Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen (New Zealand) as chair of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. The briefing is expected to focus on two recent reports of the Monitoring Team of the Committee: on the financing of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front in Iraq and Syria, and on the terrorism threat in Libya.
On 12 February, the Council adopted resolution 2199 at the initiative of Russia. The resolution focused on how illegal oil exports, trafficking of cultural heritage, ransom payments and external donations finance the operational capacity of ISIS and Al-Nusra. The resolution, adopted under Chapter VII, expressed concern that vehicles—including aircraft, cars and trucks—departing from or going to ISIS- or Al-Nusra-held areas of Syria and Iraq could be used to transfer oil and oil products, cash and other valuable items, including natural resources, for sale on international markets or barter for arms. Such activity is a violation of the assets freeze. It encouraged member states to take appropriate steps in accordance with international law to prevent and disrupt activity that would result in violations of the already existing measures (asset freeze and targeted arms embargo), and required member states to report to the 1267/1989 Committee within 30 days of any interdiction in their territory.
The Committee discussed a recent report by the Monitoring Team featuring an assessment of the impact of these new measures on 11 and 24 August. The report suggests that the measures against the illegal oil trade have so far had a limited impact, given the ability of ISIS to extract benefits at the different stages of the value chain, from selling crude oil at the well-head to levying fees at checkpoints, exchanging crude oil for refined products and selling the latter to the local population.
Noting with concern that ISIS and Al-Nusra are generating income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items, resolution 2199 imposed a new legal obligation on member states to take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Syrian cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific and religious importance illegally removed from Syria since 15 March 2011. (The resolution also recalled the validity of a similar ban on antiquities illegally removed from Iraq since 6 August 1990.) While acknowledging the difficulties in proving the provenance of cultural artefacts, a February report by the inter-governmental body Financial Action Task Force identifies the two main ways by which ISIS makes money from antiquities: through selling looted artefacts and through taxing traffickers moving items across ISIS-held territory.
Some humanitarian actors, such as OCHA, have raised concerns regarding the unintended consequences of some of the measures described above for the local population, including the reluctance of some organisations to operate in those areas because of fears of legal consequences if humanitarian supplies are inadvertently diverted to a listed entity.
On 27 March, the Council adopted resolution 2214, which emphasised the importance of providing support and assistance to the government of Libya in countering terrorism, including by providing it with the necessary security and capacity-building assistance. The resolution came after representatives from the government in Tobruk, as well as other regional actors, asked the Council to lift the arms embargo on the government or consider exemption requests for the transfer or supply of arms and related materiel for its use against ISIS. Despite language in the resolution regarding expeditious consideration of such requests, several Council members ruled out Council action in this regard, as they were wary of the implications of such a decision in the light of the current conflict between militias affiliated with two rival governments.
In the past, the Monitoring Team has reported on the terrorist threat in Libya, highlighting the increasing activities of ISIS, Ansar al-Sharia and other Al-Qaida affiliates in Libya and their impact on Tunisia and other countries in the region through the flow of weapons and foreign terrorist fighters. These groups continue to clash with the two parties to the conflict in Libya and control towns including Sirte and Derna. Contingency planning for fighting terrorism in Libya once a government of national accord is sworn in is ongoing. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US, in discussion with the UN and the EU, are discussing possible deployment of a security assistance mission to train Libyan forces in countering terrorism if requested by a government of national accord.
A key issue for the Council is to ensure overall implementation of the Al-Qaida sanctions regime, including through targeting those violating the regime by helping terrorist groups improve their operational capabilities.
Mitigating the humanitarian impact of these measures is a key issue to ensure their effectiveness.
Developing an alternative plan to counter terrorism in Libya in the absence of a government of national accord is an urgent issue for the Council.
Although no outcome is anticipated at this point, the Council could issue a statement that:
- calls on all member states to ensure overall implementation of the Al-Qaida sanctions regime, threatening those violating it with secondary sanctions;
- encourages further listings of individuals and entities engaging in activities constituting support for Al-Qaida affiliates; and
- calls on member states to be mindful of the potential humanitarian impact of sanctions on the civilian population.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Despite some divergences over the politicisation of the issue in the Middle East, counter-terrorism continues to be one of the issues with overall unanimous support among Council members, as well as high visibility for Council action. Efforts to continue curbing the capabilities of Al-Qaida affiliates, whether in Syria, Iraq or Libya, seem to be a priority for Council action. However, on Libya, Council members have until now considered the formation of a government of national accord as a prerequisite for counter-terrorism assistance. It is unclear how Council members would change their approach if efforts to form a unified government fail.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COUNTER-TERRORISM
|Security Council Resolutions|
|27 March 2015 S/RES/2214||This was a resolution that focused on counter-terrorism efforts.|
|12 February 2015 S/RES/2199||Was on ISIS and Al-Nusra’s illicit funding via oil exports, traffic of cultural heritage, ransom payments and external donations.|
|17 June 2014 S/RES/2161||This resolution renewed the measures targeting Al-Qaida associated individuals and entities and extended the mandates of the Office of the Ombudsperson and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team assisting the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee for 30 months.|
Financing of the terrorist organization Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Financial Action Task Force, February 2015.