U.S. and coalition warplanes have launched a rapidly intensifying air campaign against the Islamic State’s oil wells, refineries, and pump stations in recent days, mounting combat missions designed to incinerate tanker trucks and knock out the facilities that form the backbone of the group’s oil-smuggling racket.
The air raids are meant to wreck the Islamic State’s ability to profit off captured oil fields, but even if the strikes work, the extremists will have plenty of cash on hand. That’s because the militant group’s most important revenue stream comes not from crude oil but from extorting money from the millions of people who live under its brutal rule in territory seized in Iraq and Syria.
In July, Daniel Glaser, the assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the U.S. Treasury Department, said the Islamic State had a massive one-time cash infusion from the dozens of banks it seized in Mosul, Iraq, in 2014. The group’s biggest ongoing source of money, however, comes from something quite different: extortion. Forcing the 8 million people under its thumb to pay extortion fees nets the Islamic State hundreds of millions of dollars a year, Glaser said, with the militants requiring payments for everything from garbage pickup to heating oil to road tolls.
Read the full article at Foreign Policy.