The Importance of Financing in Enabling and Sustaining the Conflict in Syria (and Beyond)

Western Asia in most contexts. Possible extens...

Western Asia in most contexts. Possible extensions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Vol 8, No 4 (2014) > Keatinge

by Tom Keatinge


The availability, sources, and distribution of funding are critical issues to consider when seeking to address an on-going conflict such as the one we are witnessing across Syria and Iraq. In the Syrian case, whilst funds from states such as Russia, Iran, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Qatar support various elements, a key factor to consider in addressing extremist groups is funding provided by private donors, some of whom are attracted by the concept of ‘jihadi finance’, seeking the honour and reward of waging jihad by proxy. This article reviews the importance of financing for insurgent groups, focusing in particular on the highly influential enabling role played by private donor financing in the current conflict in Syria, as well as the sustaining role of the war economy as the conflict spreads. Finally, it considers whether, in its fourth year, this conflict can still be influenced by targeting sources of financing.

Keywords: Terrorism finance, Syria


The Syrian conflict has drawn support in the form of weapons, spare parts, supplies, and fighters from across the globe. But most importantly, the conflict has been enabled by the ready and generous supply of financing provided by a broad array of states and private individuals and it is sustained by the development of a highly lucrative war economy. It is thus not an exaggeration to say that financing is extremely important to all parties in the conflict, and that the availability of financing has substantially influenced  the course the conflict has taken thus far. Continue reading

How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare

Though some deride Russia for backward thinking, Putin’s strategy in Ukraine betrays a nuanced understanding of 21st century geopolitics.

BY Peter Pomerantsev MAY 5, 2014

The Kremlin, according to Barack Obama, is stuck in the “old ways,” trapped in Cold War or even 19th century mindsets. But look closer at the Kremlin‘s actions during the crisis in Ukraine and you begin to see a very 21st century mentality, manipulating transnational financial interconnections, spinning global media, and reconfiguring geo-political alliances. Could it be that the West is the one caught up in the “old ways,” while the Kremlin is the geopolitical avant-garde, informed by a dark, subversive reading of globalization?

The Kremlin’s approach might be called “non-linear war,” a term used in a short story written by one of Putin’s closest political advisors, Vladislav Surkov, which was published under his pseudonym, Nathan Dubovitsky, just a few days before the annexation of Crimea. Surkov is credited with inventing the system of “managed democracy” that has dominated Russia in the 21st century, and his new portfolio focuses on foreign policy. This time, he sets his new story in a dystopian future, after the “fifth world war.”

Surkov writes: “It was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for just two sides to fight. Two countries, two blocks of allies. Now four coalitions collided. Not two against two, or three against one. All against all.” Continue reading

Op-Ed: The POST “Post Cold War” Era in Europe

English: Map showing the maximum territorial e...

English: Map showing the maximum territorial extent of countries under the direct influence of the Soviet Union — between the Cuban Revolution/21st Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union/Sino-Soviet split. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

April 24, 2014 | Dr. Jeffrey D. McCausland

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine reflects neither strategic wisdom nor military strength. In fact, it reflects just the opposite. Putin invested over $50 billion and significant personal capital in the Sochi Olympics and the upcoming G8 Summit. That has now been squandered. It was clearly humiliating for Putin to watch as the Ukrainian president he had strongly supported, if not hand-picked, was forced to flee Kiev. This was particularly true, given that President Yanukovych fled in response to a popular uprising driven by opposition to his efforts to establish closer Ukrainian relations with Russia at the expense of closer ties to Europe.

      Putin assuaged this humiliation with a military invasion of Crimea on March 1. On March 20, the Russian Parliament overwhelmingly approved a treaty presented by Putin to formally annex the Black Sea peninsula. At this juncture, it seems impossible to envision Moscow backing down, withdrawing its forces, and returning Crimea to Ukrainian control. President Obama, as well as Western European leaders, have acknowledged this reality. The so-called “post-Cold War era” has now come to a close, and the West must now confront a new European security environment. What is the nature of the new threat? What is the general outline of a new strategy for the United States and its NATO allies?
      It is important to realize that the longer-term threat posed by this new era does not herald a return to the Cold War. That “twilight struggle” had an ideological underpinning. It pitted Marxist-Leninist ideology against democracy and market economies. When Nikita Khrushchev made his famous threat, “We will bury you!” in 1956, he was not necessarily predicting imminent war so much as a belief that history was on the side of Communism. He believed that it was Communism, with its focus on a command oriented economy rather than the Soviet military, that would ultimately triumph. Continue reading

Drone Strikes and the Lessons of Nonlinear Science

intelligence ('cognition')  is a vector

intelligence (‘cognition’) is a vector (Photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³)

1/30/2014 @ 12:10PM |

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorist leaders has become a centerpiece of the United States’ global counter-terrorism strategy. Each new report of a strike in Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia provides new fodder to critics, who point to civilian casualties and the resulting anger at the United States as evidence that the strategy is counterproductive in the long term. Recently, one critic, Col. Gary Anderson, USMC (ret.), raised an even more fundamental question: “Why…do we think that targeting what we consider key terrorists with drone strikes will bring down their network as a whole?”

