Major Al Qaida force in Syria has independent financing from Gulf
LONDON — Al Qaida's leading militia in Iraq and Syria has developed independent sources of financing.
Arab diplomatic sources said the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant broke away from the Al Qaida leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They said ISIL's success was based on developing independent sources of financing from the Gulf, particularly Kuwait.
"Once ISIL guaranteed its pool of exclusive financial supporters, it stopped listening to [Al Qaida commander Ayman] Zawahiri," a source said.
The sources said ISIL, which until 2013 operated mostly in Iraq, began wooing Gulf supporters of Al Qaida as early 2010. They said ISIL, long known as Al Qaida in Iraq, marketed itself as the savior of the Sunni community in Shi'ite-led Iraq.
"Islamic State persuaded many rich Gulf sheiks and princes that it would fight Iranians and its allies anywhere in the Middle East, whether in Iraq, Syria or Lebanon," the source said.
The sources said ISIL's strategy enabled the movement to expand throughout the Levant over the last year. They attributed the strategy to ISIL's shadowy figure, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, a nomme de guerre. Iraq's intelligence agency has determined that Abu Bakr's real name is Ibrahaim Awad Al Samarai, a 42-year-old preacher detained in Iraq from 2005 through 2009.
The Sunni revolt in Syria allowed Al Baghdadi to expand his influence. The sources said Abu Bakr established the Nusra Front for the Defense of the Levant, which for at least a year marked the leading rebel militia in the war against President Bashar Assad.
The sources said ISIL flouted Zawahiri by trying to force a merger with Nusra. When that failed, Abu Bakr was said to have ordered attacks against Nusra dissidents, including leader Abu Mohammed Al Golani, an ally of Zawahiri.
ISIL has been identified as the leader of the Sunni revolt in the Iraqi province of Anbar, the largest in the country. The sources said ISIL has sought to dominate the Sunni community in Iraq, under pressure from the Shi'ite.
The London-based Al Monitor said ISIL augmented its income by collecting donations from businesses in Arab cities. With the funding, Abu Bakr was able to recruit thousands and take control of large areas of Syria.
"For the first time in years, Baghdadi was able to pacify whole Syrian regions, form military formations, establish publicly known headquarters and establish religious courts," Al Monitor said.