The leaders of the Group of 7 nations, meeting in Japan, are about to adopt a new ‘aggressive’ plan to combat the ‘financing of terrorism and extremism’.
Or, to put it another way, the G7 nations are about to repeat what they have said several times before, and then again return to things they deem more important such as the global economy.
They may even use the same words that President Bush uttered in October 2001 when he signed an executive order to combat the financing of terrorism and extremism and called it a “strike at the financial foundation of the global terror network”. 15 years on those foundations appear intact.
This is not to say that action is not required, it clearly is, but more to suggest that we should wait to see the fruits of the G7 labours before declaring ISIS bankrupt.
The agreement was outlined by the G7 Finance Ministers earlier this week. Details included increased sharing of financial intelligence. The French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the G7 was ‘moving into ‘operational phase’.
So, to be clear, 15 years after 9/11 the governments of the USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and Japan still need to up their financial intelligence sharing. They will also make international money transfers more open to scrutiny (see previous sentence), and look at targeting sanctions on individuals associated with terror groups (ditto).
What is missing from the agreement is action against states which are suspected of financing terror groups, for example Qatar and Bahrain have interesting connections to some groups in Syria.
There is also no discussion about the merits, positive or negative, about the recent fashion, (all the rage in Washington, Paris and London) to overthrow nasty people who don’t want to hurt us, and see them replaced by nasty people who do want to hurt us.
However, if financial security is tightened, if awareness is heightened, then it will have an effect. ISIS for example appears to be growing its global network with a presence now in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Saudi Arabia, and has affiliates in other countries. Preventing the transfer of funds around the network will help weaken it.
In parallel the air campaign, partially targeting ISIS finances, will continue. Operation Tidal Wave II, directed against ISIL’s oil facilities, is estimated to have reduced its $50 million pm oil revenues by 30%. The coalition is also hitting banks in ISIS controlled areas and claims to have destroyed ‘billions of dollars’ in cash.
It may all be necessary, and if they get the financial war right, it will help the longer struggle, but possibly of greater importance is taking on the ideology underpinning the fantasies of ISIS. This partially leads us back to the beginning, and why the G7’s global economic concerns connect to the concerns about terrorism, and indeed the related refugee/migrant crisis.
It is a myth that the jihadists are all drawn from the world’s poor. Many highly educated people have thrown away their lives in the cause, nevertheless, the Islamist recruiters do trawl in pools of poverty dragging along nets made from religious extremism, conspiracy theories, and hate for others. The more shallow the pools, the less effective the trawl.