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Who Funded and Armed the Islamic State Fighters? 

Previously known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams) and now simply as the Islamic State (IS); this radical Islamic group rapidly gained influence during the civil war in Syria and gained prominence in a number of governmental districts in the country. Up until February 2014, the Islamic State had close ties with al-Qaeda until the latter completely disowned them for being too extreme. In June 2014 it was said there were some 4,000 Islamic State fighters, however by August their ranks had swelled to a reported 50,000 in Syria and 30,000 in Iraq (Islamic State has '50,000 fighters in Syria' - Aljazeera). It is Islamic State’s aim to establish a ‘caliphate’ (led by a supreme religious leader) in the Sunni majority regions of Iraq and Syria.


Within the last six months it has been estimated that the Islamic State has 

gained some $1.8 billion in funding from anonymous donors  (How Isil is funded, trained and operating in Iraq and Syria - The Telegraph). The Islamic State can further generate $1.8 million a day from smuggled oil from the five oilfields it has captured in Syria and Iraq. The militants have also made tens of millions from hostage taking and by extorting local businesses. The Islamic State has also taken control of as many as 40 battle tanks captured from Iraqi arms depots as well as heavy artillery and surface-to-air missiles which have been used in their war against the government of Syria.

Syrian civil war damage

Damage inflicted upon civilian areas in the Syrian civil war.

But who originally funded the Islamic State fighters to set the ball in motion in the first place? It has already been stated publically that donors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, countries allied to the U.S., are responsible sponsoring the Islamic State fighters. The governments of these countries, it has also been said, are largely turning a blind eye to this funding (Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country - The Indepedent). Indeed the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, publically accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of having funded the Islamic State fighters who are presently attacking Iraq and also of having initially started the war in Syria (Iraqi PM Maliki says Saudi, Qatar openly funding violence in Anbar - Reuters). The claims made by prime minister Maliki very much echo Iraqi fears that Sunni Muslim states are supporting the terrorists against the primarily Shi’ite country of Iraq.


It has been the official policy of the U.S. and Saudi Arabian governments to back the Syrian rebels willing to fight against the Islamist extremists active in Syria and they have done this to the tune of millions (US secretly backs rebels to fight al-Qaeda in Syria - The Telegraph). However the Syrian Revolutionary Front who have been backed by the CIA and the Saudis to do this, have not been particularly inclined to fight against the Islamist radicals in the country ('I'm not fighting against al-Qa'ida...' - The Independent). Their leader Jamal Maarouf was reported as saying, “It’s clear that I’m not fighting against al-Qa’ida. This is a problem outside of Syria’s border, so it’s not our problem. I don’t have a problem with anyone who fights against the regime inside Syria.”

Areas under the Islamic State

Areas now under the control of the Islamic State, August 2014.

In August 2013 the U.S. began shipping arms to the rebels in Syria despite concerns that the arms could fall into the hands of the extremists (CIA begins weapons delivery to Syrian rebels - The Washington Post). In 2013 alone the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Jordan supplied 600 tons of weapons to the Syrian rebels (US, Saudi Arabia, Jordan arming Syria Militants - Press TV). In December 2013 aid to Syrian rebels in the north of the country was suspended after Islamist extremists raided military supply stores being used by the rebels (U.S., Britain suspend aid to northern Syrian after Islamists seize weapons store - Reuters). Among the arms stolen from the stores were anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry. However even before the arms shipments the CIA played a key role in setting up a training camp in Jordan in order to train the rebel fighters in the Syrian war (AP: U.S. training Syria rebels in Jordan - CBS News).


To give us an idea of some of the thought processes that go on within the U.S. administration behind closed doors and which ultimately decides U.S. foreign policy, the Council on Foreign Relations, an influential think tank within the U.S., has expressed some quite provocative views on Syria. They did this on their official website, The Council on Foreign Relations can boast of past members who include CIA directors, leading bankers and representatives from the media, and more than a dozen Secretaries of State (Council on Foreign Realtions - Wikipedia). The CFR regularly meets with representatives of the government, the intelligence community and business leaders to discuss matters of international concern. Through a subordinate think tank, the David Rockefeller Studies Program, the CFR seeks to directly influence U.S. foreign policy by addressing Congress and also by directly petitioning the presidential office.


In an article entitled, “Al-Qaeda’s Specter in Syria” published on their official website, the CFR has the following to say on the Syrian war, “The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks.” And it continues, “The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA [Free Syrian Army - editor] needs al-Qaeda now.” (Al-Qaeda's Specter in Syria - In a further article entitled, “Syria: Why al-Qaeda is Winning”, the author has the following to say on al-Qaeda, “The Syrian opposition is benefiting hugely from the terrorist organization's determination, discipline, combat experience, religious fervor, and ability to strike the Assad regime where it hurts most.” (Syria: Why al-Qaeda Is Winning -

Islamic State flag
al-Qaeda flag

On the left is the flag of the Islamic State as seen in Iraq. On the right is the flag of al-Qaeda held aloft in the Philippines.

It is clear from these two articles that the CFR is suggesting that it is actually al-Qaeda and their affiliates who are the real powerhouse behind the Syrian war and without them the rebellion would be nothing. But of course such a view strongly implies that any attempt to arm and support the non-jihadist rebels, ultimately results in an arming of the jihadist rebels as well. Since in practice it is difficult to differentiate between the two separate groups who are fighting side by side, it only follows that any arms entering Syria will eventually end up in the hands of the jihadists whatever happens.


The president of Syria, Bashar al Assad, has always maintained that the war in Syria has been a war against terror and that the rebels are ultimately affiliates of al-Qaeda. He has also publically stated quite clearly that foreign nations supporting these terrorists will eventually pay a high price for their actions (Syria's Assad Warns West on 'Terrorists' - Sky News). Is the present rise of the Islamic State, previously known as ISIS, the price we are now paying for the military support given to the rebels in Syria? Is it not time to take stock of what has transpired in Syria and Iraq, and in Libya as well, and to realise that the representatives ultimately in charge of Western foreign policy in the Arab speaking world are not to be trusted and that democratic scrutiny of such foreign policies should ultimately prevail?    

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