One way to defeat ISIS: draining its coffers

nyt_isis_615x340Is it possible to weaken ISIS by attacking the financial structure, through which it trains its recruits and acquires weapons? No, not without a significant change in how the world polices its economy. Because like many structured criminal organizations, ISIS has grown and succeeded by exploiting the channels through which capital enters: drugs, oil, private funding, smuggled artifacts. Blocking the assets that fill ISIS’ coffers would mean rethinking the world’s economy. France – like the United States before it – is paying a very high price for its sin of inattention.

Governments worldwide must stop tolerating criminal organizations, drug trafficking and money laundering. Fighting ISIS and defeating it means fighting an enemy that is close to home, nesting in our national economies. It doesn’t mean going to fight the umpteenth war somewhere else, which only results in strengthening extremist and radical groups. Fighting ISIS means changing our internal rules.

As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as a terrorist group that is not financed through drug trafficking. There is no such thing as a terrorist group whose routes for moving weapons, soldiers and money are not shared with criminal organizations that have already secured those routes for drug trafficking. Antonio Maria Costa, former head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, has been saying this for years.

According to Wikileaks, the F.B.I. has acknowledged “opportunistic interaction” between Italian organized crime groups and Islamic extremists. And there is evidence supporting these claims in many police investigations worldwide.

What’s more, since the capture of Aleppo in January 2014, jihadists have come into possession of a pharmaceutical plant that can produce Captagon, an amphetamine pill that helps fuel jihadist zeal. Captagon is also cash. Over the last 12 months, Saudi police have confiscated tons of hashish and millions of amphetamine pills. And last month, Lebanese airport officials seized two tons of Captagon pills that were being loaded onto the private plane of a Saudi prince. These shipments were destined for sale on street corners all over the world.

If we really want to find a way to attack ISIS, let’s stop and observe what is happening in the world’s economy. Governments worldwide must stop tolerating criminal organizations, drug trafficking and money laundering.

Source: The New York Times.

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