By all accounts, ISIS is the wealthiest terrorist organization in the world. By far. In round numbers, ISIS is said to have a $2 billion stash, which is keeping it afloat. Most of it comes from oil sales. Much of it comes from plundered banking funds. And the rest of it comes from taxing locals, selling stolen antiquities, and kidnapping ransoms.
The big question is, what are we -- the United States -- doing about it?
Taking away the money would go a long way toward winning the war. But thus far our record is lousy.
This past week, the UN Security Council, including the U.S. and Russia, put together a resolution to strengthen financial sanctions against anyone who does business with terrorist groups -- mainly ISIS. But these are repackaged sanctions that have been in place for more than a dozen years and haven’t done any good.
According to the New York Times, the draft UN resolution calls on countries to describe what steps they are taking to prevent terrorist organizations from making money. Huh? Is this a book report? Are we supposed to believe that various Middle East rivals are going to do anything to cut off the money?
Recent history suggests otherwise.
“Show me the money” is the movie line sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) made famous. But we already know where most of the new ISIS money is coming from: oil sales. And much of those sales take place inside Turkey, our alleged ally.
The U.S. has done next to nothing to bomb oil trucks carrying ISIS’s most valuable resource and principal funding mechanism. Why? Because the Obama administration wants to stop “collateral damage.” That means the oil-truck drivers are civilians who are off limits in this war. It’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.
Of course, the civilian truck drivers are part of the ISIS operation, even though they may not be wearing uniforms. And of course, however unfortunately, war brings collateral damage. Yet bombing missions have been stopped mid-operation by Obama lawyers interfering with the U.S. military.
Obama officials also worry that hitting oil trucks will cause massive carbon emissions that would increase global warming. I kid you not. It’s astonishing.
Yes, some sources report that oil-truck bombing has picked up post-Paris and post-San Bernardino. Maybe so. But color me skeptical. This sounds more political than military.
And U.S. Treasury officials also say they are making headway against ISIS. They recently reported the death of ISIS finance minister Abu Saleh and two associates. Let’s hope it’s true. And they point to new financial sanctions against ISIS-linked leaders and financiers. They also say they are sealing national borders to make Islamic State transactions more difficult, especially Turkey’s financial borders. Well, good luck on that, though I don’t believe a word of it.
But I have another idea. How about this option? Destroy ISIS.
In his end-of-year news conference, President Obama said, “We are going to defeat ISIS.” That’s what he always says -- with no urgency, energy, military gameplan, or declaration of war.
By the way, in the awful budget deal struck by Congress, where exactly was the congressional war resolution to destroy ISIS? Did I miss it?
From the administration, where is the NATO declaration of war against ISIS?
Instead of meaningless repackaged sanctions, where is the UN Security Council’s declaration of war against ISIS?
And where is the tripling of special-ops forces and a major step-up in the bombing sorties necessary to destroy ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, as recommended by so many retired generals and intelligence personnel?
And where is the suspension of new visas? This completely broken process is being successfully gamed by ISIS. And where is the declaration of no new immigrants?
House oversight chairman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) recently forced Homeland Security and State Department officials to acknowledge that they don’t know the whereabouts of thousands of foreigners in the U.S. who have had their visas revoked over terror worries. Since 2001, the U.S. has revoked more than 122,000 visas, including 9,500 because of the threat of terrorism.
Chaffetz to a State Department official: “You don’t have a clue, do you?”
State Department official: “I don’t know.”
Whether chasing down radical Islamic terrorist bombers to make America safe, or stopping the flow of money to ISIS, my point is simple: If we truly want to destroy ISIS, we know the ways and means to totally destroy ISIS.
This is a war to the death. But Obama is not conducting a war. He is not a true commander in chief. And it’s long past time for a change.
Hopefully the GOP will communicate the urgency, energy, strategy, and moral and political will.
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