Posts Tagged ‘oil’

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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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What’s really behind the Saudi rewards program

February 16, 2014

Saudi Arabia says it will offer rewards to people within the kingdom who provide evidence about terrorist financing that leads to a conviction (hat tip to El Grillo).

It has been rumored that the maneuver is designed to reign in Saudi-backed elements among the Syrian rebels whom Saudi Arabia can no longer control.

Money Jihad suspects that the initiative, which resembles the U.S. Rewards for Justice program, is a Saudi smokescreen designed to placate Western diplomats, U.S. Treasury officials, and international financial watchdog FATF.

Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the first instance of Saudi deception about a counter-terror finance initiative.

In 2008, Saudi Arabia announced that its central bank, SAMA, would review charitable contributions from Saudi Arabia overseas (which are rife with donations to terrorist causes), but meaningful oversight has never occurred.  Saudi public statements about the SAMA program have been documented to be false.

In 2010, Saudi Arabia’s ulema council issued a ruling against terrorism, but the very same ruling defended zakat, which has often been used by wealthy Saudis to finance terrorist causes.  Saudi pronouncements against terrorism have often focused on protecting its own oil and gas infrastructure, and have pointedly excluded suicide bombers in Israel or Iraq from its definition of terrorism.

In 2014 we are told that Saudi Arabia will pay rewards to those who provide information about terror finance.  If this is actually enforced, Money Jihad predicts that it will be used against Shia dissidents, particularly in its oil rich, Shia-dominant Eastern Province (see related commentary by Amy Myers Jaffe here), or against those who transfer money to Shias in Bahrain or Syria.

It will not be used to curtail Saudi money flowing to Somalia, Bangladesh, Chechnya, or any of the other countries where Saudi Arabia has strategic interests.

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Saudis spooked by sputtering oil prices

October 31, 2013

Sweeter news than any Halloween candy, the T. Boone Pickens’s blog is reporting that the Gulf monarchies are suffering from increased U.S. energy production that has helped keep the global oil price in check.

Perhaps the Saudis wanted the U.S. to bomb Syria, not just because it would help Saudi-sponsored rebels to defeat the Shia-backed Alawite regime in Damascus, because it would have helped increase instability in the Middle East and drive up oil market prices.

The next time our heads of state meet, U.S. presidents won’t have to hold hands with or bow to the Saudi king.

From the Daily Pickens on Oct. 20:

Arab Sheiks Need – And Want – Higher Oil Prices

As U.S. oil and gas production numbers continue to climb, oil prices have leveled off. In fact, for the first time in three years, some American consumers are seeing the price of gasoline at the pump dip below $3 a gallon.

And that’s got Arab sheiks worried.

According to The New York Times – and T. Boone Pickens – the social commitments of the monarchies in the Persian Gulf require hundreds of billions of dollars each year. But lower oil prices and diminishing reserves are making that increasingly difficult, especially for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

Thus, on top of declining oil reserves, rapidly rising domestic energy consumption and increasing energy-supply diversification among its allies, the kingdom’s spiraling spending is also fast raising the break-even oil price for Saudi Arabia and all five of the other Gulf monarchies; in other words, the price of a barrel of oil that these states need in order to balance their books is getting higher and higher. In Bahrain it’s now over $115 (far higher than yesterday’s price of around $102) while in Oman it’s up to $104.

There is no easy short-term fix for this drain on the Saudi treasury.

Moreover, spending for stability’s sake in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies will necessarily be quite short-lived. The kingdom pledged a record-breaking $500 billion for “welfare” this year — most to be spent on social security subsidies and new public sector jobs.

Such vast wealth distribution can’t be kept going for much longer. That level of public expenditure is not sustainable and it flies in the face of decades of efforts to promote better fiscal accountability in the kingdom and wean the population off handouts and public-sector entitlement.

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