Islamic State Who supports the jihadist group?

Islamic State outperformed all other militant rebel groups in Syria and continues to claim ground

Many Gulf states have been accused of funding Islamic State (IS) extremists in Iraq and Syria.

But as Michael Stephens, director of the Royal United Services Institute in Qatar, explains, not all is clear-cut in war.

Much has been written about the support Islamic State (IS) has received from donors and sympathisers, particularly in the wealthy Gulf States.

Indeed the accusation I hear most from those fighting IS in Iraq and Syria is that Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are solely responsible for the group’s existence.

But the truth is a little more complex and needs some exploring.

It is true that some wealthy individuals from the Gulf have funded extremist groups in Syria, many taking bags of cash to Turkey and simply handing over millions of dollars at a time.

This was an extremely common practice in 2012 and 2013 but has since diminished and is at most only a tiny percentage of the total income that flows into Islamic State coffers in 2014.

It is also true that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, believing that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would soon fall and that Sunni political Islam was a true vehicle for their political goals, funded groups that had strongly Islamist credentials.

Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam were just such groups, all holding tenuous links to the “bad guy” of the time – the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s wing in Syria.

Qatar especially attracted criticism for its cloudy links to the group.

Turkey for its part operated a highly questionable policy of border enforcement in which weapons and money flooded into Syria, with Qatari and Saudi backing.

All had thought that this would facilitate the end of Mr Assad’s regime and the reordering of Syria into a Sunni power, breaking Shia Iran’s link to the Mediterranean.

Islamic State’s goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate is certainly attractive in some corners of Islamic thinking”

Yet as IS began its seemingly unstoppable rise in 2013, these groups were either swept away by it, or deciding it was better to join the winning team, simply defected bringing their weapons and money with them.

Only al-Nusra has really held firm, managing a tenuous alliance with its more radical cousin, but even so it is estimated that at least 3,000 fighters from al-Nusra swapped their allegiance during this time.

So has Qatar funded Islamic State? Directly, the answer is no. Indirectly, a combination of shoddy policy and naivety has led to Qatar-funded weapons and money making their way into the hands of IS.

Saudi Arabia likewise is innocent of a direct state policy to fund the group, but as with Qatar its determination to remove Mr Assad has led to serious mistakes in its choice of allies.

Both countries must undertake some soul searching at this point, although it is doubtful that any such introspection will be admitted in public.

But there are deeper issues here; religious ties and sympathy for a group that both acts explicitly against Shia Iran’s interests in the region and has the tacit support of more people in the Gulf than many would care to admit.

The horrific acts committed by IS are difficult for anybody to support, but its goal of establishing a caliphate is certainly attractive in some corners of Islamic thought.

Many of those who supported the goal have already found their way to Syria and have fought and died for Islamic State and other groups. Others express support more passively and will continue to do so for many years.

The pull of IS, a group that has outperformed all others in combat and put into place a slick media campaign in dozens of languages to attract young men and women to its cause, has proven highly successful.

In every activity from fighting, to organisation and hierarchy, to media messaging – IS is light years ahead of the assorted motley crew of opposition factions operating in the region.

Islamic State has put in place what appear to be the beginnings of quasi-state structures – ministries, law courts and even a rudimentary taxation system, which incidentally asks for far less than what was paid by citizens of Mr Assad’s Syria.

IS has displayed a consistent pattern since it first began to take territory in early 2013.

Upon taking control of a town it quickly secures the water, flour and hydrocarbon resources of the area, centralising distribution and thereby making the local population dependent on it for survival.

Dependency and support are not the same thing, and it is impossible to quantify how many of Islamic State’s citizens are willing partners in its project or simply acquiescing to its rule out of a need for stability or fear of punishment

To understand how the Islamic State economy functions is to delve into a murky world of middlemen and shady business dealings, in which loyal ideologues on differing sides spot business opportunities and pounce upon them.

IS exports about 9,000 barrels of oil per day at prices ranging from about $25-$45 (£15-£27).

Some of this goes to Kurdish middlemen up towards Turkey, some goes for domestic IS consumption and some goes to the Assad regime, which in turn sells weapons back to the group.

It is a traditional war economy, notes Jamestown analyst Wladimir van Wilgenburg.

Indeed, the dodgy dealings and strange alliances are beginning to look very similar to events that occurred during the Lebanese civil war, when feuding war lords would similarly fight and do business with each other

The point is that Islamic State is essentially self-financing; it cannot be isolated and cut off from the world because it is intimately tied into regional stability in a way that benefits not only itself, but also the people it fights

The larger question of course is whether such an integral pillar of the region (albeit shockingly violent and extreme) can be defeated.

