• Stopping ISIS: Follow the Money

    November 17, 2015

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Iraq, Syria


    Wars are expensive. The recruitment and sustainment of fighters in the field, the ongoing purchases of weapons and munitions, as well as the myriad other costs of struggle, add up.

    So why isn’t the United States going after Islamic State’s funding sources as a way of lessening or eliminating their strength at making war? Follow the money back, cut it off, and you strike a blow much more devastating than an airstrike. But that has not happened. Why?


    Many have long held that Sunni terror groups, ISIS now and al Qaeda before them, are funded via Gulf States, such as Saudi Arabia, who are also long-time American allies. Direct links are difficult to prove, particularly if the United States chooses not to prove them. The issue is exacerbated by suggestions that the money comes from “donors,” not directly from national treasuries, and may be routed through legitimate charitable organizations or front companies.

    In fact, one person concerned about Saudi funding was then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who warned in a 2009 message on Wikileaks that donors in Saudi Arabia were the “most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

    At the G20, Russian President Vladimir Putin said out loud what has otherwise not been publicly discussed much in public. He announced that he has shared intelligence with the other G20 member states which reveals 40 countries from which ISIS finances the majority of its terrorist activities. The list reportedly included a number of G20 countries.

    Putin’s list of funders has not been made public. The G20, however, include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the European Union.


    One source of income for ISIS is and has robustly been oil sales. In the early days of the air campaign, American officials made a point to say that the Islamic State’s oil drilling assets were high on the target list. Yet few sites have actually been targeted. A Pentagon spokesperson explained that the coalition has actually been trying to spare some of ISIS’s largest oil producing facilities, “recognizing that they remain the property of the Syrian people,” and to limit collateral damage to civilians nearby.

    The U.S. only this week began a slightly more aggressive approach toward the oil, albeit bombing tanker trucks, not the infrastructure behind them. The trucks were destroyed at the Abu Kamal oil collection point, near the Iraqi border.

    Conservative estimates are that Islamic State takes in one to two million dollars a day from oil sales; some see the number as high as four million a day. As recently as February, however, the Pentagon claimed oil was no longer ISIS’ main way to raise money, having been bypassed by those “donations” from unspecified sources, and smuggling.


    One of the issues with selling oil, by anyone, including ISIS, is bringing the stuff to market. Oil must be taken from the ground using heavy equipment, possibly refined, stored, loaded into trucks or pipelines, moved somewhere and then sold into the worldwide market. Large amounts of money must be exchanged, and one to four million dollars a day is a lot of cash to deal with on a daily basis. It may be that some sort of electronic transactions that have somehow to date eluded the United States are involved.

    Interestingly, The Guardian reported a U.S.-led raid on the compound housing the Islamic State’s chief financial officer produced evidence that Turkish officials directly dealt with ranking ISIS members, including the ISIS officer responsible for directing the terror army’s oil and gas operations in Syria.

    Turkey’s “open door policy,” in which it allowed its southern border to serve as an unofficial transit point in and out of Syria, has been said to be one of ISIS’ main routes for getting their oil to market. A Turkish apologist claimed the oil is moved only via small-diameter plastic irrigation pipes, and is thus hard to monitor.

    A smuggled barrel of oil is sold for about $50 on the black market. This means “>several million dollars a day worth of oil would require a very large number of very small pipes.

    Others believe Turkish and Iraqi oil buyers travel into Syria with their own trucks, and purchase the ISIS oil right at the refineries, transporting themselves out of Syria. Convoys of trucks are easy to spot from the air, and easy to destroy from the air, though up until now the U.S. does not seem to have done so.

    So as is said, ISIS’ sources of funding grow curious and curiouser the more one knows. Those seeking to destroy ISIS might well wish to look into where the money comes from, and ask why, after a year and three months of war, no one has bothered to follow the money.

    And cut it off.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      The oil smuggling was an open secret even in Saddam’s time. How much of the same network is being utilized by, using Dr Juan Cole’s appropriate term, the “phony Caliphate?” This was the first instance I came across the Oil Price website; I don’t know the veracity of this website



      Feels like changing of the walnut shells, more than a changing of the guard per that old expression

      11/18/15 10:34 AM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      Well (to Quote MYSELF), “It’s (jest) a big shell game; the only conclusion you can draw is we’re losing it on purpose”. Cut ’em Off at The BILL$, InDeed!

      11/18/15 10:56 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bruce- we need chaos in the world to keep our MICC (add Congressional to Ike’s warning) prosperous. I wish it weren’t so but America may go down as one of the most vicious and immoral empires in history so far.

      11/18/15 1:57 PM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      Time for US to like Ike, agin’ !
      And fer the anti-Raygun Fairness Doctrine:

      11/18/15 5:46 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Meanwhile, unbeknownst to those who labor their lives away in daily thanks they have a job and can raise their families in relative obscurity and somewhat security, the Oligarchy is still undermining the future of the 99.9% progeny’s ability to remain free…


      11/18/15 7:30 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Meanwhile, Shades of 1942 emerge in the land of the free and the home of the …ahem..brave.


      now..please excuse me while I try to keep my stomach from upchucking.

      11/18/15 8:03 PM | Comment Link

    • Buiça said...


      Personally I would suspect any theory about a group of brainwashed fanatics being able to extract, produce and export oil by themselves. After all, the author of this blog already explained (with reference to a wonderful conversation with one “oil man”) that only big oil corporations have the required technology and expertise. The part in one of the links about Isis operating oil refineries I wont even bother with.

      But the oil does keep on flowing, doesn’t it…? in huge quantities from the north/kurdistan where pipelines old and new exist, and smaller quantities through long truck convoys from other “isis controlled” areas. So it must be a profitable business even with a barrel as low as $40 on the end of the chain.

      To cut a long story short, my view is whoever is taking that oil is not paying the royalty fees to the host nation because there aren’t any nations left to claim what is supposed to be the biggest chunk in the price of any oil barrel.

      So how convenient that all of a sudden, just when the Iraqi parliament was approving the energy and resources legal framework, several rogue armies in the region prevent the former countries to get their part of oil revenues. I wonder if we know any industrial-military-complex that could benefit from such a perfect setup…? You get cheap oil, leave a tip to the armies on the ground, which they use to buy arms from you to keep the mayhem going, and a little air support from drones to make sure no one jeopardizes the juice.

      11/20/15 7:37 PM | Comment Link

    • Inhuman Monsters: Islamic State vs Saudi Arabia | Ghosts of Tom Joad - Peter Van Buren said...


      […] The U.S. claims not to know where Saudi money goes. The U.S. claims not to know where ISIS money comes from. Winner: Double-win for […]

      11/21/15 8:48 AM | Comment Link

    • It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a US Apache Helicopter Giving Cover to an ISIS convoy? - WhoWhatWhy said...


      […] Following Putin’s comments, the mysteries of ISIS’s robust finances have started to receive newfound scrutiny. As one commentator noted, […]

      11/21/15 7:07 PM | Comment Link

    • Inhuman Monsters: ISIS versus Saudi Arabia | The Contrary Perspective said...


      […] The U.S. claims not to know where Saudi money goes. The U.S. claims not to know where ISIS money comes from. Winner: Double-win for […]

      11/25/15 7:58 AM | Comment Link

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