The News Minute | February 22, 2015 | 3:55 pm IST
The Sunni jihadi group Islamic State (IS), which controls large territories in Iraq and Syria has been getting financial support from oil-rich Arab sympathisers outside those two countries, a media report claimed on Sunday.
Rich private donors in the Gulf states have been supporting the IS with funds that help to pay the fighters, who may number well over 100,000, The Independent reported, citing Kurdish officials.
"There is sympathy for the Da'esh (the Arabic acronym for IS) in many Arab countries and this has translated into money - and that is a disaster," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Kurdish president Massoud Barzani said on Sunday.
He pointed out that until recently, financial aid was being given openly by the Gulf states to the opposition in Syria, but by now, most of these rebel groups have been absorbed into the IS and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, and as a result, it is they "who now have the money and the weapons".
Hussein implied that the Gulf oil states funding the IS were those, which financed the Sunni Arab rebels in Iraq and Syria in the past.
Mahmoud Othman, a veteran member of the Iraqi Kurdish leadership, said the IS receives money from the Arab countries because the latter are afraid of it.
"Gulf countries give money to the Da'esh so that it promises not to carry out operations on their territory."
Iraqi leaders have expressed similar suspicions that the IS - with a territory the size of Britain and a population of six million fighting a war on multiple fronts - cannot be financially self-sufficient, given the demands on its limited resources.
On Tuesday, the IS made a surprise attack with around 300 to 400 fighters, many of them North Africans from Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, on the Kurdish forces nearly 65 km west of the Kurdish capital, Irbil.
Contrary to US forecasts about the IS retreating, the militants appear to have the human and financial resources to fight a long war, though both are under strain.
People from the Iraqi city of Mosul have told The Independent that the IS was conscripting at least one young man from every family in the city, which has a population of 1.5 million.
Given this degree of mobilisation by the IS, US hopes of recapturing Mosul this spring, using 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi government and Kurdish troops, sound like only an effort to boost the morale of the anti-IS side.
The US had claimed that there were only 1,000 to 2,000 IS fighters in Mosul, which is much less than what local observers report.
Kurdish participation in an offensive would require a military partner in the shape of an effective Iraqi army and local Sunni allies. Without the latter, a battle for Mosul conducted by Shia and Kurds alone would provoke Sunni Arab resistance.
Hussein, however, was doubtful about the effectiveness of the Iraqi army.
He pointed out that difficult and dangerous though it may be for the Kurds and the Iraqi government to recapture Mosul, they cannot afford to leave it alone. It was here that the IS won its first great victory and its leader Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate June 29 last year.
However, even in the face of a common threat, the leaders in Baghdad and Irbil remain deeply divided. IS has made many enemies, but it may be saved by their inability to unite.