Thursday, 1 October 2015

"New Documents Prove ISIS Heavily Involved in Antiquities Trafficking"

Although I myself do not believe these 'documents' are real: Christopher Jones , 'New Documents Prove ISIS Heavily Involved in Antiquities Trafficking' Gates of Nineveh September 30, 2015. His conclusion has serious implications for dealers and collectors:

The documents captured during this raid appear to have galvanized a number of government agencies into action. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program, typically used to pay large sums of money to informants who turned in men such as Ramzi Youssef and Uday and Qusay Hussein, will now be offering $5 million rewards for anyone who provides information that leads to significant disruption of ISIS efforts to smuggle oil or antiquities.
Lev Kubiak, the Assistant Director of International Operations at Homeland Security Investigations, hopes to set up working groups to gain scholar’s input to help government agents better track artifacts. FBI section chief Maxwell Marker and Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard W. Downing threatened to use a wide variety of laws to prosecute both buyers and sellers of conflict antiquities, including laws against possessing stolen property and providing material support to terrorist organizations. Maxwell further emphasized “please, do not not purchase objects believed to have been looted from Syria and Iraq” and asked people to report solicitations to the authorities.
The theme repeated for most of the panel was demand. Keller’s own slideshow ended with large letters: Demand Drives Trafficking. If ISIS is making money off antiquities someone is buying, and moves are going to be made to tamp down on demand in the West.
The evidence produced last night was damning and shows this is a national security issue as well as a cultural property issue. Purchasing antiquities looted from Syria does not save them from destruction by ISIS. Instead, it both funds their genocidal ambitions and encourages more looting. Given the current situation, more drastic measures limiting the sale of Middle Eastern artifacts may be required. What is for sure is that no one can now deny the link between archaeological looting and funding ISIS.
Or indeed any armed group involved in the Syrian conflict. Let us look beyond the US obsession with ISIL at the wider issues.


Brian Curtiss said...

Paul - I have been reading of your skepticism but I wanted to ask what you think would be motivating the us government to release falsified documents? Is it to encourage continued US public support of the campaign against ISIL? That would seem unlikely. The US public doesn't need this issue to tip their opinions in favor of the US combating terrorists.

Or is it that they're just being duped by falsified documents being created... For what purpose?

Is it some conspiracy of antiquities dealers in cahoots with the government encouraging an inflation of the problem in order to legitimize their "rescue" excuse, as you earlier quoted a dealer as supporting "more looting" so that these objects can be preserved in museums (aka rich clients' collections).

What's going on here in your opinion? Or what might be?

Paul Barford said...

I would not like to speculate until we know more about where those documents (and their translation) came from. We all remember the false WMD stories that were used to start the whole meltdown of the Middle East by Bush in 2003. The US Syria campaign is a total and highly dangerous flop. I suspect "antiquities' is a distraction - remember how the bombing campaign was preceded by Kerry talking of "saving civilization" in the very same met Museum.

No, I do not think the dealers have anything in common with this, they are being presented as being in cahoots with America's enemies. While I am quite happy about that, I cannot support a story just because it is convenient when the evidence presented to 'support' it is in itself dodgy. I should be getting a post up why I think the documents don't ring true on Friday.

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