Terrorist antiquities trading and state arms smuggling between Syria and Turkey

The antiquities trade rules in the Russia-drafted United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution against terrorist financing have been reviewed by China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States – and revised (or most significantly revised) by the United States.

Based on the original reports of the draft resolution, I queried why, when armed groups on all sides were involved in the trade, the resolution wouldn’t target conflict financing instead of terrorist financing. Apparently, now, the resolution will ‘ban all trade in antiquities from Syria‘ and reaffirm the earlier ban on any trade in antiquities from Iraq.

According to Reuters, the draft resolution (still only) “expresses concern” that the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) and other al-Qaeda-linked groups are using the illicit antiquities trade ‘to support their recruitment efforts and strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks‘. Why doesn’t it express concern that the illicit antiquities trade is being used by the Free Syrian Army and the Assad regime?

The trade in arms-for-antiquities between Turkey and Syria

However, more interesting (to me at least), the draft also requires states ‘to prevent the smuggling of weapons, in particular portable surface-to-air missiles, to Islamic State, [al-]Nusra Front and other al Qaeda-linked groups’ and ‘to stop the use of aircraft, cars and trucks to smuggle oil, precious metals, grain, livestock, electronics, and cigarettes for international sale or to barter for weapons’.

According to Turkish (and international) media and even the Turkish Armed Forces’ Gendarmerie Central Command (through leaked – then once more suppresseddocuments), the National Intelligence Organisation of Turkey (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT)) is smuggling military materials to non-Kurdish, non-state armed groups in Syria – including ‘arms and ammunition [silah ve mühimmat]’ to Jabhat al-Nusra and specifically ‘missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition’ al-Qaeda. And, according to Lebanese security, antiquities are being smuggled from Syria to Turkey by (private) plane, despite the fact that civilian flights have been blocked since 2011 and Assad regime flights have been blocked since 2012…

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