At this point there’s no denying the fact that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been sponsoring and supporting ISIS (the Islamic State). As early as 2014, WikiLeaks released an e-mail from Hillary Clinton to John Podesta, who then occupied the position as her campaign chairman, stating that the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIS and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” What is truly remarkable is that the email is not referring Saudis or Qataris in a general sense, but instead refers specifically to the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
These funds are received by terrorist organizations committing an array of despicable crimes against the people of Syria and Iraq. At the same time, they are profiting from robbing these people by destroying historical monuments, looting historical artifacts and smuggling the ancient treasures they’ve stolen to the Persian Gulf or Turkey where they can later be sold through black markets in Europe. Thereby, those buying these relics are effectively providing support to ISIS as well. As it has recently been noted by The Guardian, Swiss authorities have recently seized cultural relics looted from Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, as well as from Libya and Yemen, all of which were being stored at Geneva’s free ports.
As it has been noted by David Francis in his article for Foreign Policy magazine, most Middle Eastern artifacts were purchased by unscrupulous collectors from Europe, North America and Asia. The Turkish mafia has been running the towns of Kilis and Urfa throughout the duration of the conflict, controlling the two main smuggling nodes for artifacts stolen from Palmyra. We are witnessing the Iraqi war phenomenon repeated here, since out of 15,000 exhibits stolen from the National Museum in Baghdad, security services only managed to return less than 25%, which means that somebody made a small fortune on the remainder.
Archaeologists around the world have been shocked by the plunder that is taking place in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, but what’s even worse is that the stolen relics allow militants to prepare for new crimes. According to the Wall Street Journal, archaeologists say that the total worth of the artifacts stolen in the area between Damascus and Homs amounts to 36 million dollars. But it seems that their actual value may be much higher on the black market.
It’s curious that the total trade turnover between Turkey, Iraq and Syria has dropped abruptly since the war began, but the traffic volume between Turkey and the areas controlled by terrorists has increased. It is easy to guess why. Black market dealers have already “lured” numerous scholars or archaeologists, who will provide them with fake documents to “legalize” these stolen relics. At first, the dealers themselves have tried to infiltrate Syria, but soon they realized that it was not safe. There is a variety of middlemen who are paying terrorists a sort of tax, a fifth of the estimated value of everything they find, that way they are allowed to manage excavations.
However, relics are not the only way terrorists can repay their Persian Gulf sponsors. Due to a video that was found on a cell phone retrieved from a dead terrorists in the south of Mosul, we now know that Yezidi women are being sold as slaves to Saudi Arabia. After the occupation of Mosul back in 2014, ISIS abducted thousands of Yezidi women, and they’ve been selling them as slaves in Mosul, Fallujah, and even in Syria, however, they have never been sold before to Saudi Arabia, or at least we assumed so since those operations were kept secret.
The British Sun, after a number of documentaries about the terrible fate of Yezidi women was aired, started harshly criticizing the British government for its continuous arms sales to Saudi Arabia, however those practices have yet to be abandoned. While London carries on with empty rhetoric about the fight against ISIS, it is prioritizing its propaganda efforts against Damascus, in fact preventing Syrian troops and their Russian allies from actually defeating ISIS on the field of battle.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”