German newspaper Zeit just published a fantastic in-depth look at how ISIS makes its money.
The Islamist terrorist group, which has taken control of the huge portions of Iraq and Syria, was called the richest in the world by Foreign Policy.
There are four big revenue streams for ISIS, listed by Zeit:
- Looting banks: Zeit notes that the Syrian central bank had $US400 million in Mosul when ISIS took hold of the city, and that the savings of religious minority groups have been appropriated.
- Selling black market oil: ISIS makes a lot of money from selling oil on the black market: estimates have ranged from $US270,000 (£172,450) to $US3 million (£1.92 million) per day. There’s a huge variation because experts can’t be sure what the oil is sold for or how much ISIS can now produce after recent air strikes.
- Hostage-taking: ISIS has made at least $US25 million (£15.97 million) from hostage ransoms this year. The true figure is likely much higher.
- Rent: ISIS took control of buildings formerly owned by the cities they conquer, and Zeit says they could be bringing in about $US3 million each month.
And on the liabilities side, they have got some serious outgoings too:
- War wages: ISIS fighters apparently get something like $US500 (£319.40) per month. Not much, but they do also get their share of the belongings and cash stolen from areas they attack.
- Government entities: It’s not clear how much these cost, but they say they run public health facilities and an airport, which can’t be cheap!
That’s not even counting the non-pay costs of waging a war against a lot of different governments, militias and terrorist groups. So although ISIS is referred to as “the richest terrorist group in history”, not everyone is convinced. Here’s Zeit:
Propaganda claims that oil has made IS self-sufficient are also bald-faced lies. At the end of the day, money is still just money, and it does no good if you can’t buy anything with it. And if no goods reach IS-controlled regions, can a productive economy be kept afloat? If not, then oil revenues will merely drive inflation. Economist and oil expert Eckart Woertz likens the IS to an “overvalued stock company” and speaks of a “Ponzi scheme” in need of constant expansion.
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