Annual turnover: $2 billion
Main funding sources: oil trade, kidnapping and ransom, collection of protection and taxes, bank robberies and looting.
Goal: the establishment of an Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine, the Muslim holy war against the infidels, Crusaders (i.e. Christians) and the Jews
ISIS is the richest terror organization the world has known. Its annual turnover amounts to around $2 billion, and some analyst estimate the number to be $3 billion.
So how did this small al-Qaeda facilitated group become a huge financial corporation in such a short time? The answer, as in many cases in the Middle East, is oil, and a lot of it. By occupying vast areas of Iraq and Syria, ISIS also took control of many oil and gas fields. According to expert estimates, ISIS currently controls 60% of oil reserves in Syria, and was able to get its hand on the seven major oil and
gas reserves in Iraq, including the country’s largest oil refinery. Using an oil smuggling system developed over years of sanctions against Saddam Hussein, ISIS now sells tens of thousands of barrels every day on the black market. Although this oil is sold at 40% to 75% less than the market price, ISIS still pockets around $3 million every day—more than a billion dollars a year. And that’s just from oil.
Another Prominent capital source is looting. During every occupation, activists loot everything in their path – from banks and armories, food and supplies to the museums and ancient sites. The Syrian city of Al-fought, for example, was looted and antiquities dating back 8,000 years – worth $63 million – were stolen. An especially famous robbery took place at the Central Bank of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, during which they plundered half a billion dollars in cash and gold.
Other means of raising capital is kidnapping foreigners and collecting ransom. It is estimated that over the past year, various governments paid a total of approximately $ 125 million to release citizens kidnapped by the organization.
Today the Islamic State controls about a third of Iraq’s territory and about a quarter of Syria, covering about 200 thousand square kilometers – more than half of the territory of Germany.
Besides the energy reserves, ISIS took over extensive agricultural areas, which are important sources of food and water, as well as factories, power plants, dams and other strategic facilities. For example, Tabqa dam on the banks of the Euphrates, Syria’s biggest dam, which provides electricity to the city of Aleppo, also provides a steady cash stream to ISIS. Lake Assad, the largest water reservoir in the country, has also fallen into ISIS hands. The organization also has extensive areas in the five most productive agricultural counties in Iraq, responsible for about 40% of the wheat and various kinds of grain in the country. Experts estimate that in total, ISIS control 30% of the domestic agricultural market.
However, the organization is yet to fully exploit its economic potential. ISIS gains more ground, but also loses ground during its battles. In the territories under its control it has not established an organized system of tax collection and utilization, and therefore does not use its resources to make financial gains. Establishing an efficient system will increase ISIS’s financial capabilities even more.