The Global Armed Conflicts

The World has been constantly at war for centuries now - from the Crusades to Islamic Invasions in India to the American Civil War to Colonization of Asia and World Wars. The nature of conflict over time has changed with the advent of Militarization of Tribes in Arabia igniting a prospect of a new century of regional and global conflict that is interconnected at a subtle level. The world today is strife with Conflict Zones in various regions from Middle East and North Africa like Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, and Cameroon to Afghanistan/Pakistan to Burma, Central Asia, Caucuses, Xingjiang and Thailand. Apart from the usual conflict zones there are new conflict zones emerging like South China Sea, Ukraine and Central American states where rebels and drug lords are fuelling riots once again.

The Global Armed Conflicts:

Various Global Armed Conflicts have fuelled the Arms Trade across Regions, which has benefited the Military Industrial Complex of various countries from US to Britain to Russia to China. Of the Global Arms Trade nearly 80% casualties are the result 0f Small Arms Trade which constitute the bulk of Arms Trade whether in the Grey Market or in Black to various Nation States, Groups and Terrorist Organizations. It is estimated that illicit small arms trade amount to about 1 Billion $ and in conjunction with the legal Small Arms Trade it would amount to 5-7 Bn $. During the Cold War, ideologically aligned groups were armed across the world and many of these illegal transfers of arms have come back to haunt the original suppliers. US is now engaged in a fight against Colombian Drug Lords who were ironically armed by US in 1980s to fight Communism just like the Soviet-Afghan war in 1980s where CIA is said to armed Mujahideen with 4 lakh Kalashnikovs. Post the Collapse of Soviet Union, Eastern European states like Ukraine and Belarus had large Arms manufacturing supply lines from where Arms and Weapons were smuggled across continents to various Groups and Terror Organizations illegally.

Arms Trade in Africa:

Major conflicts have raged in African nations like Algeria, Sudan, Mali, Libya, Angola, Burundi, Congo, Rawanda, Somalia and Sierra Leone. Africa has been a big recipient of Small Arms and its major suppliers are Eastern Europe, CIS and China. Inside Africa, Libya has been a major source of Arm Supplies like Weddeye Rebels in Chad (1999).Libya under Gaddafi had close ties with Muslim Rebels in Philippines.

Libya supplied Weapons to Rebels in Sierra Leone. Libya signed contracts with France in 2007 to buy anti-tank missiles and radio communications equipment worth $ 405m (£ 199 m). Since 2009, Britain approved export licences worth £ 2.3 billion to 16 states over a 21- month period. Military export licenses to Libya alone since the start of 2009 totalled £ 61.3 million. It is indeed ironical that EU Countries armed Libya from 2004-2005 up to 2010-11 before taking the Gaddafi Regime down in NATO Invasion of 2011 and subsequently the very same arsenal of Gaddafi’s Army was transferred to Syrian Rebels from Benghazi. 

In Egypt in the year 2000, Police Confiscated 100 Automatic Rifles, 200 Military Style Pistols and 50 Israeli made Uzis from Egyptian nationals who frequently travelled to Libya. Chad is another source of illicit arms to terrorists in Upper Egypt via Sudan. Egypt itself was the source of weapons smuggled into Gaza. In Algeria, Israeli made weapons were most frequently recovered during the decade of 90s. The Algerian Security Service confiscated 400 Uzis and other Israeli made weapons in addition to Belgian and Czech Origin. Western Intelligence Services were well informed about these illicit arms deal but chose to remain blind folded with respect to Algeria. 

Sierra Leone is one of the worst affected regions of Western Africa owing to brutal violence and armed conflicts. RUF (Revolutionary United Front) in Sierra Leone has committed one of the worst human rights abuses like rape, abduction, murder and hacking off limbs of men, women and children. Libya flew air cargo arm shipments into Burkina Faso and then onto Liberia where arms were transferred through helicopters and dropped into RUF Territory. Weapons were even transported on Burkina Faso registered planes from Morroco to Liberia to RUF. One of the best known cases of arms transfer to RUF is of March 1999 where a shipment of small arms from Ukraine (incl 3000 Kalahnikovs rifles, 50 machine guns, 25 Grenade Launchers, 5 SA-7s, and 5 Metis Anti-Tank Missiles and Ammunition) were sent to Burkina Faso onwards to Liberia and RUF. Western Air Cargo companies also appeared to be transfering arms to RUF. In May 2000, when viewing confiscated arms from weapon depots, a jourmalist reported that there were 12,000 small arms and 3,89, 877 rounds of ammunition at 3 Separate Depots. Majority of rifles were Kalashnikovs from Ukraine, followed by Iranian Made G3 Rifles and Belgian made FN Fals. 

Sudan is one of the least talked armed conflict with a conflict been driven between a Muslim Dominated North Sudan and a Christian Dominated South. A well-documented case is one of transfer of ammunition cleared by Slovakia with the intended destination of Chad but landing in Khartoum, Sudan where all the cargo was offloaded. Sudan is an Oil Rich Nation with main help of Chinese companies like China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and other partners like Malaysian National Petroleum Corporation (MNPC) and 2 Canadian firms. Arms are shipped to Sudan from China in the guise of Oil Exploration Equipment from CNPC and MNPC. Other sources of small arms are Iran, South Africa, Jordan, Yemen and Qatar. Larger weapons sales have been from Iraq, France and several Eastern European countries. Arms for many Islamist Militias in Sudan were shipped through UAE through leased Russian Cargo Planes. Uganda has been a prime military supplier to Sudanese Rebels like Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA). In addition to Sudan, there are the raging conflicts in Nigeria where Boko Haram has created mayhem in Nigeria and neighbouring Cameroon. Somalia and Ethiopia too have been badly inflicted with violence from Al Qaeda like Ansar Al Sham that has ravaged the country and contributed to wide scale Piracy off the Arabian Gulf. 

Arms Trade in Europe:

Since the end of the Cold War, a number of East European Arms producers have been known for Grey market transfers since most of these companies are yet heavily state controlled. Bulgaria has been most common export destination for arms shipments to non state actors like RUF in Sierra Leone and UNITA in Angola. Bulgarian arms have also been found in Albania. Slovak arms were reportedly going to Sudan and RUF in Sierra Leone while Czech Republic armed LTTE in Sri Lanka. EU is not immune from this trade as PKK, the Kurdish Militia in Turkey got Stinger Missiles from Greece on a US License and PKK in turn passed on some of these Stingers to LTTE in Sri Lanka. 

One of the major sources of weapons loot was in Albania in 1997 in the Balkans -more than 6 lac small arms were looted from arms depot during the conflict in Balkans. Many KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) weapons came from looted Albanian military depots, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, all countries with large Kosovo refugee populations have also been a source of arms smuggled into the area. With its large militia army and national gun culture, Switzerland is an obvious target as a source of weapons for such illicit weapons transactions. Switzerland has also been used as a financial center for such transactions. A recent incident involved the illegal use of the emblem of a Swiss aid organization on trucks supposedly filled with donations for Kosovar refugees that were actually used to transport arms. When it was ascertained that the destination for these weapons was an African country, Swiss authorities arrested two individuals residing in Switzerland involved in the financing of the transaction and, as of August of 2000, had recovered US$ 440,000 (700,000 CHF) of the US$ 2.8 million (4.5 million CHF) deal. The weapons networks built up during the Kosovo conflict have spread small arms throughout the Balkan region. At one point in 1999, Macedonian police estimated that anywhere from 20-30,000 small arms were cached in the western part of the country by KLA operatives and sympathizers. Impoverished ethnic Albanians were reportedly selling Kalashnikov rifles in Macedonia for as little as US$ 25 a piece.

Arms Trade in Russia and CIS States:

The Russian black market in arms has a strong economic component, appearing to be primarily driven by two factors: 1) economic hardship that encourages the Russian military to illicitly sell military weapons stocks and 2) an unprecedented demand for weapons resulting from the wave of organized crime in the region. In 1998, the country’s Federal Security Service (FSB, the successor to the KGB) confiscated 22,000 small arms, 6,500 grenades, and four tons of explosives in Russian territory. As of 1999, the Russian Ministry of the Interior reported that it was still trying to retrieve an estimated 36,000 weapons lost or stolen from the Russian Government. Of these, 13 were heavy rocket systems, 18 mortars and other artillery, and approximately 15,000 assault rifles. 

