The recent rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant (ISIS/ISIL) has been fueled by the amount of money they’ve been able to loot (from the Iraqi Central Bank in Mosul), the weapons they’ve taken from the Iraqi armed forces and the amount of money they generate through captured resources. Their “net worth” is estimated to be $2 billion and the captured resources – mostly oil and possibly this year’s wheat crop – yields them another $1.2 million per day in illicit revenues. The oil is most interesting as it being smuggled into Jordan, Iran, Turkey and by some estimates finding its way into Europe. There seems to always be a market for oil, regardless of how tainted it may be from the spilled blood of innocents, as long as the price the right. The Guardian delves into this puzzling intersection of brutal terrorism and opportunistic mercantilism.
This has been a consistent message from politicians and technocrats from several western countries. The war against ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State is being framed as a 10, 20, 30 year war. The most recent proponent of this view is former CIA director and Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, went over these topics in an interview with NPR (as part of what may be a book promotion tour?).
MARTIN: You said recently in an interview with USA Today that the current fight against terrorism will end up being a, quote, “30-year war.” There are questions about how to make that legal. The current fight against ISIS has been justified by the administration under something called the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or the AUMF, which was passed by Congress after 9/11, the same authority that the president has said should be repealed because it’s too broad and shouldn’t be used to justify perpetual war. Does there need to be a new law?
PANETTA: I think it would be well for the president and the Congress to agree on the kind of authority that should be provided to the president in order to conduct this war on terrorism. I think that would be important for the country. I think it would be important to show that both Republicans and Democrats support this effort. I think it would be important in terms of making sure that there are no questions about the authority of the president of the United States to be able to fight what I think is going to be a long and sustained war against ISIS and against other elements of terrorism.
The last few months have seen a steady push of the “beheading meme”. From the murder of Lee Rigby last year to the ongoing video taped executions by ISIS/ISIL, the gruesome form of murder is being drilled into the public’s psyche as a powerful fear tactic. The British press is now reporting of threats by radical Islamists of similar atrocities being committed in Great Britain against the public as the government looks to clamp down on extremists.
As the United States and its newest “coalition of the willing” shift their anti-terrorism focus to Syria, Iraq and ISIL/ISIS, risks emerge within the “old hot zone” of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- The Taliban never went away in Afghanistan and are back on the rise
- The Afghan government’s control of the country is tenuous
- Tribal areas of Afghanistan – Pakistan border continue to pose problems
- Complex nature of Pakistani politics/military/intelligence nexus is back to its usual tricks
- United States has failed to define a meaningful future strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia
Anthony Cordesman of The Center for Strategic and International Studies has delved into this subject with a recently published paper.