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“It’s a huge financial package to support 8 million people—which is now the size of the population living in territories under ISIS control,” says Luay al-Khatteeb, visiting fellow of the Doha Brookings Center and director of the Iraq Energy Institute in Baghdad.“ISIS is also supporting tens of thousands of militants who have been at war for months, with new recruits coming in every day.

Fake Humanitarian Aidhas learned, are also routinely laundered through unregistered charities in the form of “humanitarian aid,” with terrorists coordinating geographical drop-off points for payments using cellphone applications such as Whats App and Kik.

Until recently, all three countries had openly given hefty sums to rebels fighting Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime, among them ISIS.

Only after widespread criticism from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the international community did Saudi Arabia pass legislation in 2013 criminalizing financial support of terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra and ISIS. So far, Qatar and Kuwait have not followed private donors across the Persian Gulf are continuing to funnel money to ISIS. government continues to be concerned about spotty, to say the least, Kuwaiti and Qatari enforcement of their counterterrorist financing laws.”A couple of factors are frustrating attempts to dam these rivers of cash.

At its heart, the ISIS money machine runs on the fear—and greed—of the millions of people it controls. Treasury has declined to estimate the extent of ISIS’s total assets and revenue streams, but Cohen has called it “the best-funded terrorist organization” the U. has “ever confronted.” Militants parade through the streets of Raqqa, Syria in an undated image posted on Monday, June 30, 2014, by ISIS as propaganda.

It also manifests itself in a wide range of financial activities, many of them outsourced via middlemen and driven by hordes of self-interested parties. The United States has made strides toward stitching together a coalition to tackle the extremist group, but faces reluctance from Mideast allies who are deeply frustrated with a White House that they believe has been naive, fickle and weak on Syria’s civil war.

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