8 Dec 2015

IS making $US80m per month

11:26 am on 8 December 2015

Islamic State receives around $US80 million per month in funding, mainly from enforced tax, confiscated assets and oil revenue from the areas it controls in Syria and Iraq, a new report suggests.

IS flag

Photo: AFP

IHS Inc., a British based financial monitor, has analysed open source intelligence, including social media, and estimates around 50 percent comes from taxation and confiscation, while around 43 percent comes from oil revenue. Drug smuggling, the sale of electricity and donations make up the remainder.

A senior analyst at IHS, Columb Strack, said its analysis indicates that the value of external donations to the Islamic State is minimal, compared with other revenue sources.

"Unlike al-Qaeda, the Islamic State has not been dependent on money from foreign donors, to avoid leaving it vulnerable to their influence," said Mr Strack.

Six sources of revenues

The Islamic State maintains at least six main sources of revenues: production and smuggling of oil and gas; taxation on the profits of all the commercial activities held in areas under its control; confiscation of land and properties; trafficking of drugs and antiquities; criminal activities such as bank robbery and kidnap for ransom; and state-run businesses, such as running small enterprises including transport companies or real estate agencies.

"One of the Islamic State's main sources of income comes from taxation on economic activity and basic services, including electricity, mobile phone networks, internet access, retail, industry and agriculture, within territory it controls... they charge a 20 percent tax on all services," said Ludovico Carlino, senior analyst at IHS.

The lawlessness in Syria and in western Iraq has facilitated the group's takeover over of normal functions of the state, complemented by its exploitation of existing criminal and smuggling networks and the dependence of the local population on black markets.

"Its business model, which is heavily focused on intermediaries and taking percentage cuts, also means that the Islamic State is able to make profits from areas and sectors where it is not directly involved," Mr Carlino said.

Coalition curbs spending

"According to information gathered from Arabic-language social media, and our in country source network, efforts to target the Islamic State's sources of revenue are paying off," Mr Strack said.

The US-led coalition has focused primarily on disrupting the Islamic State's oil income, which makes up about 43 percent of overall revenue. Airstrikes have significantly degraded the group's refining capacity, and ability to transport oil via tanker convoys.

"Tax revenues are much harder for the US-led coalition to target without having a substantial negative impact on the civilian population, and would most likely be counterproductive," he said.

While the Islamic State's refining capacity has been largely destroyed, there is likely to be some reluctance to completely destroy oil wells, given the risk of irreversible damage to the fields, and the potential environmental impact.

Trouble balancing budget

There are early indications that the group is struggling to balance its budget, with reports of cuts to fighters' salaries, price hikes on electricity and other basic services, and the introduction of new agricultural taxes, according to the IHS Conflict Monitor.

Although the Islamic State retains its capacity to produce oil, its loss of easy access to Turkey after its defeat in Tal Abyad, and the efforts by Turkish authorities to stop smuggling activities along its border with Syria, have gradually forced the group to rely increasingly on the internal markets in Syria and Iraq to smuggle and sell oil.

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