These investors are anything but ‘angels’ for investing in a group like ISIS. Check out who they are.
A small but steady flow of money to ISIS from rich individuals in the Gulf continues, say current and former U.S. officials, with Qataris the biggest suppliers. These rich individuals have long served as “angel investors,” as one expert put it, for the most violent militants in the region, providing the “seed money” that helped launch ISIS and other jihadi groups.
No one in the U.S. government is putting a number on the current rate of donations, but former U.S. Navy Admiral and NATO Supreme Commander James Stavridis says the cash flow from private donors is significant now and was even more significant in the early fund-raising done by ISIS and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusrah Front.
“These rich Arabs are like what ‘angel investors’ are to tech start-ups, except they are interested in starting up groups who want to stir up hatred,” said Stavridis, now the dean of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University. “Groups like al-Nusrah and ISIS are better investments for them. The individuals act as high rollers early, providing seed money. Once the groups are on their feet, they are perfectly capable of raising funds through other means, like kidnapping, oil smuggling, selling women into slavery, etc.”
Stavridis and other current U.S. officials suggest that the biggest share of the individual donations supporting ISIS and the most radical groups comes from Qatar rather than Saudi Arabia, and that the Qatari government has done less to stop the flow than its neighbors in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. One U.S. official said the Saudis are “more in line with U.S. foreign policy” than the Qataris.
Groups like ISIS and al-Nusrah employ fundraisers who meet with wealthy Sunni Arabs. Most of the Arab states have laws prohibiting such fundraising, but U.S. officials say the Qataris do not strictly enforce their laws.