Posts Tagged ‘oil’

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Secret details spilled on ISIS’s funding

November 14, 2014

How jihad group uses WhatsApp, oil hoses, and looted antiquities to stay solvent

ISIS using mobile apps to stay in touch with financiers
There was a time when terrorists preferred moving their money through the traditional Islamic debt transfer system of hawala, through the conventional wire services like Western Union and MoneyGram, or through a combination of both. But fears of detection led ISIS to send personal couriers and fundraisers to Europe, while staying in touch with them through text messaging and WhatsApp, as an ongoing trial against a Syrian-Lebanese man in Germany illustrates (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

Antiquity smuggling isn’t random looters, it’s an organized ISIS racket
ISIS has made over $35 million from selling historical artifacts, and now controls 4,500 archaeological sites (h/t Rushette). They justify their bulldozing and looting on the basis of khums, the traditional Islamic tax on discovered wealth (h/t Sal)… more>> and more>>

ISIS and al-Nusra smuggle oil right under the noses of Turkish gendarmes
Turkish border guards look the other way as vans filled with oil drums and tubes are laid in trenches to transfer black market oil from Syria and Iraq. A new report takes a look at the nuts and bolts of the illicit trade along with photos of how it’s done (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

Businessmen flee Mosul as ISIS breaks no-new-taxes promise
Manufacturers and small business owners in Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah abandon their factories to avoid making “royalty” payments to ISIS after they reneged on an earlier pledge not to tax them (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

ISIS’s coffers have been wildly overestimated, says Germany
Even using all of these revenue techniques, there’s a genuine possibility that ISIS may have bigger financial problems than previously reported. German intelligence reveals that ISIS is only to raise between 3 to 10 percent as much money from oil sales as previously reported, and that its production abilities are dwindling rapidly as oil production sites are bombed and oil technicians flee their posts (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

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New moves afoot to choke off terror money

November 7, 2014
  • The U.S. takes aim at ISIS’s black market oil buyers… more>>
  • Britain grants more powers to its charity regulator, including the power to remove dubious trustees from charitable boards (h/t @ConorMLarkin)… more>>
  • Austrian law will ban foreign funding of imams… more>>
  • The U.S. Rewards for Justice program of paying informants is still helping catch and kill terrorists… more>>
  • Bulk cash smugglers beware–there’s a new system to detect the presence of excessive currency at border checkpoints… more>>
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Fracking lets us ditch Saudi oil to use our own

September 26, 2014

As part of the run-up to Money Jihad’s five-year anniversary, we’re looking back at five important videos from over the past several years about the financing of terrorism.

Last week we looked at money that has been pumped into the Gulf monarchies in oil royalties that they have turned around to use for terror for decades to placate their own Wahhabi domestic religious/political partners.  But what are we going to do about it? Drill our way out. U.S. energy independence from Arab oil, largely driven by technological innovation through hydraulic fracturing, may be the biggest strategic game-changer in the global balance of power since World War II.

From a Fox News interview last year with the Wall Street Journal’s Steve Moore and national security analyst KT McFarland:

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Oil money and Saudi Arabia’s stranglehold over global affairs

September 19, 2014

The five year anniversary of this blog’s inception is coming up in October. Before then we’ll revisit five videos that have touched on extremely important concepts in terrorist financing.

Today we’ll look at two. Money Jihad has shown one of them before—an interview with Bernard Lewis on C-SPAN—but it’s important enough to return to, about how oil money and the love affair between the House of Saud and Wahhabi clerics precipitated the rise of global jihad:

The other picks up where Lewis left off.  Former CIA director James Woolsey offers additional examples and comparisons about what Saudi oil money and the related control by Wahabbi clerics has meant for Islamic developments throughout the world over the past several decades.

Watching these videos and considering the billions of petrodollars that have flowed to terrorism, it almost feels silly to sniff out smaller transactions of a thousand dollars here and hundred dollars there to individual “martyrs” and their operations.

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Money and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

August 11, 2014

In 2007, the Islamic State of Iraq was seen as “the richest of the insurgency groups” in Iraq with $1 billion to 1.5 billion “collected in revenue by the group through foreign donations, enforced taxation and confiscation of the property and funds of Iraqis.” But the U.S. surge and ISI missteps significantly damaged the jihadist group’s ability to raise funds.

Seven years and three names later, ISIS amassed a $2 billion comeback and took control of large swathes of territory in northern Iraq including Mosul and 35 percent of Syria.

ISIS’s financial recovery has been marked by a slight shift away from reliance on local extortion networks (although those are still in effect), improved organizational and financial management by ISIS leader and self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the departure of U.S. troops in 2011.

The most important elements of ISIS’s funding are sadaqa (voluntary donations) from Arab donors in the Gulf; sales and tolls collected on sales of oil from fields under its control; and increasingly through money made by controlling key infrastructure.

Here’s a rundown of ISIS’s main funding channels:

Sadaqa from private donors

Fundraising is aided by contemporary marketing methods

Oil

  • ISIS controls 60 percent of Syrian oil including the lucrative Omar field
  • In Iraq, ISIS controls Butmah and Ain Zalah oil fields, the refinery in Baiji, and oil and gas resources in Ajeel in northern Iraq
  • ISIS sells or collects a portion on black market sales to Turkey, Iran, and in Syria itself
  • Revenue estimates for ISIS range from $1 million to $3 million daily

Dams

  • In addition to oil, control of key infrastructure such as the dams in Mosul, Fallujah, and Tabqa present increasingly significant revenue potential for ISIS.
  • Professor Ariel Ahram notes this is already occurring at Tabqa, where ISIS is involved in selling electricity.
  • New York Times reporter Tim Arango says that possession of the Mosul dam can enable ISIS to “use it as a method of finance” through extortion schemes to continue their operations.

