By Jim Emerson, staff writer
The most important requirement of terrorist groups is revenue. Fielding an Army of jihadists requires not just Muslim terrorists, but water, food, weapons, ammunition and transportation. This means the Islamic State needs cash and a lot of it in order to maintain its existence. Last year the Islamic State raised over $1 billion in revenue and captured some $50 billion worth of Iraqi weapons, the latter, courtesy of the Obama Administration.
The Islamic State is the ultimate predatory machine. It’s Army has been able to acquire large amounts of revenue in a short period of time by means of theft, ransom demands, extortion, taxation and smuggling. As a result, the terrorist organization remains a formidable force in Iraq, Syria, Libya and now Afghanistan.
The organization began with little or nothing when it first joined in the Arab Spring effort to remove Syrian President al-Assad. Initial funding for training and equipment may have come from the United States and supporting Arab nations. The probability of the terrorist group receiving support from Muslim nations was great indeed. As a side note, existence of the terror group may be the reason so-called Syrian refugees are not moving to other Muslim nations but to Europe and the west.
According to the U. S. State Department, the Islamic State raised an estimated $500-$800 million from: seized Iraqi bank assets; $20-$70 million from taxation; $100 million from oil trafficking; $25-$45 million from ransom demands; $10-$50 million in Agriculture theft, and border tariffs $10-$50 million. From retreating Iraqi Security Forces, the Islamic State captured an estimated $50 billion in weapons and vehicles. As long as the Islamic State is able to acquire such extraordinary sums in cash and assets it will continue to exist. And like many “non-profits,” they benefit from the work of unpaid volunteers who carry out missions abroad thanks to a well-funded, internet-based propaganda ministry.
The Islamic State’s highly successful methods of revenue generation make it a self-financed entity capable of operating outside of any formal financial system. The IS features diverse, non-centralized command and control and financial operations which make it difficult to directly attack financial structures or assets. As long as the Islamic State can sell oil below market price they will have income. Muslim neighbors will look the other way for a price to get smuggled oil on the market. And oil poor nations like China would love to help.
The Treasury Department is taking credit for halting financial aid to al Qaeda. However such tactics will not be very effective against the Islamic State since it doesn’t depend upon the same sources of income. If Obama were serious he would order the bombing of oil fields and pipelines.
It is likely the Islamic State will be driven out of Syria, but the group’s longevity will depend on the continued production of Northern Iraqi oil fields. To establish and grow the Caliphate, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi will need to establish a permanent means of providing for his followers. It’s doubtful that it will happen in his lifetime, if ever.