Without Western military intervention it is unlikely. Although Sunni tribes in Iraq ponder their allegiances to the group, they do not have the firepower or finances necessary to topple IS and neither does the Iraqi army nor its Syrian counterpart

Michael Stephens is Director of the Royal United Services Institute, Qatar, and is currently in Irbil

Iran anger over new US sanctions

Speaking in Tehran, Rouhani accused the US of imposing ‘illegal sanctions’ which harmed current negotiations

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has criticised the US for new sanctions, saying they are not compatible with the spirit of current negotiations.

Speaking on Iranian TV he said Iran was still committed to continuing nuclear talks with the US and five other international powers.

New sanctions on 25 firms and individuals were announced in Washington on Friday.

World powers suspect Iran seeks atomic weapons, a claim it strongly denies.

The country insists that it is enriching uranium for use in nuclear power stations and for medical purposes.

The new sanctions target those suspected of evading previous sanctions, aiding the nuclear programme or supporting terrorism, US officials said.

Speaking at a news conference broadcast on state TV, Mr Rouhani said the introduction of new sanctions was “a very ugly move” that would deepen distrust between the two sides.

They are in conflict with the spirit of talks. They are unconstructive in my opinion, he said

However Mr Rouhani confirmed that Iran would continue nuclear talks with the P5+1 countries for a final agreement on its nuclear programme.

If there are no excessive demands in the issue and if the opposite side shows loyalty we can achieve a final deal he said.

And he added Of course we bypass sanctions. We are proud that we bypass sanctions because the sanctions are illegal

Talks aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for ending sanctions began in February, but Iran and the six countries involved failed to reach a deal by the July 20 deadline.

Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States make up the P5+1.

Iran and the P5+1 have agreed to extend negotiations until 24 November.

Millions knocked offline in US

Time Warner Cable is in the process of being taken over by Comcast

A fault with Time Warner Cable’s network left millions of people cut off from the internet in the US.

The firm said the problem affected customers in all 29 of the states in which it offered broadband connections.

The problem started in the early hours of Wednesday morning, which will have limited its effect.

The company said that most, but not all, of its 11.4 million internet subscribers were back online within four hours of the problem’s start.

“Unfortunately, I do not have an estimate time of repair,” the service’s Twitter account responded to one user who asked when his home connection would be restored.

During an overnight network maintenance activity in which we were managing IP [internet protocol] addresses, an erroneous configuration was propagated throughout our national backbone, resulting in a network outage,” explained a company spokesman.

We immediately identified and corrected the root cause of the issue and restored service by 07.30 ET.

We apologise for any inconvenience this caused our customers. A failure of this size is very serious and we are taking the necessary steps to improve our processes with the objective of making sure this doesn’t happen again

Time Warner Cable is in the process of being acquired by Comcast, another US internet service provider.

In a separate development, TWC has been ordered to pay a fine following earlier problems with its network

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that the company had failed to report the disruptions in a timely manner

As part of a settlement, TWC has agreed to pay a $1.1m (£660,000) penalty and implement a three  year compliance plan

Berlin’s embattled mayor to quit

Klaus Wowereit said he was stepping down of his own free will and was proud of what he had achieved

Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit has said he will step down on 11 December amid an ongoing row over the city’s new airport.

As mayor of the German capital since 2001, he was credited with giving it a “poor, but sexy” brand internationally.

Mr Wowereit, a Social Democrat, was widely popular but his reputation was tarnished by the debacle over the opening of Berlin-Brandenburg airport.

The airport was due to be inaugurated in late 2011 but it is still not open.

Mr Wowereit, 60, still had two years of his term to serve and it is not yet clear who will replace him.

He told a news conference in Berlin that he was leaving the post of his own “free will”.

“I’m proud that I have made a contribution to the city’s positive development,” he said.

The new airport is due to replace Tegel and Schoenefeld airports and handle some 27 million passengers a year.

As head of the airport’s supervisory council, he was widely criticised for repeated delays, but survived a confidence vote in the Berlin senate in January 2013.

He admitted on Tuesday that the fact the airport was not yet open was the “biggest failure” of his 13-year term in office, but it was not the only factor in his decision to step down.

“Some still think it was only a question of [the airport]. But no, we’ve had to get through several difficult times here.”

Originally a lawyer, Klaus Wowereit became Germany’s first prominent openly gay politician, achieving renown for his phrase: “Ich bin schwul und das ist auch gut so” (I’m gay and that’s okay too).

He was once pictured drinking champagne out of the shoe of an ambassador’s wife and was once seen as a potential challenger to Christian Democrat Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He had initially hoped to announce his departure last month, he said, but had delayed his statement because of Germany’s victory in the World Cup.

