The terrorist organization ISIS runs a flourishing black market economy and is believed to be raising more than $2 million every day from oil production. The organization, described by president Obama as a “cancer,” currently occupies a region of Iraq and Syria that is larger than the United Kingdom.
Over the past few months, ISIS has seized oil fields, border crossings, military bases, and Iraq’s largest electric-generated dam. As Luay Al-Khatteeb of the Brookings Institution wrote, this form of self-financed terrorism poses a major long-term threat to global security:
ISIL is no longer desperate for donors' funding to continue and expand their operations given they now possess a loosely integrated and thriving black 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's estimated total revenues from its oil production are around $2 million a day! Put simply, 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 middle men involved.
This is hardly the only way the group raises revenue. In addition to oil, ISIS is gathering funds through kidnapping, robbery, smuggling, taxes, and extortion. According to former intelligence official at the U.S. Department of the Treasury Matthew Levitt:
“The Islamic State is probably the wealthiest terrorist group we’ve ever known.”
So what is the solution to the burgeoning threat of ISIS? Take action immediately before the “cancer” grows.