Chechnya provides an intricate example of illicit small arms transfers. According to unofficial sources, the first such transfer occurred in May-June 1991, arranged between the ethnic Armenian militia in Nagorno-Karabakh and the National Congress of the Chechen People. The storming of the government offices of the Chechnya-Ingushetia Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) and the seizure of Russian Federation military installations in Chechnya by armed Chechen rebels was actually carried out using these weapons of Armenian origin. After the subsequent overthrow of the government of Doku Zavgayev and the proclamation of Chechen independence, the major source of small arms for the Chechen rebels was, ironically enough, the Russian Federation army itself. An investigation report noted that the quantity of small arms left in Chechnya was practically impossible to assess. According to various estimates, the number is between 41,538 and 57,596 pieces. The Russian Defence Ministry has reported the following figures: 18,832 AK-74s; 9,307 AKMs, 533 Dragunov sniper rifles, 138 grenade launchers, 678 tank machine guns, 319 large caliber machine guns, and 10,581 pistols. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the quantity of ammunition left behind, it is believed that Chechen rebels acquired no less than 740 pieces of anti-tank munitions, about 200,000 hand grenades, and over 13 million rounds of ammunition.

Most of the successor states to the Soviet Union are dealing with a similar problem when it comes to theft of weapons from military arsenals. In 1999, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of the Interior seized 1,095 weapons from organized criminal groups, ‘nearly all’ of which had been stolen from military depots. The war in Chechnya aside, the South Caucasus is a region replete with conflicts and political tensions. Ethnic conflict, together with organized crime and a nascent gun culture - all pervasive characteristics of this region fuel an ongoing demand for small arms. In Georgia, the war in Abkhazia continues while the cease-fire in Ossetia, although holding in general, continues to be breached by sporadic episodes of violence. Border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan also continue in connection with the dispute over the Armenian-controlled enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Add to this, the many well-armed organized crime rings in the area that traffic in arms, drugs, and prostitution and a very volatile situation throughout the entire region emerges. The former Soviet regional arsenals serve as the primary sources for small arms. It is said Azerbaijan received weapons from Turkey. In addition, it is reported that Azerbaijan has received weapons from Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The whole region has fallen prey to a high level of organized crime, and a pervasive gun culture has developed rapidly since the break-up of the Soviet.

Arms Trade in Asia-Pacific:

The scene in Asia and the Pacific is strewn with a series of armed conflicts and insurgencies in which the adversaries often obtain small arms from the same sources. While weapons from the ‘Afghan pipeline’ may not play as significant a role as they did earlier in the decade, the pipeline is still an important source of small arms in the region. Other alleged major supply sources include Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar (Burma), as well as China and some CIS countries. Highly armed societies such as the Philippines also add fuel to the fire.

Afghanistan, which received large amounts of weapons in the 1980s, remains a major source of small arms and light weapons in South and Central Asia. Between 1979 and 1989, the CIA channeled at least US$ 2 billion in weapons aid, or an estimated 80 per cent of the agency’s covert aid budget, to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. The weapons were sent via Pakistan, which acted as a major transfer facilitator, despite estimates that only 30 per cent of the weapons ever reached their intended recipients. This so-called ‘Afghan Pipeline’ ran from Karachi or Rawalpindi in Pakistan, depending on whether the weapons arrived by sea or air, to Afghanistan. Partly as a result of this practice of siphoning off a portion of the arms in transit, Pakistan has become a major source of small arms in South Asia, both in black market arms and in arms supplied covertly to insurgent groups in the region. While there are sometimes ideological incentives in transferring arms, some tribal groups (e.g. in Baluchistan) view these transactions mostly from a financial point of view.

A vast array of military small arms is available in Pakistan, from M-16s and Uzis to Kalashnikovs of different makes, including Russian, Chinese, and Eastern European manufactures. There is clear evidence that small arms were transferred from Pakistan to rebel groups in the Indian states of Punjab and Kashmir. These transfers were carried out in conjunction with the terrorist training camps operating in Pakistan, which train terrorists to fight in the Jihad in Kashmir. Terrorist groups in North East India also received weapons originating from Pakistan. Three of the major insurgent groups in the northeastern part of the country are the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), and the National Democratic Front for Bodoland (NDFB). The ULFA and the NSCN have both received weapons through a pipeline originating in Pakistan and the Southeast Asian pipeline running through Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. The ULFA has developed contacts with Sri Lanka’s LTTE, the rebels in Kashmir, the Kachins in Myanmar, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Myanmar has also played a major role as a supplier in the region, especially as a source of weapons for the LTTE and certain rebel groups in Northeast India. Though one of the world’s most economically underdeveloped countries, Myanmar nevertheless has its own domestic small arms industry (PRODUCERS) and also receives significant quantities of weapons from China. Bangladesh is a major transit point for arms in the region. Small arms come across to Bangladesh from Afghanistan and Pakistan on the one side and from Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar, and Cambodia on the other. From there, the weapons usually went north to rebels in India’s north-east or south to the LTTE during the Civil War.

The accumulation of small arms in Sri Lanka was driven by a bloody rebel secessionist movement led by the LTTE, fighting for independence from Sri Lanka in the northern part of the country. Weapons purchases were primarily funded by the Tamil diaspora in Switzerland, Canada, Australia, the US, the UK, and Scandinavia. It is also reported that the LTTE derived funds from drug trafficking, primarily heroin. Thus, a well-heeled LTTE was able to purchase even quite sophisticated arms and equipment from various sources. Since the 1980s, arms dealers in Lebanon, Cyprus, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong have purportedly facilitated arms purchases by the LTTE. They also received covert arms shipments from India up until 1987 when the transfers were officially stopped even though, in fact, they allegedly continued until the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. In the mid-1990s, the LTTE turned to Ukraine for weapons and explosives. 

The LTTE also received mortar rounds, surface-to-air missiles, and machine gun ammunition from Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. In 1997, Vietnam provided the LTTE with North Korean-made Igla man portable surface-to-air missiles. Vietnam is reported to have made arms shipments to the LTTE as well. In addition, there are assertions that the LTTE also got arms from Africa, specifically from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Other sources included arms trafficked through the Afghan pipeline and Pakistan. There is sufficient evidence to lend credibility to a case reported in 1999 in which the LTTE obtained eleven Stinger missiles from the rebel PKK in Turkey—missiles manufactured in Greece under US license. Finally, perhaps the most ironic source of LTTE arms has been the Sri Lankan government itself. Indian sources allege that thousands of arms went to the LTTE in 1989, ostensibly so they could fight against the Indian Peacekeeping Force in Sri Lanka.

The Philippines is a hotbed of arms trafficking activities. A host of actors and armed groups within the country are engaged in transfers of small arms and light weapons, both legal and illegal. There is a thriving illicit arms production industry that provides weapons to private individuals and criminal groups. There are also a number of criminal syndicates smuggling arms into the country. This is in addition to the arms flowing into the country to support the insurgency groups. An Islamic secessionist movement in Mindanao, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which signed a peace agreement with the Philippine Government in 1996, received arms from Libya and Sabah, Malaysia. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an offshoot of the MNLF, is reported to receive arms from supporters in the Middle East through Malaysia. A number of island states in the Pacific also find themselves beset with serious political and ethnic tensions. Major rebellions occurred in 2000 in Fiji and the Solomon Islands. In the latter case, rebels were reportedly armed with an array of small arms, ranging from World War II vintage weapons, to hunting rifles; to modern assault rifles apparently looted from police armories. 

Arms Trade in the Americas:

Argentina has two main sources of black market arms: the illegal sale by Argentine arms producers of unregistered firearms, and the diversion of weapons from corrupt members of the military, police and security forces. One estimate of illegally-held firearms in Argentina puts the figure at more than 2.5 million. First, soldiers expelled from the military as a result of a series of failed military coups in 1987, 1988, and 1990 have formed criminal rings and obtain weapons from contacts remaining in the military. Secondly, active duty members of the armed forces, police, and security forces rent out assault rifles, semi-automatic pistols, and sub-machine guns to criminal gangs. Finally, local corrupt police officials sell confiscated weapons.

Chile has also had a number of minor insurgent organizations that were active until the mid-1990s, some of whose members have since turned to organized crime. These criminal groups, characterized by their possession of military assault weapons, are known for their penchant to rob banks and armoured cash transport vehicles. Recent police confiscations of their weapons have yielded US made M-16s, abandoned in Vietnam when the US pulled out of the country in the 1970s, as well as Soviet-era sub-machine guns and assault rifles that were manufactured in Eastern Europe. Paraguay is a major source of assault rifles and other small arms in Latin America, most significantly for Brazil. In one 1998 case, a shipment of 10,000 Glock automatic weapons destined for Paraguay was unloaded at the port of Santos, Brazil. The weapons were stolen and sold on the Brazilian black market to a group of bank robbers. 

