Iraqi Insurgency Is Self-Sustaining (Which Is More Than The U.S. Can Say)
The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, profiting from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, corrupt charities and other crimes that neither the Iraqi government nor the U.S. have been unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.
The report, completed in June and obtained by the New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising as much as $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says $25 million to $100 million of that comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry, aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials.
“If accurate,” the report says, its estimates indicate that these “sources of terrorist and insurgent finance within Iraq — independent of foreign sources — are currently sufficient to sustain the groups’ existence and operation.” And then comes the truly scary observation: “In fact, if recent revenue and expense estimates are correct, terrorist and insurgent groups in Iraq may have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist organizations outside of Iraq.” However, experts don't believe this is happening ... yet.
(For comparison: the insurgents spend an estimated $200 million a year; the U.S. spends roughly $265 million a day in Iraq.)
While the report suggests the insurgency is self-sustaining, the same cannot be said for the U.S.-led war effort.
Back in 2002, White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey estimated the cost of the Iraq War to be no more than $200 billion. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the cost would be "something under $50 billion." He and other officials expressed optimism that Iraq itself would help shoulder the cost once the world market was reopened to its rich supply of oil.
Alas, that hasn't happened. Not even close. Some now estimate the cost to be as much as $2 trillion, while other estimates place the cost -- assuming the U.S. begins deploying troops within three years -- at closer to $700 billion.
Why can't we stop money from reaching the Iraqi insurgents?
The report says American efforts have been hamstrung by a weak Iraqi government and its nascent intelligence agencies, a lack of communication, and the fact that the insurgency is sustained by couriers carrying cash rather than more easily traceable means involving banks and the hawala money transfer networks traditional in the Middle East.
Another factor for the United States, the report says, was its inability to persuade foreign governments -- most recently France and Italy -- to “stop paying ransoms.”
Ah, but that would require diplomacy from the U.S. Is that possible from the Bush Administration?