October 23, 2016

G-20 leaders pledge to step up terror fight

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The world’s 20 most important countries intend to work together to curb “Islamic State” terrorism – not just by direct attacks, but also using financial means. Bernd Riegert reports from the G20 summit in Antalya.

For the first time in their history, the 20 most important industrial and emerging nations, who together represent two thirds of the world’s population, have issued a strong condemnation of international terrorism. Terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, the G20 wrote in a joint statement published in Antalya.

In response to the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday and the bombings in Turkey – the G20 host country – in October, the organization’s members pledged to do more to combat terrorism, ensure better cooperation among security services and dry up the terror networks’ sources of finance. This last point is in fact specifically a G20 task: The organization was established during the international financial crisis in 2008 as a coordination center for business and financial policy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists that the flow of cash to terrorists had to be stopped. She was referring primarily to the group calling itself “Islamic State,” which has established governmental structures in parts of Syria and Iraq and collects both taxes and protection money there. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, also taking part in the summit, reminded people that initiatives were already in place to detect and prevent financial activity by terrorist groups on the international financial markets.

France has already made a number of suggestions following the “Charlie Hebdo” attacks in Paris in January, including that terrorists’ accounts and assets should be swiftly frozen or seized. The heads of state and government now promise that actions will follow words. European Council President Donald Tusk declared that after the shock of the Paris attacks, things could not continue as before.

Support from Saudi Arabia
Experts in the field, as well as many Western secret services, believe that until a few weeks ago finances and supplies were reaching the terrorists of “Islamic State” relatively unimpeded. Its main sources of income are still presumed to be the sale of Syrian and Iraqi oil, as well as ransoms extorted for Western hostages and the proceeds from the sale of relics and antiquities.

Many Western secret services have repeatedly indicated in their reports that for years Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were financing “Islamic State” (IS). These Sunni-dominated countries saw IS as a spearhead against Shiite rivals in the region, such as Iran. Daniel Wagner, the head of a private security analysis company in the US, said it was only after IS started using excessively cruel practices and the financiers themselves felt threatened that they cut back on official funding.

“The monster they helped to create is coming to attack them in their homeland,” he wrote in the Huffington Post. However, he said that “a few wealthy individuals in these countries picked up where the governments left off” and continue to fund IS.” Following the pledge given in Antalya on Monday, Saudi Arabia could, as a member of the G20, stop them from doing so.

Turkey also plays a significant role as far as supplying IS is concerned. DW reported as early as last year that goods and equipment were being delivered to the IS stronghold of Raqqa by Turkish suppliers. IS is also said to be delivering oil from Syria to Turkey.

The hosts of the G20 could therefore also take action to stop the provisioning of the terrorist army. According to media reports, after Libya collapsed into chaos the United States transported large quantities of arms through Turkey to Syria to arm rebel groups there. Some of these weapons may also have fallen into the hands of IS militants.
Plans for joint military action

On the sidelines of the G20 summit there appears to have been a thawing of relations between the United States and Russia, the two main military players involved in the bombing of rebels and terrorists in Syria and Iraq. After a spontaneous discussion between the American and Russian presidents on Sunday, a Kremlin spokesman said there had been no breakthrough, but there had been a rapprochement.

The US and Russia did at least agree to better coordinate their parallel air attacks. The US is demanding that Russian bombers, like the forces of the international coalition, attack “Islamic State” positions and installations. The West accuses Russia of also bombing positions of the pro-Western rebels, in support of the Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad.
Chancellor Merkel welcomed the proposal to involve the United Nations in efforts to find a peaceful solution to the war in Syria. She announced that Germany and Britain would be organizing a donor conference for Syrian refugees in February.

Merkel declined to say whether the German army might also be involved in some way in an intensification of the attacks on IS. “We haven’t got that far yet,” she said, “so we can’t yet foresee what tasks will fall to us.” To date, the Bundeswehr has been arming and training Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq. Obama had declared, on the sidelines of the summit, that efforts to “eliminate” IS should be redoubled.

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