February 12, 2015

How to bankrupt the Islamic State

By Peter Harrell

As Congress begins to debate a new resolution endorsing the U.S. use of military force against the Islamic State (ISIS), policymakers also need to stay focused on another key part of the fight: cutting off the terror group’s financing. 

ISIS presents sanctions officials with a different challenge than other recent targets of economic pressure, such as Russia and Iran. Those targets had deep ties to the formal financial system and to international markets, which made them susceptible to the banking and financial sanctions that the U.S. and our allies developed over the past several years. The Islamic State, by contrast, has at best limited direct access to the banking sector, given that few banks operate in ISIS territory, and no major international companies will actively contemplate business dealing with ISIS.

Yet according to the U.S. Treasury Department, ISIS is one of the richest terrorist groups in history. It derives money from extortion and shakedowns of the 6 million people who live in ISIS-controlled territory, selling oil, looting Syria’s rich cultural patrimony, and ransoming hostages.  

Read the full article at MSNBC.

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