union and the United States and, therefore, earns its income from them. Essentially, therefore, even money from Europe and the United States – through the Chinese government and, subsequently, the House of Saud – is funding this terrorist organisation in a dark, ironic manner. Fortunately, this means that the political class (especially the elected ones) will have the mandate to address the problem directly and work with the Chinese government, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other key regional stakeholders such as Iran, Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan to solve the problem and cut funds from the terrorist organisation that threatens all of them.

Nevertheless, the issue remains that the initial funds can be viewed as ‘seed’ funding and the necessity to provide ongoing foreign funds were probably expected to diminish over time (and, therefore, become harder to trace back to the initial funders or those who pushed these policies) as Daesh now makes much of its money through extorting taxes from the enslaved populace within its control. The issue has grown to nightmarish proportions, and it is clear that the entire international community bears some degree of responsibility (both direct and indirect) for the unprecedented, un-Islamic terrorism that we face as a global community.

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