Kobani has been at the forefront of fighting for several weeks as ISIL continues its push to gain control of the Syrian border town. Had it not been for allied air support, Kobani would have fallen long ago and thousands of refugees in Turkey would have no hope of returning to their homes. The battle for this city has been costly for the Islamic State in terms of both money and manpower. It makes one wonder what schemes ISIL uses to make the money necessary to fund such costly campaigns.
Perhaps the answer lies across the border, in Turkey. Besasian is a small Turkish border town that has recently been identified as a location used by the Islamic State for smuggling oil and selling it at massive discounts. Oil is expensive in Turkey, around $7.50 per gallon in Hatay, and to get that commodity at cut-rate prices is highly welcome, even if the seller is your enemy.
Oil wells captured by ISIL in northern Iraq and Syria are the sources of oil being smuggled into Turkey. Millions of barrels have already crossed the border into Turkey and have been disseminated worldwide. It is believed that ISIL produces about 25 to 40 thousand barrels of oil on a daily basis. On the black market, the oil is valued at approximately $1.2 million.
Oil is certainly the most lucrative means for ISIL to make money, and their oil-producing facilities have been major targets of allied attacks. But it is, by no means, the only way the Islamic State funds their war to establish a caliphate in the area. Donors, looting, smuggling, taxes and human trafficking are all ways the group earns money. It is more difficult for the international community to stop the illegal means by which ISIL funds its operations.
As the Syrian civil war continues, many wealthy anti-Assad supporters provide cash gifts to the Sunni fighters trying to dislodge the Syrian president. By supporting the ouster of Assad these supporters are pouring millions into the Islamic State treasury. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar governments also provide millions of dollars to support the effort against Assad.
The vast territories captured by ISIL in Iraq and Syria are all subject to plunder. These “spoils of war” include stealing millions from banks and other institutions. Captured areas are also subject to taxation by the Islamic State. Estimates have the group collecting in excess of $8 million a month before the capture of Mosul in June, where the looting of banks reportedly netted tens of millions of dollars. Illegal trade of antiquities, some as old as 8 thousand years, have netted over $36 million in one Syrian region alone.
Human trafficking and extortion have enriched the Islamic state coffers by millions. The group is reportedly selling women and children as slaves. Ransom payments for kidnapped hostages have also brought in millions. The U.S. and Britain have steadfastly refused to pay ransoms for their captured citizens.
What makes ISIL money-raising schemes so successful is that they control large areas in Iraq and Syria. Civilians and businesses caught in their web are all subject to the discretionary whims of their captors. There is no law enforcement to prevent ISIL activities in areas they control. In the end, the Islamic State makes money however they want in areas under their control.
By Hans Benes
Image courtesy of Karl-Ludwig Poggemann – License