How Norway avoided the curse of oil

Bergen is not a place to go looking for supercars racing around

Hugged by mountains and perched on a stunning coastline of fjords, Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city, has picture-postcard views.

As the centre of Norway’s booming oil and gas industries, it is also a very wealthy place.

Yet there are few displays of ostentatious spending – there are no supercars with tinted windows, no designer handbag shops, and no queues of people outside exclusive nightclubs.

For while other countries have struck oil and then binged on the revenues, by contrast Norway is continuing to invest its oil and gas money in a giant sovereign wealth fund.

We trust the government, we believe our tax money will be spent wisely”

The fund, worth about $800bn (£483bn), owns 1% of the entire world’s stocks, and is big enough to make every citizen a millionaire in the country’s currency, the kroner. In effect, it is a giant savings account.

And most Norwegians are seemingly very content with this – according to a 2012 study by New York’s Columbia University Norway is one of the world’s happiest countries.

“We had to invest a lot of money before we could spend anything,” says Prof Alexander Cappelen, from the Norway School of Economics, explaining why the country has apparently avoided the pitfalls of vast wealth.

“In other countries the oil is much easier to extract, so they got the money straight away.

“We were put in the right mindset by knowing it was a long-term plan.”

So, no spending bonanza for Norway. In fact there is a closely followed guideline that only 4% of the surplus from the fund is spent or invested in public projects.

“Actually we are spending less than 4% currently – we are saving,” says Prof Cappelen.

There are several reasons, he says, why Norway is happy to save its wealth and shrug off the temptations of a luxury life.

“For this kind of system to work, you need to have an enormous level of trust,” says Prof Cappelen. “Trust that the money isn’t going to be mismanaged – that it’s not going to be spent in a way you don’t like.

“As a result of social democracy and egalitarian policies it is a homogenous society and has built up an enormous level of trust.

“We trust the government. We believe our tax money will be spent wisely. once you start trusting that others are contributing their share then you are happy to contribute yours.”

So is Norway rich because of Norwegians high level of trust, or are its citizens trusting because they are rich?

“I think it is both,” says Prof Cappelen. “High levels of trust make economic growth easier.”

But this oil boom is tailing off. So what’s next?

“Norway’s economy is in a very fortunate situation. We are talking about a gradual shift over the next few years,” says Norway’s Finance Minister, Siv Jensen.

“We have had a slower growth in productivity over the past few years, and for this government we have to look at a competitive tax level and reducing red tape to attract investment.

“But it is true we have a higher cost level than any comparable country.”

Those costs can be quite shocking for a visitor. In cafe overlooking Bergen’s fish market, while sipping a cappuccino costing almost $10, Tone Hartvedt from Business Region Bergen explains that costs are simply comparable to wages.

“It may sound surprising, but for us it is not too expensive,” says Ms Hartvedt. “We tend to have summer and winter holiday houses or cabins, and we can afford life here. It is comfortable.”

This is surprising to the uninitiated visitor – after a trip to the local supermarket revealed that the cheapest pasta, bread, cheese and chopped tomatoes would come to around $50.

But, says Ms Hartvedt: “We pay our workers a wage that means they have a good quality of life. That is not so much the case in places like London.

“Here we respect hard work, but we don’t believe that the highest paid worker in a company should earn vastly more than the lowest paid.

“This does mean that some very talented people leave for other countries where they will be paid more.”

So, do people in Norway regard themselves as rich? “No, we don’t think of things like that, it’s for the future,” she says.

On an island half an hour from Bergen, is Coast Center Base (CCB), a huge support centre for the oil and gas industry. There’s a rig, fire engine red and vast, sitting in the harbour being checked over.

“I remember the days when there were plenty of farmers and fish farmers in Norway. Life has changed for the average Norwegian,” says CCB’s chief executive, Kurt Andreassen.

“This base was started up in 1974, and there has been a tremendous change in those decades. The welfare is now very high. It is quite different to 40 years ago, many people are educated – things have changed.”

As for when the oil does eventually run out, “Norway will survive, but it will be a challenge for all of us,” he says.

“Our challenge will be to utilise our expertise and use it in other areas.”

It’s a point of view echoed by Dag Rune Olsen, rector of Bergen University: “I worry we do not invest to a sufficient extent in other ways to generate income in the next decades.

“We are very well aware that the oil and gas resources are limited, and at least for Norwegian oil it will cost us more year by year to extract the oil,” he says.

“It is evident we need to find other sources of income, and now we have the ability to invest – it is crucial that we do.”