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International Security in an Age of Austerity


11-13 June 2012.
Residence Inn by Marriott, Kingston Water’s Edge

Is it possible for western democracies to maintain military effectiveness while grappling with dramatic changes to the global economic and strategic environments? Western militaries face increasing challenges from the combined effects of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and its continuing aftershocks together with the strategic consequences of the decision to draw down the military presence in Afghanistan and, for the United States, in Iraq. As a result of these interrelated developments, Western militaries are experiencing broad and consistently downward pressures on their defence budgets as governments seek to re-evaluate their international roles and strategies in the context of restraining the growth of government spending, addressing national debt concerns, and striving to meet budget goals. These factors will establish the broad parameters within which nations will resource their militaries and shape their national security strategies, and this in turn will affect national roles in maintaining the international security environment.

KCIS 2012 will examine how western countries are reshaping their national security strategies in an age of budget austerity. The discussion will explore the contemporary global system where there is no existential threat from other great powers but where there is an on-going threat to security from non-state actors, including anti-western extremists who are organized globally and willing to use terrorism to advance their goals; and globally organized criminal networks and organizations. It will also look at the domestic political environment in western countries that appears to be increasingly skeptical about the kind of protracted expeditionary operations that western democracies have been engaged in since the end of the Cold War, particularly in the wake of a global economy weakened by a series of shocks—the dot-com crash, the subprime crisis, pressures on budgets from overseas military operations, and difficulties within the euro zone.

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The Globalization of War

The “Military Roadmap” to World War III
Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham (Editors)
December 2011


[scroll down for Reader’s Table of Contents]
The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest.

The military deployment of US-NATO forces is occurring in several regions of the world simultaneously.

The concept of the “Long War” has characterized US military doctrine since the end of World War II. The broader objective of global military dominance in support of an imperial project was first formulated under the Truman administration in the late 1940s at the outset of the Cold War.

In September 1990, some five weeks after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, US President and Commander in Chief George Herbert Walker Bush delivered a historical address to a joint session of the US Congress and the Senate in which he proclaimed a New World Order emerging from the rubble of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union.

Bush Senior had envisaged a world of “peaceful international co-operation”, one which was no longer locked into the confrontation between competing super powers, under the shadow of the doctrine of  “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) which had characterized the Cold War era.

George H Walker Bush addressed a Joint Session
of the US Congress and the Senate, September 1990
Bush declared emphatically at the outset of what became known as “the post-Cold War era” that:
“a new partnership of nations has begun, and we stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times… a new world order can emerge: A new era freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, east and west, north and south, can prosper and live in harmony.”

Of course, speeches by American presidents are often occasions for cynical platitudes and contradictions that should not be taken at face value. After all, President Bush was holding forth on international law and justice only months after his country had invaded Panama in December 1989 causing the deaths of several thousand citizens – committing crimes comparable to what Saddam Hussein would be accused of and supposedly held to account for. Also in 1991, the US and its NATO allies went on to unleash, under a “humanitarian” mantle, a protracted war against Yugoslavia, leading to the destruction, fragmentation and impoverishment of an entire country.

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Somalia Piracy Is Not A Water Borne Disease!

Author: Paul I. Adujie | July 02, 2009

Piracy in Somalia waters has finally gotten the world’s attention? What took so long? It was, and still is, a phenomenon on the African continent, to which the world is often content to look askance! I have come to believe, without exceptions, that issues affecting Africa are treated by the world, haphazardly, lopsidedly and near nonchalantly, despite protestations to the contrary.

There is this, which ought to be labeled as breaking news, the fact that in Somalia, piracy is not a water-borne disease. Some might want to treat the symptoms, but is most probably better to address the root.

There are root causes outside and distinct from the outward symptoms which now threatens the world’s commerce and sea-lanes for merchant ships and recreational vessels as well. Piracy on Somalia waters have been going on for quite a while, in fact, a Nigerian vessel, tugboat was held for about a year, and it has just be released as I write these words.

Why is the world concerned now? What took the world so long? The capture of American citizens I suppose. And Mr. Obama got his first chance to exercise America’s military armada, and Africans were Mr. Obama’s first kills, road kill? Mr. Obama would dialogue with North Korea and Iran, but not with those, water-borne-disease African pirates crime gangs? Continue reading