The black market in Uruguay is fed by arms smuggled from Brazil and Argentina, as well as the diversion of government and security forces’ stocks through corrupt officials. By far the most publicized Colombian smuggling saga in 2000 involved several Peruvian army officers, Jordanian arms and Russian transport planes, all part of an arms ring operating out of Peru. There are also a number of large indigenous small arms producers, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the United States (PRODUCERS). Soaring crime rates in countries such as Brazil drive civilian demand for weapons intended primarily for personal protection; and finally Economic Free Trade zones, such as the Cayman Islands and Panama, provide ship registry flags of convenience for traffickers. 

The United States, with its huge stores of privately-held firearms, is a source, a supplier, and a recipient of illegal small arms. Within the US itself, gun control is a hotly debated issue. As for Mexico, the US is the largest source of illegal weapons for the country. The trafficking of arms between the two is often closely linked with the drug trade. It would fair to state that Illegal and Grey market transfers of arm have fuelled more conflict than the bigger weapon systems which many times act as a deterrent. The illegal trafficking of small arms to state and non-state actors represents an image like the one captured in the Hollywood Movie ‘The Lord Of War’. Truth as they sometimes say is indeed stranger than fiction. 

The Genesis of ISIS

The above map clearly explains the dangerous situation in Syria and Iraq, the region and the world faces today where Terrorist Organizations like ISIS (Islamic State in Syria & Iraq) and Jabhat Ul Nusra (Al Qaeda) control huge swathes of land from North-Western Iraq to North and Eastern Syria with other rebels like Jaish Al Fateh, FSA in Aleppo, Idilib province and the regions near Syrian Golan Heights in south encircling and moving in on the Syrian Regime slowly but steadily. The State of Civil war in Syria/Iraq has gone from bad to worse in the last year or two with terrorist organizations and other rebels taking advantage of the chaos to close in on Assad Regime. But to understand ISIS, its Network or Modus Operandi one must go to the roots - The ideology behind ISIS and how it is running its Terror Machine, financing it’s so called Caliphate through various means.

ISIS and its Terror Machine

ISIS is just not another Random Terror Organization and much unlike Al Qaeda, the modus operandi, the use of technology, sophistication of training and recruitment makes it a much more graver threat than Qaeda ever was. Afghan Jihad that led to the formation of Al Qaeda was primarily based out of a coordinated covert operation launched by Americans and Saudis with the active connivance of Pakistan to dislodge the Soviets from Afghanistan. Al Qaeda and Bin Laden after the defeat of communists in Afghanistan railed against America and targeted the west in the usual modus operandi of Suicide bombing of its Embassies in Kenya etc. or the dastardly act of 9/11, which shook the entire world. But unlike Al Qaeda which was essentially born out of Afghan Jihad, ISIS is an even more ultra-radical Islamist group that professes to follow Sharia in a strict sense and mete’s out grotesque violence in the form of beheadings, killings, torture and rapes that it systematically uses in its videos to psychologically break enemy defenses, ruthlessly crush dissent and attract more recruits the world over offering the dream of the pure in the divine land in the rule of Caliph. ISIS by contrast to Al Qaeda requires territory to remain legitimate and a top down structure to rule it. Its aim is not just to destroy and kill but to set up a Caliphate based on divine laws of Prophet as it seems to claim. It employs civil engineers; regulates essential supplies and has set up a Sharia Court with a strict code of punishments and other rules that the populace must follow. 

It is a group full of psychopaths and largely disaffected people who can be easily drawn to Jihad by promising heaven in the divine land of Caliphate. ISIS propaganda claims that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs and Baghdadi is the 8th one; that the armies of Rome will amass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria and that Islam’s final showdown with an ant-messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquests. ISIS has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq near Aleppo. It is here that the Prophet reportedly said that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them and Dabiq will be Rome’s waterloo. ISIS believes that the arrival of enemy in Dabiq will initiate the countdown to apocalypse. ISIS propaganda videos as part psychological warfare use imagery and grotesque violence to subdue its opponents by instilling fear in it. ISIS has ingrained the anatomy of brutal sexual violence and slave trade as a methodology to inflict barbarism on what it considers the non-believers or the infidels. 

One must also understand that ISIS is not like any other terror group like Hamas or Muslim Brotherhood who, at some point of time have accepted the International System established on the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. ISIS doesn’t believe in the world order as it exists. ISIS is committed to expanding Dar-al-Islam or the land of Islam and launching of Caliphate and implementing Sharia are a few steps towards it. However it would be a fatal error to term Jabhat Ul Nusra (Al Qaeda) as Moderate and ISIS (Ultra Radical) as both are two sides of the same coin with different modus operandi being used for deception- perception with a common aim to re-establish a Kingdom of Pure - a divine land in form of a caliphate.

Flow of Arms to ISIS

We have already discussed in the Greater Middle East project as to how America’s Gulf allies funded & supplied arms to ISIS, Nusra and other rebel groups. How arms from Benghazi Libya were shipped to Syria for Syrian Rebels in fight against Assad Regime has also been discussed. The shipments of weapons in addition to weapons that were procured from Erstwhile Soviet States like Ukraine, Belarus, and Croatia were flowing into Syria from borders of Turkey and Jordan. Turkey has been gateway for ISIS not only for recruitment but also for flow or arms and oil in black in return for revenue to run its terror machine. 

CAR (Conflict Armament Research) Report of October 2014 documented ammunition recovered from ISIS Battlefields is manufactured in 21 countries, with dates of production ranging from 1945 to 2014. Two production periods, the 1970s–80s and the 2000s, are most represented in the sample and primarily consist of ammunition manufactured in China, Serbia, Soviet Union/Russian Federation, and the US. CAR recovered most of the 1970s–80s-dated ammunition in the sample from IS forces in Syria. Ammunition from this period is predominantly of Chinese and Soviet manufacture. By contrast, the sample of ammunition recovered in Iraq is mainly US-manufactured and comprises 5.56 x 45 mm cartridges, which are used in US-supplied M16 and M4 assault rifles of the Iraqi defence and security forces. ISIS fighters have been seen driving U.S.-made Humvees and operating M198 howitzers and Stinger portable surface-to-air missiles shows that ISIS has some U.S.-made equipment that it can transport and use easily.

Chinese and Bulgarian cartridges account for more than half of this recently manufactured ammunition. 5.56 x 45 mm ammunition is the second most common type in this date range. It is a NATO standard calibre in widespread use among Iraqi defence and security forces. Unusually, 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition, used in Kalashnikov-pattern assault rifles that are prolific in the region, accounts for only five per cent of the sample. Of the 9 x 19 mm pistol ammunition documented, Turkish-manufactured cartridges, dating from 2011 to 2014, accounted for 17 percent of the sample. CAR documented samples of this ammunition in both Iraq and Syria. The presence of such weapons in ISIS’s hands makes clear that its fighters seized substantial stocks not only from Iraqi troops, but from Syrian troops as well. Another 26 of the recovered shells were made in Iran, an ally of Assad’s, and 18 were made in Syria itself, the report states.

Over the past decade, Washington spent nearly $30 billion training and equipping Iraqi security forces, and a sizable chunk of the small arms and other weapons systems it handed over is now unaccounted for, in wake of ISIS’s seizure of the cities of Mosul, Fallujah, and Tikrit, as well as the surrounding territory. The US army lost 420 mn $ worth military equipment in Afghanistan apart from Private Weapons suppliers like Purple Shovel and its sub-contractors who are hired by US Dept. of Defense to supply arms to Syrian Rebels that were incidentally procured from the Russian ally -Belarus. 

ISIS Financing of its Terror Machine

Another important aspect of ISIS financing its terror machine is the sale of oil in the black market. There are many ways by which this ultra-radical cult driven group finances it’s so called caliphate like the sale of Oil in Black, the sale of Drugs like meth and cocaine, Extortions from Foreigners and the latest one being smuggling the refugees into Europe and elsewhere. Sale of Oil in black by ISIS is a very important component of how it runs its Caliphate and finances its Terror machinery. As of September 2014, ISIS sold 30,000 barrels of Oil a day in Iraq and 50,000 Barrels in Syria @ 40 $ Barrel compared to International Price of 93$ and earned 3.2 Million $ daily. This means ISIS earned 100 mn $ each month in illegal oil sales in Black market most of which was done through Turkey who turned a blind eye. Not only was ISIS selling oil in black via Turkey but even to its bitter foe Assad Regime since Syria’s main refineries were either under the control of ISIS or Nusra. 

