Asymmetric terror funding - How ISIS is exploiting Western capitalism
Published time: July 08, 2015 11:49
ISIS radicals have grabbed headlines over recent years as they pillaged and rampaged their way through Iraq and Syria’s historical and cultural heritage, sacrificing priceless archaeological artifacts to the altar of their toxic ideology. But the jihadists made sure that what it did not burn it would sell on the black market to replenish its coffers.
Interestingly the Wahhabi radicals who made such a show of destroying the world's heritage by butchering centuries-old statues and other ancient remnants of civilizations' past in the greater Levant have had no qualms selling antiquities, quite literally profiting from what they themselves labeled as an affront against God.
While the "dark caliph", Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, promised his followers that his army would lay waste to Egypt's most prominent architectural landmark: the Sphinx, cleansing the Muslim world from its own apostasy, he most certainly omitted to mention that the very financial solvency of his terror network has relied on his men's ability to capitalize on the spoils of war - including of course the illegal sale of stolen antiquities.
For a movement which claims itself so holy and pure in its observance of Islam tenets, ISIS seems to have missed those verses which outlaw thievery and banditry; but then again, one man's bandit is another's capitalist. And though al-Baghdadi has advocated destroying monuments to fulfill "a religious duty,” he remains silent when it comes to antiquity profiteering. Maybe in ISIS' version of Islam those selling idols stand immune of all wrongdoings. It is difficult to forget ISIS militants earlier this year ruthlessly disfiguring 2,800 year old Assyrian images at Nineveh, and how the Mosul Museum was attacked and its treasures obliterated to the sounds of hammers and crowbars.
But however despicable ISIS' dealings have been of late - its exploitation of natural resources, human trafficking and antiquity profiteering – who is standing on the other end of those trades?
Who exactly is ISIS selling to? Regardless of the nature of the trade, the laws of capitalism still apply here and without a buyer ISIS could not have fed, sustained and expanded its terror machine.
In this case which is the greater evil, the thief or the enabler?
After all, if ISIS has been able to capitalize on its stolen Iraqi and Syrian artifacts it is because they found a market for them.
In a world such as ours where surveillance has become so systemic and globalized are we to believe that black market traders can truly operate under the radar; or would it not be more accurate to assume that the powers that be are in fact playing an angle here?
As it happens, ISIS's blood trade has found its way to the streets of London. In a report for The Guardian this July, Mark Altaweel, a near-east specialist from the UCL Institute of Archaeology exposed this disturbing reality, laying bare the underbelly of a new terror network.