2006 November 25 Saturday
Iraq Insurgency Financially Self-Sustaining

John Burns of the New York Times got hold of a US government report completed in June 2006 about the high level of funding that the insurgency has in Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Nov. 25 — The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, corrupt 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 of the insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says that $25 million to $100 million of the total 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 to save hundreds of kidnap victims in Iraq, the report said. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by senior American officials as including France and Italy — paid Iraqi kidnappers $30 million in ransom last year.

Even the higher $200 million estimate is less than the United States spends in Iraq in a single day. Can you say asymmetrical warfare? Sure.

The lesson here is that huge budgets and lots of hardware do not buy victory as long as the insurgents are willing to die and the occupying power has moral scruples. The Roman Empire, possessed with the might of the US military, would have made the Iraqis (at least those left alive) cower in such fear that there'd be no insurgency. But we do not play by those rules and so should not try to occupy a country like Iraq.

The insurgents fight for little or no pay. They can get weapons left over from Saddam's days and probably from soldiers in what passes for the Iraqi military and security forces.

Oh, and the insurgents are getting so much money that the report has an amazing kicker:

“In fact, if recent revenue and expense estimates are correct, terrorist and insurgent groups in Iraq may have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist organizations outside of Iraq.”

But outside experts say the report writers are doing a lot of guessing. Maybe so. But if the "insurgency' is the Sunni insurgency then the best way to cut off their ability to send any money abroad would be for US forces to withdraw so that the Shias can go after the Sunnis without restraint.

The report says that Saddam's Baathist loyalists have hundreds of millions more. But they do not see a prospect for regaining power and so they are mostly using that money for their own lifestyles.

What I find puzzling about the above report: If the insurgents mentioned are Sunnis then how are they making so much money off of oil tradiing? The Iraqi government is dominated by Shias. The Shias control the oil ministry. The oil fields are in Shia areas and in Kurdistan. So how can the Sunnis make tens of millions off of oil trading? Can't the Shias in the government find Shias outside the government to help them pull of diversions of oil into the black market for export?

Update: The atrocities by Shias against Sunnis have gotten so horrific that I find it hard to believe the Sunnis are getting money to fund their insurgency from dealings with Shias in the Iraqi "government".

Iraqi soldiers at a nearby army post failed to intervene when the Sunnis were seized as they left Friday prayers, drenched with kerosene and burned to death. The troops also did nothing to stop subsequent attacks that killed at least 28 other Sunnis, including women and children, in the same neighborhood, the volatile Hurriyah district in northwest Baghdad, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

The Shia government soldiers side openly with Shia militias against Sunni civilians. Yet we are supposed to believe Iraq is not yet in a civil war. How far down will Iraq go? Any guesses?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 November 25 05:16 PM  Mideast Iraq Insurgency


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