Apart from sale of oil in black which has now dwindled owing to Crude Glut in the market and also coalition strikes on Oil Refineries under the control of ISIS; another huge source of funding for ISIS is the Drug Trade in Syria stretching far away with its network in Afghanistan. The breakdown in law and order over the past few years has opened up a market for criminals to make and sell “Captagon” tablets. The drug provides revenues that could be used to pay for weapons for the rebel forces, and is reportedly helping their fighters to keep up their energy levels during long hours of battle. Cheap and easy to make, Captagon’s use has spread far beyond Syria’s borders, into the Arabian Gulf. More than a third of the world’s Amphetamine seizures happen in Saudi Arabia, and recently Dubai Police uncovered a smuggled consignment of nearly five million tablets. What makes the drug so unusual is that it is almost unknown outside of the Arabian Gulf. Its origins are unclear, although a prescription drug called Captagon first went on sale in the 1960s. The head of Lebanon’s drug enforcement, Col Ghassan Chamseddine, says that production is moving to Syria, with the tablets moved in bulk by road to Lebanese ports for shipment to the Arabian Gulf. Figures show that 12.3 million Captagon pills were seized in Lebanon last year says the report, with most coming from raids in the Bekaa Valley on the Syrian border. 

Not only is ISIS trafficking drugs to help finance the war, they are giving Captagon and other drugs to their fighters to increase endurance and feelings of invincibility. Due to the production of counterfeit Captagon, jihadists are ingesting pills that contain methamphetamine, ephedrine, and other drugs that are much more potent than the original Captagon name brand version. There have also been reports that ISIS fighters are using cocaine, heroin, hashish and potent drugs, known locally as "baltcon", "afoun" and "zolm". Kurdish fighters have observed that many ISIS militants are addicted to strong drugs and report finding pills, capsules and syringes on both dead and alive ISIS militants. ISIS already controls a part of the routes of illegal drug supply from the Badakhshan Province in northeastern Afghanistan with factions of TTP pledging allegiances to ISIS in Afghanistan. It is gaining ground in the region viz Afghan Taliban that grows 90% of world’s opium produce which is used to fund terror machines worldwide.

Even Europe's cocaine trade is funding Islamist terrorists in North Africa, who used the cash to seize swaths of Mali in North Africa in 2013 and have also pledged their support to ISIS (Islamic State). When militants from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb established a power base in the deserts of North Africa in 2007, they also took control of lucrative routes used to smuggle cocaine to the North African coast, and from there to Europe.

The drugs are transported from the coast and remote airstrips across the desert along former caravan routes, with jihadist militants providing security, and taking millions of dollars in return. It is estimated that 48 tons of cocaine, worth approximately $1.8 billion in Europe, is smuggled along the routes every year. According to Spanish intelligence sources, jihadists in the country rely on knowledge of drug smuggling routes to export arms, contraband and new recruits from the EU to Iraq and Syria. A recent crackdown on legal fundraising for terrorist organisations has led to an increased trade of illegal arms and drugs such as "cocaine, heroin and hashish.

The group also takes millions from seizing and ransoming western hostages. The jihadists used the money to buy equipment including armoured vehicles, surface-to-air missiles and AK-47s from soldiers fleeing Libya after Dictator Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in 2012. The militants used the equipment to seize north Mali in 2013, easily overpowering the country's army, with the group's relentless march on the Malian capital Bamako only halted by a French-led bombing campaign. An Al-Qaeda supporter in the Islamic Maghreb splinter group, Jund al-Khalifa, also recently pledged their support for ISIS.

ISIS is a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion. A new report from the non-profit RAND Corporation shows that ISIS' finances are still incredibly strong, despite U.S.-led airstrikes aimed at cutting off the group's revenue. ISIS collected over $1.2 billion in 2014, RAND's report shows. The breakdown is even more interesting: $600 million of it came from extortion and taxation, $500 million from robbing banks, and only $100 million from oil infrastructure. Aside from oil, ISIS has recently earned between $22 million and $55 million a year taxing antiquities smugglers, who traffic looted objects out of Syria and Iraq, and between $168 million and $228 million a month taxing small businesses and residents in ISIS-controlled areas.

Its new business is migrant smuggling, with funds going not only to ISIS but also Al-Qaeda-linked groups around the Sahara and militias in Libya, which seized the capital Tripoli in August last year. Smugglers typically charge each migrant between $800 and $1,000 to reach Libya, either from across the Sahara or from the Middle East, and then between $1,500 and $1,900 to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. ISIS has recently driven Syrians and Iraqis from their homes in a deliberate attempt to increase their control over smuggling routes, and to drive up the numbers of those trying to cross the Mediterranean.
ISIS Expanding Global Network

Another factor for worry is ISIS’s Global Network and recruitment base is ever increasing across geographies and continents. It is estimated that at least 1,500 recruits from Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) and Xinjiang (a Uighur autonomous region of northwest China) are already fighting for IS in Syria and Iraq. There are also hundreds of Central Asians and Uighurs fighting in groups other than IS, such as the Jabhat al-Nusra coalition in Syria. In another dangerous trend, Central Asian and Uighur extremists who were fighting individually in the past have been cooperating to form new groups, develop new networks and gain sophistication in planning and conducting attacks. Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), for instance, which is mostly made up of Uighur (Turkistan) leaders and militants, show that they are fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra and Uzbek-led brigades and have been seen in major battles in Idlib and now Homs. 

The recent Bangkok Blast where a Uighur militant from China’s Xingjiang region travelled back to Turkey and finally to Syria shows how deep the ISIS nexus is from Central Asia to South East Asia with fertile recruitment grounds like Rohingiya Crisis in Burma. Even Moscow has confirmed that more than 2,400 Russians are fighting for ISIS in Syria , mostly are Chechens & from Central Asian regions but  a rather curious thing to note is Russia who is backing Assad is itself turned a blind eye to Chechen Jihadis flowing into Syria from Russia. Facts are now emerging that Russia Intelligence agency FSB is practically controlling and abetting the flow of Jiahdis into Syria from Caucuses dumping the trouble making Chechen Jihadis against its own Ally (Assad) just like what Saudis did with flow of Jihadis into Afghanistan in the 80s. But a blowback of such operations is bound to happen given the fact that these very Chechen Jihadis are now also moving into Ukraine war from Syria.

ISIS has also gained ground in Afghanistan with factions of Pakistan Taliban (TTP) Terrorists pledging allegience to ISIS. ISIS has been carrying out opearations against Pakistan’s sponsored terror group of Afghan Taliban which is being courted into a power sharing peace deal to ward off the growing threat of ISIS. The Afghan Government has already warned of the country slipping in to chaos owing to the turf war between the rival jihadi groups. The Advent of ISIS in Afghanistan has consequences for India as well as whole South Asia which has a large population of Muslims and some of those can be misled by these groups. Recently many ISIS Recruiters have been arrested who had 25,000 Indian Muslims on their Radar. The ISIS network has been growing ever since with recruitment from catchment areas like MENA Region, Europe, Af-Pak, Rohingiyas, Maldives, Xingjian, Tajikistan and even parts of South East Asia like Malaysia, Thailand & Indonesia. 

As things are turning we see a Russian Build Up of a Military Base in Syria’s costal town firming up the Assad Regime in Alawite & Druze areas of Hama, Damascus etc. Though Russia’s build up may not yield into a direct confrontation on ISIS Frontlines but is more of a strategic move to open negotiations with US and safeguard its interests in Syria which has happened with Direct Military to Military talks between US & Russia on Syria; yet Russia’s very presence in the battle field could give just the fodder to various Terror Groups and Rebels against the perceived enemy block of Assad & Communist Russia with Shia Iran in a Sunni dominated country and region. This could spin out of control like a vortex in a bloody battle leading to 2nd Wave of international jihad post the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 80s.

Things are delicately poised and what the various world powers decide in the coming times could ultimately affect not only Middle East but even Europe, Africa, Russia, South Asia & SE Asia. The consequences of any misadventure by either bloc could be devastating. The Blowback could spread to Europe, Caucuses and Central Asia with ISIS already targeting Russian base in Dagestan and violence in Tajikistan. 

