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Monday, October 20, 2014

US and European aid money going to support Islamic State

Humanitarian aid being provided by the United States and European countries and intended for Syrian refugees is instead going to support the Islamic State terror group (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
The aid—mainly food and medical equipment—is meant for Syrians displaced from their hometowns, and for hungry civilians. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, European donors, and the United Nations. Whether it continues is now the subject of anguished debate among officials in Washington and European. The fear is that stopping aid would hurt innocent civilians and would be used for propaganda purposes by the militants, who would likely blame the West for added hardship.
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“The convoys have to be approved by ISIS and you have to pay them: the bribes are disguised and itemized as transportation costs,” says an aid coordinator who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition he not be identified in this article. The kickbacks are either paid by foreign or local non-governmental organizations tasked with distributing the aid, or by the Turkish or Syrian transportation companies contracted to deliver it.
And there are fears the aid itself isn’t carefully monitored enough, with some sold off on the black market or used by ISIS to win hearts and minds by feeding its fighters and its subjects. At a minimum the aid means ISIS doesn’t have to divert cash from its war budget to help feed the local population or the displaced persons, allowing it to focus its resources exclusively on fighters and war making, say critics of the aid.
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“I am alarmed that we are providing support for ISIS governance,” says Jonathan Schanzer, a Mideast expert with the Washington D.C.-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “By doing so we are indemnifying the militants by satisfying the core demands of local people, who could turn on ISIS if they got frustrated.”
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Aid coordinators with NGOs partnering USAID and other Western government agencies, including Britain’s Department for International Development, say ISIS insist that the NGOs, foreign and local, employ people ISIS approves on their staffs inside Syria. “There is always at least one ISIS person on the payroll; they force people on us,” says an aid coordinator. “And when a convoy is being prepared, the negotiations go through them about whether the convoy can proceed. They contact their emirs and a price is worked out. We don’t have to wrangle with individual ISIS field commanders once approval is given to get the convoy in, as the militants are highly hierarchical.” He adds: “None of the fighters will dare touch it, if an emir has given permission.”
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Many aid workers are uncomfortable with what’s happening. “A few months ago we delivered a mobile clinic for a USAID-funded NGO,” says one, who declined to be named. “A few of us debated the rights and wrongs of this. The clinic was earmarked for the treatment of civilians, but we all know that wounded ISIS fighters could easily be treated as well. So what are we doing here helping their fighters, who we are bombing, to be treated so they can fight again?”
What becomes even more bizarre is that while aid is still going into ISIS-controlled areas, only a little is going into Kurdish areas in northeast Syria. About every three or four months there is a convoy into the key city of Qamishli. Syrian Kurds, who are now defending Kobani with the support of U.S. warplanes, have long complained about the lack of international aid. Last November, tellingly, Syrian Kurds complained that Syria’s Kurdistan was not included in a U.N. polio vaccination campaign. U.N. agencies took the position that polio vaccines should go through the Syrian Red Crescent via Damascus when it came to the Kurds.
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Mideast analyst Schanzer dismisses the notion that ISIS can use an aid shutdown as leverage in its PR campaign: “I think this is false. In areas they control everyone understands they are a brutal organization. This is their basic weakness and by pushing in aid we are curtailing the chances of an internal revolt, which is the best chance you have of bringing down ISIS.”
 Does anyone believe that it's any different in Gaza?

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