December 15, 2015

The Billion-Dollar Caliphate

By Elizabeth Rosenberg

Source: Foreign Policy

Journalist(s) Colum Lynch, David Francis

Last month, U.S. fighter jets unleashed airstrikes against oil fields, refineries, and hundreds of tanker trucks near the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. Dubbed Operation Tidal Wave II, the attacks were the latest phase in a campaign to bomb the Islamic State into bankruptcy, striking at the heart of the black-market economy and extortionist tax system that have underwritten the salaries of tens of thousands of extremist fighters.

But the Islamic State has proved resilient, developing a diversified economy to bankroll the costs of its burgeoning caliphate. According to a 2014 Thomson Reuters study, the terrorist group has more than $2 trillion in assets under its control, with an annual income of $2.9 billion. 

Much of this money is raised through the “taxes” the group imposes on those who live within its territory. This includes an $800-per-truck levy on vehicles entering Iraq from Jordan and Syria, a 5 percent tax collected for social welfare and salaries, a $200 road tax on drivers in northern Iraq, a 50 percent tax for the ability to loot Raqqa’s archaeological sites, and a 20 percent tax at similar sites in Aleppo, according to the Thomson Reuters study. Additionally, non-Muslims must pay a religious protection fee known as jizya.

Read the full article at Foreign Policy.

  • Elizabeth Rosenberg

    Senior Fellow and Director, Energy, Economics and Security Program

    Elizabeth Rosenberg is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Energy, Economics and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. In this capacity, she publishes an...