The need of the hour is for a negotiated political settlement and peaceful transition of power with equal rights to the respective communities. ISIS is the gravest danger that Humanity faces in 21st Century with it targeting not only life and property in the Region but also ruining the rich ancient heritage like Palmyra that Mesopotamia once had. The prolonged conflict in Syria/Iraq doesn’t benefit anyone except the Military Industrial complex of the relative powers who laugh their way to the banks while humanity is collateral damage.

Petro-Dollar: The Geopolitics of Oil

Crude oil known as Black Gold is a commodity that has shaped the modern world. The Discovery of Oil/Crude in the Middle East has totally transformed the region from sprawling skylines in Dubai to Wars in Syria/Iraq. The Arab Countries specifically Saudi Arabia which has approx. 260 Billion barrels of Crude reserves has been the prime player in fixing the Crude Rate in International Market, regulating oil supply. The other countries that have big crude reserves are Venezuela with 290 Bn Barrels, Canada with 165 Bn Barrels, Iran 150 & Iraq 140 Bn barrels of Crude Reserves. Outside the Arab world Russia has 70 Billion Barrels, Libya 40 Bn Barrels & Nigeria 30 Bn Barrels of Crude Reserves. 

The Geo Politics over Crude has been the determining factor in how the Middle East & the world economy evolve. Crude oil has been instrumental in the creating the boom in the economy of Emirati States but has also been instrumental in export of Ultra Radical Wahhabi ideology from Saudi Arabia into other parts of the world like Af-Pak in Afghan Jihad (that lead to Creation of Al Qaeda) and South East Asia fueling the radical cult across regions. Crude also determines various parameters in the world economy from Commodities Consumption to Inflation, indirectly affecting the cost of production of various goods & services from Foodstuffs to Power Generation. It is in this perspective one needs to understand the Geo Politics of Crude & its effects on the world in totality.

Establishment of Petro Dollar

With the Rise of OPEC as the Producer Cartel dominated by countries from Gulf Arab states to North African Region it was essential for the Western Oil giants to break the monopoly of Oil Cartels like OPEC that could create havoc by regulating supply of an Essential commodity like Oil in the world. Nationalist Governments across the Region were destabilized at the behest of Big Oil Giants. During Yom Kippur war of 1967 between Israel & the Arab states when Israel captured Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian President responded by closing Suez Canal to tanker traffic and then called on OPEC to launch an Oil Embargo. The Saudis concurred but Iran being a US Ally under Shah’s Regime increased the Oil Production breaking away from the call for a blockade. Lead by Algeria and Iraq the nationalists began to exert influence. After a bloodless coup in 1969 Qaddafi took power in Libya, while Palestinian Guerillas targeted TAPLINE a pipeline that crosses Syria to the Mediterranean Port of Sidon in Lebanon driving the prices up. While Nationalists across the Arab world were responding to Oil Embargos the Shah of Iran opened the spigots to keep the price stable. 

Qaddafi responded to Shah’s moves by initiating Tripoli I & II non-negotiable demands which gained support among OPEC Countries but Shah Countered them with the Tehran Agreement which guaranteed unlimited supply of crude to neutralize the effect of Oil Embargo. The Saudis cut production by 25%, but the world output actually increased by 8% owing to the flood of oil coming from Iran. King Faisal of Saudi Arabia who was sympathetic to Egypt’s President Nasser during the Oil Embargo in 1973 was later assassinated & his successor King Khalid was much compliant towards United States. To Counter the OPEC Producer Cartel the Nixon Administration created International Energy Agency (IEA) as a banker cartel.

All this coincided with Euro Dollar and spot future markets and the secret Lagos agreement where it was concluded that henceforth oil would be purchased in Dollars. Shah of Iran pushed for a hike in Crude Prices in the next OPEC Summit to boost the demand of US Dollars for the sale of oil. IEA was just another tool to counter the OPEC Cartel & its embargo, which lead to the petro dollar scheme as we call it today. The OPEC countries initially shared the profits of the Petro Dollar scheme & the price hike from 1972-1978 where earnings rocketed from 23 bn $ to 140 bn $. Saudis & others undertook modernization programs but the benefit of the boom for people in the region was short lived and a mirage given the Ponzi nature of Petro Dollar scheme.

Under the Petro Dollar arrangement the Saudis would only sell their oil in U.S. dollars, and would invest the majority of their excess oil profits into U.S. banks and Capital markets. The IMF would then use this money to facilitate loans to oil importers who were having difficulties covering the increase in oil prices. The payments and interest on these loans would of course be denominated in U.S. dollars. This agreement was formalized in the "The U.S.-Saudi Arabian Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation" put together by Nixon's Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1974. The system was expanded to include the rest of OPEC by 1975. Though presented as buffer to the recessionary effects of rising oil prices, this arrangement had a hidden side effect. It removed the traditional restraints on U.S. monetary policy. The Federal Reserve was now free to increase the money supply at will. The ever-increasing demand for oil would prevent a flight from the dollar, while distributing the inflationary consequences across the entire planet.

Another document released by the Congressional Research Service reveals that these negotiations had an edge to them, as U.S. officials were openly discussing the feasibility of seizing oil fields in Saudi Arabia militarily.

“In the United States, the oil shocks produced inflation, new concern about foreign investment from oil producing countries, and open speculation about the advisability and feasibility of militarily seizing oil fields in Saudi Arabia or other countries. In the wake of the embargo, both Saudi and U.S. officials worked to re-anchor the bilateral relationship on the basis of shared opposition to Communism, renewed military cooperation, and through economic initiatives that promoted the recycling of Saudi petrodollars to the United States via Saudi investment in infrastructure, industrial expansion, and U.S. securities.”

Most of the profits of Petro Dollar scheme found their way back to Western Shores like in US Securities, Infrastructure like Real estate boom etc. While most of petro dollars profits earned by the OPEC countries found its way back to Western banks, some of it was spent on buying weapons system from US Defence Contractors or companies. In the 80s some of the Spoils of Petro Dollar were used to spread Wahhabi Ideology of Radical Islam that gave rise to Terrorist Organizations like Al Qaeda, Taliban etc. in the war against the Soviets. The Gulf War 1 in 1991 was pivotal in this respect with United States acquiring military bases in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain etc. acting as the watch dog & security provider for Gulf Arab states in a region sitting on a Tinder Box since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. 

The Oil Cartels

To the understand the Geo Politics of Oil one must understand the Oil Cartels like OPEC & the various actors involved in mechanics of the Oil Production Level and fixing Prices. OPEC is hardly a cohesive cartel; there are 2 factions in OPEC known as ‘Price Hawks’ historically lead by Libya, Iraq, Algeria & Venezuela. These prices hawks have always argued for Quotas of Crude Oil production to be made for OPEC Member states so that the prices remain at a higher level. IEA was created as a counter balance to these price hawks creating a buyers cartel of western nations, which could lobby for high supply & low prices till the US Dollar stabilizes. The Western Cartel was helped by the other faction of OPEC also called the ‘Price Doves’, which for decades had been the twin pillars of Iran & Saudi Arabia. These are also known as ‘swing producers’ as the ones who could sabotage the countries who demanded a higher price given their higher break-even point for production of Crude Oil. 

When Shah of Iran fell in 1979, Iran quickly switched camps from being a Price Dove to the price hawk. The Western Cartel created another cartel of Oil Producing nations such as GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) in 1981 to counter Iran’s switch to being a price hawk in OPEC. The GCC consists of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and United Arab Emirates. All except Oman are also members of OPEC & known as Banker Nations in OPEC. The GCC Cartel is essentially part of price doves and receives massive military protection from United States of America. Iran, Indonesia Iraq, Venezuela, Nigeria and Algeria are considered industrializing nations of OPEC. The Formation of GCC was criticized by Iraq, Syria & PLO who said that the Arab league was divided into have & have nots’. 

The banker nations or the price doves of OPEC are fully developed and recycle the profits of Petro Dollar in Global Investments in these western nations, its banks & corporations. The Industrializing nations need a higher price to develop their countries, infrastructure and serve the enormous debt which it owes to these very western financial institutions. OPEC emerged from the Embargo in 1973 determined to craft regional solutions that lessen the dependence on western finances for their developmental needs. The 1972 Arab Summit in Sudan ended the first war between North & South Sudan and called on the Gulf Arab monarchies to divert the riches of petro dollar into developmental schemes of poor nations. This front was lead by the price hawks i.e. Iraq, Libya, Syria, South Yemen, PLO & Algeria. This lead to the Conference on International Economic Cooperation in Paris where 19 Developing Countries from G-77 met with G-7 Counterparts to create a just & equitable economic order with OPEC leader Algeria calling for trickling down of oil wealth to developing nations.

