Since the deadly November 13 Paris attacks, instead of showing leadership, the United States has been leading from behind in its response to the self-proclaimed Islamic State or ISIS. Secretary of State John Kerry has seemingly justified an earlier attack against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and President Obama claimed the most-recent civilian assaults were merely a “setback” in the broader fight against ISIS.
To put it simply, the president and the secretary of state seem oblivious and aloof to the severity of what is going on and how to handle it.
Crippling ISIS’s financial means is one place to start. Unlike terrorist organizations of the past such as the Taliban, ISIS is well-funded and its active marketing campaign via the web has given it an effective reach to recruit and spread its propaganda globally.
According to a data analysis compiled by the New York Times in May, ISIS made approximately $1.2 billion in 2014. However, that number grew significantly in 2015. In its “2015 budget projections” the terrorist organization estimated a budget of $2 billion with a $250 million surplus. That is more income than some small countries.
The unique way ISIS operates demands that the United States lead on every front. Attacking its financial capabilities is a step in the right direction.
There are a few ways the United States can do this:
1.) We must stop ISIS’s ability to finance and leverage global financial systems across international borders. We can begin doing that by halting all alternative financial transfer mechanisms used to transfer funds to cells acting in various parts of the world. To do this, we must work with our allies and banks across the globe to monitor illicit transactions. If a banking institution is not willing to cooperate, the U.S. should treat them as a sponsor of terror. As a consequence, the online database systems of those non-cooperative banking institutions should be temporarily shut down.
2.) We know ISIS makes significant money from oil smuggling. According to U.S. Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Terrorist Financing, Daniel Glaser, “ISIS made about $40 million in one month off of the sale of oil. So if you want to extrapolate that out, you can get about $500 million in the course of a year and this is all internally generated.”
Most Americans do not want ground troops in the Middle East and understandably so. However, it may be strategically necessary to put troops on the ground to either destroy or take control of the oil fields currently controlled by ISIS in order to disrupt a major funding source.
3.) ISIS also garners money from extortion, farming, and donors. They received close to $600 million from extortion, $200 million from wheat silos in Iraq and $40 million from donors in Arabic countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. To Saudi Arabia’s credit, they have made significant strides to combat terror financing from within. However, not all Arabic countries have been as proactive as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. For example, Kuwait and Qatar have been unwilling to combat terror financing. Strict sanctions should be applied to these states until they do.
Additionally, the U.S. needs to increase its air strikes (including drones) targeting strategic ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria. Our allies, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have participated in the strikes in Iraq. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have joined the air attacks in Syria.
The United States must put pressure on our Arab allies Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to provide ground troops to work in coordination with the U.S. special forces operations. Arab countries play a pivotal role in combating ISIS propaganda.
Cooperation from our allies is important, but it is ultimately up to the U.S to lead the fight to annihilate ISIS. It is critical for the safety of the American people both domestically and abroad and to protect America’s interests around the world.
Shermichael Singleton is a Republican political consultant, writer, and political analyst. He appears weekly on NewsOne Now with host Roland Martin and is also a contributor to The Hill and The Washington Times monthly magazine, American CurrentSee. He has worked on the presidential campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney as well as other campaigns across the country. He currently serves as the Coalitions Advisor to the presidential campaign of Dr. Ben Carson. Follow him on Twitter @Shermichael_