The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has reportedly resorted to selling fish and cars in order to finance terror attacks and military forces in Syria and Iraq.
The U.S. led coalition has successfully targeted Islamic State’s financial infrastructure in recent months, devastating the radical terror organization’s financial stability and oil wealth. According to Reuters, the Islamic State’s annual income was once estimated at around $2.9 billion, but around $800 million has been destroyed by coalition airstrikes targeting Islamic State-held oil fields and refineries in Iraq and Syria.
“The terrorists’ current financing mechanism has changed from what it was before the announcement of the caliphate nearly two years ago. After the armed forces took control of several oil fields Daesh [Islamic State] was using to finance its operations, the organization devised non-traditional ways of paying its fighters and financing its activities,” said Judge Jabbar Abid al-Huchaimi of Iraq’s central court.
After losing ground in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State has had to refocus its efforts on earlier financial ventures, according to reports, a significant part of which includes fish farming and car dealerships. The Islamic State is reportedly using fish farms in the hundreds of lakes north of Baghdad to generate “millions” of dollars a month. Islamic State militants flooded into the area in the last couple years, pushing out fish farmers and individual fishermen, while others agreed to work for the Islamic State.
“Recently there has been a reliance on agricultural lands in areas outside the control of the security forces through [Islamic State] taxes imposed on farmers,” reads the report of Judge al-Huchaimi.
The Islamic State is reportedly turning to financing schemes it used in its early development as an Al-Qaeda affiliate fighting the U.S. forces in Iraq. After moving into an area, Islamic State militants impose taxes on local residents, often taking over large businesses like factories, car dealerships, and the aforementioned fish farms. The diversified financing plan has kept the Islamic State funded, despite major setbacks in Syria and Iraq, but without the radical militant group’s previous oil wealth, it appears that Islamic State finances are in decline.
“In the recent period, Daesh [Islamic State] has gone back to using government factories in the areas it controls – like Mosul – for financial returns,” said al-Huchaimi.
Financial ventures like fish farming have helped shore up Islamic State’s financial health, but the group is reportedly hemorrhaging money — losing about $56 million a month in military hardware, personnel, and finance-generating capital like the militant group’s oil wealth, reports Al-Arabiya.
The primary source of the Islamic State’s funding, despite setbacks in Syria in Iraq, continues to be its lucrative oil smuggling operation, funneling oil out of war-torn Syria into Islamic State-controlled areas in Iraq.
“The organization distributes money to areas outside its control through ‘hawala’ offices first in Erbil, and from there to Iraq and other provinces,” said al-Huchaimi.
According to the International Business Times, the Islamic State has lost hundreds of millions of dollars fighting in Syria and Iraq as the U.S. led coalition has targeted Islamic State financial centers with airstrikes, special forces operations, and other military actions.
“We’re seeing a fraction in their morale, we’re seeing their inability to pay, we’re seeing their inability to fight, we’re watching them try to leave Daesh [Islamic State] in every single way,” said Major General Peter Gersten.
The U.S. Defense Department estimates that recent airstrikes in Syria have reduced the Islamic State’s financial centers, not only by destroying their ability to generate revenue but also by destroying the revenue itself. According to the IB Times, the U.S. led coalition has destroyed around $500 million and $800 million in cash alone.
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