But the western cartel in IEA demanded that the Paris Conference solely focus on Energy Issues & not on larger issue of Economic Inequality. The Western Cartel in a way managed to protect the piggy banking of profits from Petro Dollar Ponzi scheme back into western banks, securities, and arms trade and funding/fighting of covert war in the Region & the world. The confrontation camp in Price Hawks met in Damascus in 1979 to plot a strategy to stop the camp David Peace accords between Egypt & Israel backed by United States & Saudi Arabia that could further weaken the Arab Unity in fight against the Western Cartel. The Signing of the Peace Accords between Israel & Egypt, creation of GCC in 1981 accomplished the goal of ‘Machine de guerre’. A recent study by American Petroleum Institute stated that non-OPEC production growth since 1980 has eroded OPEC’s market influence. The 1984 Discoveries of North Sea Oil in Britain & Norway gave another blow to OPEC & the price hawks therein. The subsequent normalization of ties between Israel & Jordan in the 1994 further weakened the Arab Unity and the power of OPEC as an Oil regulating cartel has been slowly eroded with non OPEC states like Russia and the Shale/Oil Revolution in US has even neutralized the role of Saudi Arabia as ‘Swing Producer’ in the GCC Cartel.

The Geo Politics of Oil

Crude Oil being one of the most sought after commodities has been a boon as well as bane. On one hand you have the vast prosperity that the discovery of crude has brought to the Gulf Arab Region; on the other hand you have the wars & proxy wars being fought over this scarce resource. Crude oil and natural gas has been the subject of intense geo political tussle between the World Powers. Powers from the western hemisphere have traditionally tried to dominate the oil rich middle east region dictating policies & even backing regimes who blatantly abuse the very rights these democracies in the west champion for.

The Fight for Crude Oil & other such natural resources has resulted in many brutal wars that have been witnessed in the Middle East Region. It would be pertinent to note that Oil was used a weapon after OPEC Countries imposed an Oil Embargo on Western Countries following US’s Backing of Israel in 1967 Yom Kippur War. Similarly Iraq & Iran were 2 countries with large enough oil reserves in OPEC to challenge the hegemony of the Saudi lead GCC Cartel. Iraq has 112 Billion barrels with Iran has 100 Billion barrels of oil & both of whom were price hawks. The Iran-Iraq war decimated both Iraq & Iran who price hawk countries were challenging the status quo of Petro Dollar, a war in which US supplied arms to both sides which lead to Iraq & Iran’s economies being ruined over the decade long war. Similar Geo Politics also played out in Gulf War 1 where United States first let Saddam attack Kuwait & then used the same pretext to start a war & consequently received permanent bases in GCC Countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain etc. Gulf war 2 in 2003 though was fought on the ground of Weapons of Mass Destruction with Saddam’s Iraq but the real reason was Saddam’s decision in Oct 2000 to sell Oil in Euros instead of US dollars as this would directly threaten not only the GCC Cartel but also the Petro Dollar Ponzi scheme that has been running US Economy & making it serve its ever increasing debt year after year. Similar was the case of Gaddafi in Libya who took over as president of African Union in 2009 who mooted the Idea of Single Currency for African Union & selling of Oil in Golden Dinar that virtually threatened the Petro Dollar, which was real reason for NATO’s invasion into Libya in 2011. 

Crude Oil has been used as a geo political weapon many times from 1973 Embargo to the Cold War where the prices of Crude Oil played a critical part. It is widely known that fall in prices of Crude Oil to the level of 20 $ in late 80s for a medium term contributed to the Collapse of Soviet Economy that is mostly dependent on its Oil Exports for Foreign exchange/Revenue. Oil prices were at 85$ per Barrel by the end of 70s. When Regan took over he immediately worked on  the supply side of economics of oil & decontrolled it leading to a fall of 68% drop in Oil Prices to 27$ per barrel. In May 1990, Gorbochev begged German Chancellor Helmund Kohl for a 12 bn $ loan to save off financial disaster. Only 3 bn $ was advanced then. In August 1990, Gorbochev pleaded for more loans and by December 1991 Soviet Union had collapsed. 

Like Soviet Union even today’s Russia major export is Crude Oil which is primarily run in Petro $ Scheme and Cartels like OPEC, GCC over which Russia has limited say. Russia made  merry in the first decade of 21st century with Crude Oil rising to above 100 $ per barrel but owing to collapse of Crude Oil prices, it is once again facing a similar situation of Revenue Crunch, soaring inflation and sanctions in lieu of Ukraine Conflict.  Crude Oil is now once again being used as Geo Political weapon by Western Powers & its Arab allies in targeting the Price Hawks like Iran, Venezuela & Geo Political adversaries like Russia to bring about regime change in these countries. All these countries have a High Break Even price for Crude like for Russia it is 105$, Iran is 140$, Venezuela around 150$ while the US Arab Allies like Qatar, Kuwait break even is 44-55 $ while Saudis breakeven near 65 $ and have enough reserves & the benefits of being an accomplice in the Petro Dollar scheme, that it will be far fetched to postulate any big trouble for them in the near term. Saudis have low cost of production of oil, little debt of only 1.4 % (Debt-GDP Ratio) while they have staggering Net Foreign Assets of 700 Billion $. The Saudi & GCC Countries are very deeply interlinked with United States not only by way of the Petro Dollar but investments in American Infrastructure, Financial Institutions and are a pivotal part of US’s Strategic Policies in Middle East. 

The advent of Radical Groups like ISIS, AQAP & Proxy war with Iran in the Region has only increased the leverage of Western Powers over Saudis who are seeking Security Assurances from US and even Israel for Strategic needs viz their common foe Iran.  Saudi Arabia has become the largest Arms Importer in the world piping India while US is the Principle Supplier of Weapon Systems, Arms to Saudis. The muted response of Saudis to 2014 Gaza War and the recent visit of Saudi King to US clearly underscore this point. Saudis & other GCC are in fact using Oil Prices as leverage with Russia on the Syrian Conflict in sync with objectives of the western powers. 

The falling crude price along with Sanctions played an important part in driving Iran to negotiation table, which lead to the clinching of Iran Nuclear Deal. With Iran Nuclear Deal, the Iranian Oil/Gas is likely to hit the market by early 2016 making sure that Crude Prices remain low to moderate for medium term. It is quiet intriguing that Iran Nuclear Deal was primarily clinched after a decade long lobbying & secret talks (since 2001) by Rockefellers. The Biggest beneficiary of Iran Nuclear Deal will be a Western Oil giant like Shell, BP, and Total which will get access to Iran’s Oil Field modernization programme while EU will stand to be the biggest gainer in form of Gas Exports from Iran’s large gas reserve in PARS Gas field in Persian Gulf. The power play of Western Powers is quite a balancing act with one side backing of Saudis & GCC Allies in Yemen against Iran’s Militias, Israel against Hezbollah & Providing Weapons System to its allies in the Middle East while on the other side it engages with Iran in tapping its Oil/Gas while keeping the respective sides engaged in a duel via proxies like ISIS, Nusra, AQAP, Houthis, Hezbollah etc. The return of Iran on the International Oil Circuit (Re: Petrodollar Scheme) only strengthens Western Cartels against Russia, which suffers on account of Low Crude Prices, Economic Recession & being sucked up into Geo Political conflicts from the Middle East to Caucuses to Central Asia. 

While Crude is being used by Geo Political weapon, it’ s worth pointing out that the Shale Revolution in United States has totally tilted the balance making OPEC & GCC Cartel even more dependent on US. United States has recently surpassed Saudi Arabia as the largest producer of Oil in 2014-2015 and with the likely lifting of 4 decades old Oil Export Ban, the US Could itself become the Swing State that would effectively control the Petro Dollar. The recent discoveries of Natural gas reserves along the Coast of Israel & Egypt, Caspian Sea in Central Asia have only made the OPEC & to some extent GCC rudderless. With Western Oil Giants controlling huge Oil & Shale assets across US, Middle East & even being partners with Russia in Arctic Gas fields their monopoly has only strengthened further to sustain the Ponzi Petro Dollar Scheme. The Non Dollar Oil & Trade deals between China & Russia, India & Russia are too marginal in nature to dethrone the Petro Dollar as these are consumer states not the Producer states like Arab Allies of the Western Power who are willing accomplices in the Petro Dollar Ponzi scheme. 

