UN takes aim at Islamic State financing

Security Council adopts resolution calling for sanctions against entities trading with the jihadist group

The UN Security Council (AP/Jason DeCrow)
The UN Security Council (AP/Jason DeCrow)

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at choking off millions of dollars in earnings from oil smuggling, antiquities trafficking and ransom payments to the Islamic State group.

The resolution was co-sponsored by more than 35 countries in a show of international resolve to confront the threat posed by the jihadists who overran parts of Syria and Iraq nearly a year ago.

The measure calls for sanctions against individuals and entities that trade in oil with IS and Al-Qaeda affiliates such as the Al-Nusra Front in Syria.

It urges all 193 countries of the United Nations to take “appropriate steps” to prevent the trade in cultural property from Iraq and Syria.

The resolution reminds governments worldwide that they must “prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments or political concessions” to secure the release of hostages.

That provision was directed at European governments which are suspected of circumventing the ban on paying ransoms to win the release of captive nationals.

Drafted under chapter 7 of the UN charter, the resolution can be enforced through sanctions or use of force, even though the text does not authorize military force.

Russia drafted the initial text which focussed heavily on oil smuggling, but its scope was broadened in discussions to include other revenue streams.

US Ambassador Samantha Power described the resolution as “robust” and said it provided governments worldwide with “clear practical instructions” on preventing oil smuggling.

The measure encourages countries to step up their efforts to disrupt the movement of oil tankers and other vehicles carrying smuggled oil and to report to a UN sanctions committee on any seizures of banned shipments.

The resolution would put fresh pressure on Turkey, seen as a transit point for oil deliveries, with trucks often returning to Iraq or Syria with refined products.

It specifies that all governments must report on the measures they are taking to clamp down on oil smuggling and other sources of IS financing within 120 days.

Millions from oil sales

A report by the UN’s Al-Qaeda monitoring team released in November estimated that the jihadists earn $850,000 to $1.65 million per day from oil sales.

US officials, however, now say that oil is no longer the main source of revenue for IS.

The council in August adopted a resolution to cut off sources of financing and the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria, warning countries that trade in oil with the Islamists could lead to sanctions.

Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, told AFP the fall of Mosul to IS fighters last year had generated a revenue boon for the Islamists from the looting of art and archeological treasures.

“Mosul is a historic city, the University of Mosul is one of the oldest. It has art and treasures and these were all stolen,” said Alhakim.

“They are not only looting, they are chopping down walls” of ancient buildings, he told AFP.

A ban on looted antiquities in Iraq was already in force, and has been expanded to Syria under the resolution.

The UN measure has the potential to upset links between the jihadists and organized crime rings operating in eastern Europe, Turkey and Jordan, he said.

The resolution came before the council after President Barak Obama asked Congress to grant him war powers against IS and after Jordan stepped up its role in the US-led coalition in response to the gruesome murder of one of its pilots at the hands of the jihadists.

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