A top US Treasury Department official says ISIS has made more than $500 million in the illegal oil trade. He also identified the group’s “primary customer.”
In an interview with the BBC, Adam Szubin, Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said the government of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is the group’s top customer in the oil trade. This despite the fact that the regime is in throes of an intense, ongoing battle against the terrorist group. If Szubin is right, then indeed oil talks more than ideology in this case.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
“The two are trying to slaughter each other and they are still engaged in millions and millions of dollars of trade,” Szubin said about Syria and ISIS, in comments reported by Reuters.
He added that while some of the oil produced in ISIS-held territory has made its way to Kurdish-held areas and Turkey, the “far greater amount” ended up in regions controlled by Assad.
“Our sense is that ISIL is taking its profits basically at the wellhead,” Szubin said, in remarks prepared for delivery at the Chatham House international affairs think tank in London, “and so while you do have ISIL oil ending up in a variety of different places that’s not really the pressure we want when it comes to stemming the flow of funding – it really comes down to taking down their infrastructure.”
Szubin also said ISIS had also stolen up to $1 billion from banks in the territory it holds.
For over a year, a US-led coalition has been striking ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, including oil facilities. Pentagon officials announced Thursday that the group’s finance chief was recently killed in one of these bombing campaigns.
Szubin said ISIS is estimated to be making as much as $40 million per month from the oil trade, including from customers in Turkey. He added that cutting off the group’s revenue was an essential component of the coalition’s strategy to defeat ISIS.
Adam Szubin, Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
Earlier this Fall, the US-led coalition launched Operation Tidal Wave 2, aimed at more intense airstrikes on ISIS-controlled oil infrastructure.
According to UK defence consultancy IHS, the group’s revenue is now about $80 million a month, mainly derived from the oil trade. Other revenue sources include drug and antique smuggling, taxation, robbery, electricity sales and kidnapping.