CATF Reports Nov. 8, 2016, 1:55pm


Only hours away from the conclusion of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it is a fitting time to reflect on the candidates’ proposed strategies to combat terrorism finance. While the strategies outlined in this piece reflect the candidates’ statements on this important matter both before and during their campaigns, efforts to deduce clear-cut positions remain a challenge.

Donald Trump

Trump’s most pronounced discussion of terrorism came during an August 15 speech in Ohio. During the speech, Mr. Trump reiterated his position that by establishing U.S. control over Iraqi oil in the wake of the invasion, the U.S. could have prevented what would later become a major source of ISIS funding. As the campaign wore on, past opportunities to have “kept the oil” of Iraq became Trump’s default plan of action in his counter-ISIS finance strategy. Without acknowledging the international illegality of seizing sovereign natural resources as spoils of war, as Trump suggests, or the fact that the majority of ISIS oil revenue comes from oilfields in Syria, Trump updated this policy several days later when he suggested that his administration would “knock the hell out of the oil, take back the oil.” While the U.S. has made no moves towards taking back oil that is not its own, the Obama administration has aggressively targeted ISIS oilfields in Syria and Iraq, a strategy that has put a significant dent in ISIS’ revenue.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, much of Trump’s anti-terrorism strategy mirrors the recent moves by the Obama administration. Trump has called for an international conference and to find common ground in the fight against Islamic extremism with allies in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Russia and NATO. These joint efforts will, according to Trump, target ISIS funding and will include coalition military missions and cyber warfare to disrupt ISIS propaganda. Trump continues by claiming that such joint efforts will also target Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. However, Trump’s plans to clamp down on the immigration of refugees and Muslims are unique. While this position may intend to limit potential terrorists from gaining direct access to our financial system through U.S. citizenship, the details of many of Trump’s anti-terrorism and anti-terrorism finance strategies remain intentionally oblique: a factor that Trump believes will allow the U.S. to succeed.

Hillary Clinton

In their calls to fight ISIS, Clinton, Trump and Obama have much more in common than one may assume. Like her counterpart, Clinton has emphasized the importance of U.S. international alliances in combating ISIS and its funding, but has also paid special attention to Trump’s relationship with Putin as a dangerous alliance. According to Clinton’s plan, the U.S. and its allies must work together to intensify the air campaign against ISIS, pursue a diplomatic end to war in Syria and Iraq, and dismantle terror networks online that promote the terrorist group and assist in its financing. However, unlike Mr. Trump, Hillary Clinton has not prioritized U.S. immigration policies as a tool in the fight against terrorism and terrorism finance.

With these similarities aside, Clinton, unlike Trump, has made a clear effort to target state sponsors of terrorism. In June, Clinton claimed that it was “long past time for the Saudis, Qatari and Kuwaitis and others to stop their citizens from funding extremist organizations.” Clinton also called on these Gulf countries to halt their financing of schools and mosques around the world that have come under criticism for promoting extremist strains of Islam. This sentiment resurfaced in a leaked email from Clinton to her campaign manager, John Podesta, in which the presidential hopeful claimed the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia are “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” Despite Clinton’s firm conviction that the U.S. Gulf allies have both directly and indirectly sponsored terrorist groups, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s close links to the Clinton Foundation have put her record and readiness to combat terror financing clearly into doubt.

From Trump’s August 15 Speech:

“My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting. We cannot allow the internet to be used as a recruiting tool, and for other purposes, by our enemy – we must shut down their access to this form of communication, and we must do so immediately.”

From Clinton’s June 13 Speech:

“The third area that demands attention is preventing radicalization and countering efforts by ISIS and other international terrorist groups to recruit in the U.S. and Europe.

For starters, it is long past time for the Saudis, Qatari and Kuwaitis and others to stop their citizens from funding extremist organizations. And they should stop supporting radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.”

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