Perhaps this awareness that it won’t last forever goes some way to explain the second-hand Volvos circling Bergen’s winding streets, rather than the Porsches or Bentleys of wealthy parts of London.

Prudence and pragmatism rather than posing seems to be the attitude.

While there is an inkling of concern for what will become of Bergen, and Norway, when the oil runs out – most Norwegians remain confident about their prospects.

“We are in Norway, we are not worried about these things,” reply students at the Norway School of Economics, slightly uncomfortably, when asked if they are concerned about jobs.

“We will work hard and we will get jobs.”

Outrage after police shoot, kill teen

Police investigate the scene of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

(CNN) — A shooting involving police left a teen dead Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri, authorities said.

Witnesses decried the killing as unprovoked. The deceased, Mike Brown, 18, was unarmed, they told CNN affiliate KMOV.

Angry residents took to the streets by the hundreds to protest, and Ferguson police called up more officers to secure the scene, Police Chief Thomas Jackson said.

Jackson asked the St. Louis County Police Department to conduct an independent investigation into his officer’s actions and the killing of Brown, 18. The Ferguson Police officer involved is on paid administrative leave during the investigation, but will be available to talk to county homicide detectives.

St. Louis County Police plans to release more information on the shooting Sunday.

At the peak of the spontaneous street protest, up to 1,000 people turned up, some very angry, Jackson said.

“We had what probably bordered on riot conditions,” he said.

Officers heard gunfire at the protests, and it took them hours to secure the scene for county homicide detectives to get evidence safely before removing Brown’s body, according to Jackson.

Social media protest

Protesters turned to social media to get their message out. On Twitter, some complained about the time it took authorities to remove Brown’s body.

The St. Louis County NAACP also launched an investigation into the killing.

“We plan to do everything within our power to ensure that the Ferguson Police Department as well as the St. Louis County Police Department releases all details pertinent to the shooting,” local chapter President Esther Haywood said in a statement. “We strongly encourage residents to stay away from the crime scene so that no additional citizens are injured.”

Walking down the street

Brown was spending the summer in the neighborhood with his grandmother, Desuirea Harris, she told KMOV. She described him as “a good kid.”

He was walking with at least one other man at the time of the incident, Jackson said. Investigators will interview him and other witnesses to the shooting.

Witnesses told CNN affiliate KTVI that a police officer in a squad car grabbed Brown while he was walking.

Dorin Johnson said he was walking with Brown down the middle of the street when a police car pulled up. The officer told the teens to use the sidewalk, according to Johnson.

After an exchange of words, the officer shot Brown even after he raised his hands in the air, Johnson said. The police chief declined to comment on what preceded the shooting and other specifics of the case.

Nighttime protests

Brown had recently graduated from high school, his uncle Bernard Ewing said. He was interested in music.

A crowd gathered across the street from Ferguson’s police late into the night.

Officers were deployed to the scene to ensure the demonstrations are peaceful, the police chief said.

Man Utd need miracle to win title

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal says it will be a miracle if his side win the league this season.

United face Sunderland on Sunday having lost their opening Premier League match of the season against Swansea.

Van Gaal, 63, is trying to rectify an unbalanced squad, though the club have refused to comment on a possible move for Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria.

To win the title this season would be a miracle. But that isn’t to say that it isn’t possible he said.

Winger Di Maria, 26, has told Real he wants to leave and Paris St-Germain are said to be unwilling to meet an asking price thought to be more than £50m.

That sum exceeds the British record fee Chelsea paid Liverpool for Fernando Torres in 2011

Dutchman Van Gaal said United’s owners are aware it would be very difficult to win the title this season

No 9s:

No 10s:

Javier Hernandez

Marouane Fellaini

Robin van Persie

Adnan Januzaj

Danny Welbeck

Shinji Kagawa

James Wilson

Juan Mata

Angelo Henriquez (on loan at Dinamo Zagreb)

Nick Powell

Wayne Rooney

I think the Glazer family understand this or I would not have accepted this job,” he said

Van Gaal signed a three-year contract to become United boss following his departure as Netherlands coach after the World Cup.

He won the title in his first season at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but believes a manager should be judged in his second year.

What I did at Bayern Munich was a miracle because the team was not stable when I got there he said.

When I took over from Bobby Robson at Barcelona, he had won three titles, so there was stability

The problem I have at United is that the selection is not balanced. There are five number nines and six number 10s  and we don’t have enough defenders

United finished seventh in the Premier League last season, but former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon believes Van Gaal will turn their fortunes around.

They have a difficult situation he told BBC Radio 5 live. It is not usual to see Manchester United out of the Champions League.

But I am sure Louis van Gaal can be a very good coach and take Manchester United to first position in any competition they play

Escort Bayan