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The New York Times reports on the financial underpinnings of the insurgencies in Iraq, showing that they have developed well-oiled mechanisms for generating millions in funding for their operations. A significant portion of those funds come from their abduction industry, and the major donors to that program have been France and Italy:
The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, connivance by corrupt Islamic charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.
The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says $25 million to $100 million of that comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry, aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials.
As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid for hundreds of kidnap victims, the report says. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by American officials as including France and Italy — paid $30 million in ransom last year.
First, let's acknowledge that the Times has managed to blow more classified data into the open. This time, they manage to refrain from directly exposing a clandestine operation, but this data had to come from somewhere, and the US will find it harder to get this information again if this report uncovers any of their sources. Data gets classified for very good reasons, and no one elected the Gray Lady to make declassification decisions.
Moving beyond that for now, the report shows that whether we like it or not, we have to focus more effort on Iraq as a part of the war on terror. Terrorists have become so adept at raising money that they now run surpluses that go outside of Iraq for other terrorist groups. Iraq's insurgencies have begun to spread through the region, a major reason that the Bush administration insisted that we remain engaged in Iraq until we stamped out the terrorist networks.
If we are to succeed, we need to get a cleaner set of leaders in Iraq. Part of the financing comes from Iraq's rebuilding oil industry, perhaps the extorted payments to stop terrorist attacks on the pipelines. Enough of the production gets hijacked to put tens of millions of dollars into terrorist pockets, and that will increase as Iraqi oil production improves. That access comes via corrupt or intimidated officials at the Iraqi oil ministry. If the Iraqis want to stop the violence from the insurgencies, they will have to start with themselves.
One other interesting point gets made by John Burns and Kirk Semple in their report. The Ba'athists have mostly left the field in Iraq, convinced that they will not return to power. Their assets have been successfully frozen, and the remainder of their liquid funds now support them in comfortable lifestyles rather than paramilitary attempts to restore the Ba'athist regime. The insurgencies operating in Iraq now mostly consist of radical Islamists or sectarian militias, the kind of terrorists we want to face and beat in their territory rather than ours.
Oddly and out of character for the NYT, Burns and Semple try to pour cold water on this report. They note that unnamed intelligence experts call the report -- which the Times publishes -- guesswork intended on supporting Bush's efforts in Iraq. They call the NSC-generated report "political cover", but that doesn't make a lot of sense. If the Bush administration wanted this for that purpose, they could have simply declassified an executive summary from the report, rather than leak it through the NYT, as Burns and Semple imply. The paper didn't seem nearly as incredulous with other leaks it published on its front page in the past.
We're seeing the beginnings of a terror-exporting state in Iraq. We need to stop it now, rather than engaging in a retreat that will only force us to return later at greater loss of life. We also need to get our erstwhile buddies in Europe to quit financing it by ending ransom payments for abductions by terrorists.Sphere It View blog reactions
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