Mark Vlasic, a senior fellow and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University, was the head of operations of the joint World Bank-U.N. Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative. He is also counselor to the Antiquities Coalition.
As President Obama moves ahead with his plan to confront the so-called Islamic State, all options, as they say, should be on the table. Thus, while “kinetic force” is a likely focus, the terrorism financing must not be overlooked. By targeting one of the group’s funding sources, policy-makers can also help to preserve the history of ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization. What’s needed is an immediate, multifaceted initiative to curb the sale of “blood antiquities.”
The Islamic State is reported to be the world’s richest terrorist organization, and it has been made rich, in part, by looting Iraq and Syria. The group’s advance has been fueled by the sale of stolen artifacts that are vital to defining the Syrian and Iraqi cultures, which pre-date Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Indeed, the ongoing pillaging of this legacy is a blow to our collective humanity.