By Joseph R. Carducci
August 28, 2014
There have been several new reports regarding ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) recently. These both dovetail well with some of my own recent reports. For starters, I argued that one of the keys to the power and growth of ISIS is the fact that they have a lot of funding and financing.
The first of these reports claims that ISIS is running a very thriving black market economy, thanks in large part to the oil fields they have seized in both Syria and Iraq. The amount of money they are thought to be earning from these sources alone is more than $2 million per day. This makes it much easier for the group to not only survive, but consolidate their position. They hold territory that is larger than the size of the UK at the moment.
Not only do they have a number of oil fields and production assets, they also occupy additional important areas and facilities. This includes border crossings, military bases, and even the largest electric generation dam in Iraq (although US air strikes seem to be putting a dent in their positions along this dam).
The bottom line to this is that ISIS has become self-financed. That places them in a very dangerous position according to the Brookings Institution:
“ISIL is no longer desperate for donors’ funding to continue and expand their operations given they now possess a loosely integrated and thriving black market economy consisting of approximately 60 percent of Syria’s oil assets and seven oil producing assets in Iraq. It has successfully achieved a thriving black market economy by developing an extensive network of middlemen in neighboring territories and countries to trade crude oil for cash and in kind….ISIL is in a position to smuggle over 30,000 barrels of crude oil a day to neighboring territories and countries at a price of between $25 to $60 per barrel depending on the number of middlemen involved.”
Of course, the terror group also raises money the old fashioned way. They kidnap others for ransom, robbery, smuggling, taxes (levied against non-Muslims for the privilege of living in ISIS occupied territory), and extortion. Given all of the above, ISIS is likely the wealthiest terrorist group the world has ever known.
It should also be noted that while recent media attention (and not enough of it at that) has been focused primarily on ISIS in northern Iraq, the group has been operating for years in Syria. The UN has also done a lot to expose some of the atrocities the terror group has been regularly committing in this country. They even discovered that Friday, the holiest day of the week for Muslims, is when the group prefers to do their maiming, torturing, and executions.
Yes, the ISIS forces are involved in the Syrian conflict. They are fighting against Assad government forces, whose regime our own Muslim in Chief, Obama, has decided would be better off removed from power. The problem is that if the US intervenes, it will alter the balance of power. All the more reason why we really must have a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIS.
What do YOU think? Do these revelations of the ISIS oil wealth make them more difficult to deal with? How could we potentially attack their sources of self-funding? How about the fact that a ‘religious’ group prefers torturing and killing on their holiest days? Do we need an ISIS strategy?