Refugee Crisis – Nothing Accidental About it

The world today is witnessing another huge refugee crisis from the perpetually conflicted Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, this time centered on Syria. The body of 5 year old Aylan Al- Kurdi was flashed across all media platforms and everyone woke up to this reality. Europe, for the first time is seeing an influx of refugees that will alter the nature of the continent if not beyond. Opinions vary on how to deal with the crisis. Some say Europe and the US should step up. Others say the rich Gulf States should use their enormous wealth to help. Further south, another Middle Eastern country is also imploding, arguably at an even faster rate. Will refugees from Yemen now also start to flee to Europe? Welcome to the business of migration.

The Devil is in the Details

The number of people forced to flee their homes across the world has exceeded 50 million in 2014 for the first time since the Second World War, an exponential rise that is stretching host countries and aid organizations to breaking point. If displaced people had their own country it would be the 24th most populous in the world. Half the world's refugees are children, many travelling alone or in groups in a desperate quest for sanctuary, and often falling into the clutches of people traffickers. Apart from 5 million Palestinians, the biggest refugee populations by source country are Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis and Somalis, which together account for half the total. The main host countries were Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Eighty-six per cent of the world's refugees are hosted by developing countries – up from 70% a decade ago. The biggest change this time around has been the opening up of European Union to the refugees, so far a no go zone.

As estimated by the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) approx. 1.8 million people were displaced by insecurity in Iraq between January and September 2014, and heavy fighting has continued to force people to flee to other parts of the country. Many of the displaced have sought safety in the Kurdistan Region, which is also hosting more than 95 per cent of Syrian refugees in Iraq. There are more than 3 million Syrian refugees in the region. In addition, over 50,000 Syrians have sought asylum in more than 90 countries outside the region. Inside Syria, an estimated 10.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including some 6.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs). The security situation in Libya is increasingly volatile with at least 140,000 Libyans displaced. Yemen, given its location on a historical migration route between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Gulf faced mixed migration brings in both refugees fleeing persecution and economic migrants fleeing poverty. The number of people internally displaced rose significantly in 2014 as a result of recent conflicts, with over 334,000 people registered as IDPs across the country. In addition, Yemen hosts 246,000 registered refugees, 95 per cent of whom are Somalis. According to UNHCR more than 200,000 Kurds in Syria became stateless as a result of a 1962 census which withdrew Syrian citizenship from people who had allegedly entered the country illegally from Turkey. The total number of displaced Palestinians worldwide is 7.1 million, including 6.6 million refugees and 427,000 IDPs. Older, long running conflicts have displaced 1.1 million refugees from Somalia and 2.59 million from Afghanistan. Many families are fleeing the dictatorial regime of Eritrea often called Africa’s North Korea. In Myanmar, Muslim minority group called Rohingyas have fled their country and seem to find no takers. Conversely it is estimated that around 10 million East Bengali refugees entered India during the early months of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 and no one batted as much as an eyelid. Every crisis is an opportunity and the above numbers are a human trafficker’s delight. Apart from human trafficking, it fuels child slavery and prostitution, brings in the (un)holy nexus of religion, aid agencies and NGO’s who could be representing other interests. In short, it is all about money.

Syrian Crisis, Iraq & ISIS

The current Syrian crisis has its roots in the Iraq War of 2003. Before 9/11 radical Islam existed only in the form of Osama Bin Laden and his movement Al-Qaeda. Arab governments realized this and exiled the group until it found sanctuary in Afghanistan, the very place that Bin Laden, funded by Saudi Arabia and the US, learned to fight against the Soviets .After 9/11, the extremists got the fight they were looking for when the US invaded Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda was defeated, and its host, the Taliban movement, was ousted from power. 

In 2003 based on controversial evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Iraq was occupied and invaded. The WMD claim was eventually publicly discredited by the CIA and proved whispers and intelligence community doubts from the time that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but the radical groups had found a new cause and a new fight. They learned new tactics. They became hardened fighters. They dreamed of a caliphate that would spread across the Arab and Muslim world. Angry that the US had invaded another Muslim country, money and weapons were donated in huge number from Muslim countries by individuals and Al-Qaeda and its like were back in business again, this time with a foothold in the Middle East in Iraq.

The 'Arab Spring' of 2011 raised hopes of democratization in the Middle East. Mohamed Morsi, who became Egypt's first democratically elected president, was toppled by the military in 2013. Initially it was not religious or even violent in nature. It was popular anger at dictators propped up by the West coupled with frustration at the lack of economic development letting loose decades of religious suppression and channelized their anger at the US' role in Iraq. Similarly, in Libya, Gaddafi was ousted and the country spiraled into chaos. Gaddafi was the only thing that stood in the way of African migrants and refugees from reaching Europe, something which EU was aware of and compensated him handsomely to ensure these refugees would never become their problem. Post his fall, it was suddenly possible to reach Europe via the Mediterranean from Libya. Suddenly, it seemed that no one would be spared from the winds of Arab Spring including Syrian President Al-Assad who was pressurized by the West to quit. Left to fend for himself by the West who quickly abandoned him (that being the purpose all along), Assad had no choice but to retaliate in a violent and bloody manner.  Al-Qaeda in Iraq became ISIS and took huge parts of Syria and Iraq along with spawning many like-minded organizations. Various stakeholders of Syria entered the picture and the result was chaos, crumbling infrastructure, constant civil wars and despair. Syria unraveled and the refugee crisis was alive and kicking apart from fueling the anger that lead to more and more people joining violent extremist Jihadi groups. For extremist Islam to thrive, this is imperative. Only the destruction of the foundations of western culture and a return to the stone ages literally speaking can usher in the rule of Sharia- the austere form of Islam – hence the birth of ISIS. If we consider the fact that the West was aware of the ripples of the events they set in motion in 2003; we could say that this refugee crisis was expected and perhaps dismissed or accepted as collateral damage in view of the bigger game of the “Greater Middle East Project” aimed to perpetuate conflict and war, which is a boon not only for the American Military-Industrial Complex but also Russian Arms Manufacturers who make merry as the conflict rages on, while the public suffers.

The architects of the Iraq war still say their actions had nothing to do with the current crisis. In 2014, Tony Blair wrote an essay on his website and said: "The civil war in Syria with its attendant disintegration is having its predictable and malign effect. Iraq is now in mortal danger. The whole of the Middle East is under threat. “He argued and continues to argue that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with the rise of groups like ISIS and wars in both Iraq and Syria.

Refugees and ISIS: The Economic Accident

The movement of migrants across the Middle East and Africa towards Europe has generated up to $323 million for the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and other jihadist groups. ISIS’s sources of funding appear to have changed markedly since 2014. Till a couple of years, ISIS brought in funds from oil smuggling, a key reason why its fighters seized oil facilities in Syria and Iraq ,with oil trading earning up to $3 million a day, according to U.N. estimates. When the U.S. and its allies began bombing ISIS oil facilities this figure was reduced by almost 50%. As per intelligence reports ISIS needs between $523.5 million and $815.3 million a year to run its operations, including paying its fighters, run social services, and buy weapons and ammunition. ISIS earned between $22 million and $55 million a year taxing antiquities smugglers, who traffic looted objects out of Syria and Iraq, and between $168 million and $228 million a month taxing small businesses and residents in ISIS-controlled areas. Migration has proved such an invaluable business opportunity for groups like ISIS that international crime experts believe ISIS might have launched some attacks specifically in order to drive people to flee, and then profit from their flight. In fact, the most robust new business is migrant smuggling, with funds going not only to ISIS but also al-Qaeda-linked groups around the Sahara and militias in Libya. Smugglers typically charge each migrant between $800 and $1,000 to reach Libya, either from across the Sahara or from the Middle East, and then between $1,500 and $1,900 to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. ISIS has recently driven Syrians and Iraqis from their homes in a deliberate attempt to increase their control over smuggling routes, and to drive up the numbers of those trying to cross the Mediterranean. Syrians now comprise the largest number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, followed by refugees from the East African nation of Eritrea. The surge in Syrian refugees crossing the Mediterranean since last year appeared to follow ISIS attacks on refugee camps with the sole purpose of driving them out. 

