February 13, 2015 | Policy Brief

UNSC Resolution on IS Finance: A Message to Turkey?

February 13, 2015 | Policy Brief

UNSC Resolution on IS Finance: A Message to Turkey?

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution Thursday aimed at targeting funding for the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda-linked groups, like Jabhat al-Nusra. Drafted by Russia, the resolution reaffirms the UN’s commitment to confronting the jihadi threat in Syria and Iraq. Its primary intended audience, however, may be Turkey.

The new resolution focuses on four major revenue sources for extremist groups – oil trade, private donations, antiquities trafficking, and ransom payments– and calls upon member states to combat weapons smuggling. Four of these five points relate directly to Turkey.

With its long and porous border with Syria, Turkey has become a transit point for foreign fighters joining terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, while its southeastern provinces have become a hub for oil, cash, weapons, and antiquities smuggling.

A UN report in November estimated that jihadists earned as much as $1.5 million per day from oil sales alone, and this week’s resolution threatens UN sanctions against individuals and entities that help facilitate such activity. A number of recent reports have revealed that this illicit oil trade takes place primarily in southern Turkey and northern Iraq.

The U.S. Department of Defense, however, said private donations are now the leading source of income for IS, having eclipsed even oil. Several reports suggest that foreign money for jihadi groups has made its way to Syria through Turkey, and extremist financiers, primarily from Gulf countries, have reportedly met with radical groups in Turkish towns.

The resolution, while reaffirming the existing ban on the valuable illegal trade of antiquities from Iraq, also imposes a new ban for those coming from Syria – many of which appear to pass through Turkey.

Southern Turkey has also become a transit point for weapons bound for Syria. Multiple accounts suggest that weapons from abroad intended for moderate Syrian rebels may have gone to jihadi groups operating along the Turkey-Syria border, such as Jabhat al-Nusra.

At Tuesday’s G20 summit in Istanbul, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan announced their joint commitment to combat financial networks supporting IS. Thursday’s Security Council resolution could serve as an effective guide for Turkey on how to combat the terrorism finance activities on its own southeast frontier.

Merve Tahiroglu is a research analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, focusing on Turkey.