Other sources

  • Isis has seized arms from Iraqi depots, including U.S. weapons given to Iraqi forces, plus weapons smuggled from Turkey and Croatia
  • The collection of ransom money has sustained ISIS throughout its existence
  • Antiquities smuggling

Incidently, little is being done by the Gulf states to curtail the flow of donations to ISIS because they either want an independent Sunni state carved out of Iraq or to replace Iraq’s Shia-led government with Sunnis. Washington should designate Saudi Arabia and Qatar as state sponsors of terrorism, but it won’t because of diplomatic considerations.

Without interdicting the donations and the contraband oil, U.S. airstrikes will have limited effect on ISIS’s coffers.

This piece is also published at Terror Finance Blog.

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A million a day for ISIS and a grain of salt

July 20, 2014

Is a million dollars a day enough to sustain ISIS’s operations without dipping into its own reserves? Perhaps. There may be about 10,000 ISIS foot soldiers. Paying, feeding, clothing, and transporting that many men is expensive. But if each jihadist were getting a proportionate share of $100 a day, that still well exceeds the median Iraqi income of $15 a day, which probably helps with recruitment efforts.

That being said, such a rapid influx of money does not automatically translate into the ability to spend the money—either wisely or at all. Remember the movie “Brewster’s Millions” where Richard Pryor was challenged to spend $30 million in 30 days? It’s harder than it looks.

But it’s still ominous. From the Telegraph on July 11:

Iraq oil bonanza reaps $1 million a day for Islamic State

Exclusive: Islamic State strengthens grip on northern Iraq by raising millions from sale of oil through Kurdistan to Turkey and Iran

Islamic State jihadists are raising as much as $1 million a day from the sale of crude oil recovered from conquered oilfields in Iraq that is then smuggled on to Turkey and Iran.

Oil industry experts believe the group formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis) is able to command $25 a barrel for crude its fighters are moving in tankers from the oil plains south of Mosul.

Middlemen based in the Kurdistan region of Iraq are able to turn a handsome profit on the supplies by selling its abroad for refining into the more valuable petroleum and diesel products.

The specialist Iraqi Oil Report said the centre of the $1million trade was the town of Tuz Khurmatu on the fringes of the Kurdish region. Traders there are buying convoys of tankers supplied by Islamic State…

The swift advance of Islamic State after last month’s conquest of Mosul gave it control over the path of the Kirkuk/Ceyhan oil pipeline, the country’s biggest, and the Baiji oil refinery, again the most important refinery in Iraq…

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ISIS finds taxing more durable than looting

July 13, 2014

Taking a cut from oil refineries and water works is more lucrative and enduring than demolishing infrastructure and selling the spare parts, argues Prof. Ariel Ahram in an incisive piece about Al Qaeda in Iraq from the Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” blog (hat tip to El Grillo):

…Most researchers point particularly to the “lootability” of resources – whether they are easily seized and can be sold on the international market at a significant mark up – to explain the onset and intensity of resource wars. Control over these goods motivates people to take up arms while the revenue from selling them fund the fight. Jeremy Weinstein shows how resource “rich” rebel movements are prone to attracting opportunists and thugs, who are ill-disciplined and prone to manhandling civilians. Rebel groups with access to lootable resources are liable to splinter and metastasize, becoming more like criminal operations than political movements.

But not all resources are lootable and not all lootable resources have the same centrifugal effects on rebel behavior. As Philippe Le Billon and Eric Nicholls have shown, unlike diamonds or drugs, dams and oil rigs are better targets for extortion than physical appropriation. After all, these structures are far more valuable assembled and operational than broken down for spare parts. Moreover, dams and rigs require a cadre of experts, technicians and engineers to run effectively. And, as Mancur Olson famously pointed out, opportunities for extortion create incentives for building sustainable, long-term rule, which are distinctly different from simply predation. According to New York Times reporter Thanassis Cambanis, IS  left the staff at the Tabqa Dam unharmed and in place, allowing the facility to continue operations and even selling electricity back to the Syrian government. Similarly, oil fields under IS  control continue to pump. Indeed, IS  has shrewdly managed these resources to help ensure a steady and sustainable stream of revenue. As one IS fighter told the New York Times, while Assad’s loyalists chant “Assad or burn the country,” IS retorts “We will burn Assad and keep the country.” Beside revenue from oil and water, IS  collects a variety of commercial taxes, including on trucks and cellphone towers. It has also imposed the jizya (poll tax) on Christian communities under its control…

It sounds as though ISIS has matured beyond the traditional jihadist outlook of a spurned lover (“If I can’t have you, no one will”). It has realized that nine-tenths of the battle is in “staying power,” and that it will be far easier to govern if there is infrastructure in place to keep the economy and society operating after all the dust settles. This strategic thoughtfulness suggests, once again, that state sponsors such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar are coaching ISIS’s leaders, or that Saddam’s old flag officers are mixed in ISIS’s shura council, or both.

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