Journey to Europe: Come one, Come All

Amid the worst refugee crisis in decades, as tens of thousands of refugees continue to enter Europe- the million dollar question is how many of these are genuine refugees from Syria/Iraq etc.? Opportunistic smugglers have reportedly been helping small groups of ISIS fighters travel from southern Turkey into Europe for months, hidden in cargo ships filled with hundreds of refugees, according to an ISIS operative. The ISIS operative claimed some 4,000 fighters were already waiting in Europe, intent on fulfilling ISIS's repeated threats to stage attacks around the globe. He said such attacks would be in retaliation for U.S.-led airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria. 

Apart from ISIS, people of various nationalities have been using this crisis to their advantage to seek asylum in Europe using fake Syrian identities. There have been many instances of Pakistani and Bangladeshi passports, dumped at the border by people posing to be Syrian nationals. Young men are leaving their families including wives and young children behind while they leave for Europe to become permanent residents, seek economic gain and start life afresh. Only one in every five migrants claiming asylum in Europe is from Syria. The EU logged 213,000 arrivals in April, May and June but only 44,000 of them were fleeing the Syrian civil war. ‘This exposes the lie peddled in some quarters that vast numbers of those reaching Europe are from Syria,' said David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth. 'Most people who are escaping the war will go to camps in Lebanon or Jordan. ‘Many of those who have opted to risk their lives to come to Europe have done so for economic reasons”.

While the influx of refugees continues, the EU nations continue to fight amongst themselves about this barrage of humanity that is showing up on their shores using the European Union rule called the Dublin Regulation which requires refugees to stay in the first European country they arrive in until their asylum claims are processed to prevent them from orbiting the EU. This has affected Greece and Italy badly as these countries are easier to reach via the Mediterranean. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stepped up and said Germany will accept 800000 refugees and perhaps a further 500000 in the years ahead against Germany’s existing population of 81 million. Croatia, Hungary and Denmark have taken a hard stance against the refugees. Hungarian PM Victor Orban defended his stand calling the refugees a threat to Europe’s Christian identity. “We shouldn’t forget that the people who are coming here grew up in a different religion and represent a completely different culture. Most are not Christian, but Muslim or is it not worrying that Europe’s Christian culture is already barely able to maintain its own set of Christian values”? UK Foreign Minister claimed that migrants from Africa were a threat to Europe’s “standard of living and social infrastructure”. In an ironical twist of fate, Donald Trump is enjoying a healthy position in the GOP Presidential Primary- a clear indication of how the majority of the West feels anxiously about foreigners invading their countries. The future of Schengen clearly seems peppered with doubts.

Love thy Brother: NOT

Of the third of a million people who have arrived by sea this year, most are from the Arab world: Half are from Syria, while Iraq and Sudan are also among the top 10 countries of refugees’ nationality. The Gulf countries, the wealthiest states among the Arab world, are among the largest donors to Syrian refugees. But no Syrian refugees or others have been resettled in Persian Gulf nations like Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, countries with significant financial and political interest in Syria. The status of refugee does not, however, exist in the Gulf States or any other Arab country. It is a European concept that was not adopted by the newly created, postcolonial MENA nations. The six Gulf monarchies have never signed the international conventions on refugee rights and statelessness, which began to be established after World War II. From the Western point of view, GCC countries are directly responsible for what happened to the Syrians, and, as Arabs and Muslims, the refugees are their close brethren. The GCC countries are rich and are, in essence, nations of immigrants, with a lot of empty land much of it is uninhabitable and low unemployment and can afford to host thousands of refugees. GCC nations however, often claim that Europe’s colonial policies are at the core of the problem, which worsened with the recent Western push for democratic change in the region. Hence, according to the GCC countries, Europe is responsible for the fate of Syrians, and Europeans claim that they respect human and refugee rights and that they act according to their ideals and so should bear the burden. Gulf States' fears are regarding political stability within their own borders and the burden on generous social welfare benefits for nationals if state money has to be allocated to deal with a massive influx of non-nationals, particularly at a time when budgets are stretched by lower prices for oil exports. The unstated reason by them is the refugees bring with them ISIS fighters who then set up local chapters in their home nations and attempt a repeat of Iraq and Syria which they don’t want in their countries but are happy to export their ideology overseas nonetheless via building 200 mosques in Germany as suggested recently by Saudi Arabia.  So much for the concept of universal Muslim Brotherhood!

This stand of no refugees in Middle East suits Israel just fine. Israel has not made any public comments about what lies behind the wave of Middle Eastern refugees now sweeping across Europe. The one person deemed responsible for transferring the problem from the Middle East to the heart of Europe is current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Israel couldn’t be happier for not putting Israel on the refugee route. Turkey was the first country to receive and embrace the refugees when Syria’s civil war broke out four years ago. Erdogan had turned Assad from a strategic ally into his No. 1 enemy, and by receiving the refugees he believed that he could convince NATO to act more decisively against the Syrian central government. When he realized that the United States and other Western leaders were not acting with what he considered to be sufficient determination against the Syrian president, Erdogan pinned his hopes on what became ISIS. What the Turkish president was effectively doing was funding ISIS with one hand while absorbing and supporting the refugees fleeing from it with the other. Erdogan believed that the larger the number of displaced Syrians, the better his chances of convincing the international community of the need to enforce a no-fly zone across northern Syria, where the refugees could ostensibly be settled. Turkey did everything it could to block the sea routes being used for illegal immigration to Europe. Later, post NATO’s non-cooperation Turkey decided to make things difficult for Europe by shifting some of the pressure there. Over the past few months, Turkey stopped blocking the refugees' movement westward. It is quite possible that the same Turkish security forces that had helped ISIS are enabling the human smugglers as Turkish authorities refuse to grant exit visas. Thus refugees are just a means to an end or collateral damage for the stakeholders. 

An Altered Europe

In January 2015 the German internet was abuzz over the government's statement on the need for immigrants from all over the planet. Preference was given to young Muslims from Africa and the Middle East: the “strong arms, designed to save the German economy”. Which brings us to a very important question – Are the refugees/asylum seekers saving Germany/EU or putting it on a path to destruction? 

Europe is an idea of welfare states, great infrastructure, and culture with a lot of stress on human rights. Europe encourages freedom of speech and a tolerant culture; so much so that it does not force integration in society as per European ideals rather encourages freedom to practice one’s own culture which often comes back to haunt them. Algerian refugees in France are one such example. Recently a German school warned parents not to allow their daughters to wear short skirts because Muslim illegal aliens are being housed next to the school gym.

All these refugees are mainly Muslim, not from democracies or farcical democracies and come from countries with crumbling or no infrastructure. Psychologically, democracy is valued by those who have earned it, on those whom it has been imposed they have no value nor do they care. Refugee movements in the past have shown us- these refugees do not assimilate, live in ghettos, and bring their own sense of values which they gradually enforce on host nations by sheer numbers. A majority tend to be intolerant of other faiths, forcing host nations to bend either by respect of religion or “fear”. 

Economically, they can be a huge drain on the country’s infrastructure. As we have witnessed in West Bengal too, most migrants feed off the state’s infrastructure, social security, welfare etc.’ without contributing much or any in return. Moreover, at some point as what’s expected in Europe due to their ageing population, these refugees of a different religion may overwhelm and exceed the once ethnic majority some point in the future altering the entire canvas of Europe as we know it today creating huge law and order situations not to mention dilution or murder of existing cultures. The pragmatists’ argument of “Where will all the less educated people who do not speak German work in a country that already faces unemployment or how will they educate themselves”? are often labeled “racist and Islamophobic”. Migration is an invasion and this will affect all of the EU countries. Once these ‘refugees ‘become citizens of Germany they will have completely free movement and can go and work and live in any member state. They can also claim welfare benefits just as if they were a local national resident. The reality is that caring for these refugees is not about a season but for a lifetime. The true burden will be borne by the tax payer and society at large.

Why don’t Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, David Cameron and others punish Turkey for this climate of fear that causes people to flee from a supposedly safe country?  Why is no one talking about US failed Foreign Policies that are responsible for this sheer catastrophe? These questions coupled with the destabilisation program of the Middle East point to a different game altogether. While Europe is on the path of disintegration overrun by demographics and chaos, Chancellor Merkel is probably on the way to be nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace. Will Germany, the leader of the EU be responsible for its undoing or will it actually pull off an economic refugee miracle. The odds are heavily stacked against it.