Out of all the terrorist groups that the United States has confronted, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is now probably the best-funded, David Cohen, undersecretary for the U.S. Treasury, revealed.
ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), rakes in around $1 million a day by selling oil from territories seized by the group while at war. In addition to that, the group has also earned $20 million in ransom money collected just this year.
Other fund sources include extortion rackets, criminal activities such as robbing banks, and stealing from the natives that were held at gunpoint in Syrian and Iraqi villages controlled by the militants.
Moreover, the group used social media to solicit donations from sympathizers.
The group's brutal, blood-hungry campaign has allowed it to take over massive swaths with oil fields. If the terrorists remain uncontrolled and unstopped, they could pose a serious threat to the U.S. and its allies.
The group reportedly extracts oil from a captured territory in Iraq and Syria. The oil is then sold at discounted prices to a number of middlemen, including those from Turkey. These middlemen transport the oil for reselling.
"It also appears that some of the oil emanating from the territory where ISIL operates has been sold to Kurds in Iraq, and then resold into Turkey," says Cohen.
The Islamic State, led by Iraqi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has desired to create a caliphate or a sort of Islamic empire in the Middle East. The group initially tried to oust President Bashar Assad of Syria. However, other groups, which include the Al-Qaeda, turned against the IS because of the spate of brutal crimes even against other Muslims.
Unlike Osama Bin Laden's group, the IS has not operated in the shadows but instead seized swaths of land, controlled and took advantage of oil fields, and plundered towns and villages in the open.
"The financing of this barbaric organization allows it to continue its operations. What we have to do is degrade its abilities and, ultimately, to destroy it," says Julieta Valls Noyes, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary for European affairs.
The U.S. airstrikes continue to target the oil fields controlled by the militant group, and they have resulted in a decrease in the terrorists' oil revenues.
Cohen understands that the group collaborates with "someone who operates in the legitimate economy and who makes use of the financial system."
What the U.S. can do is to cut the group from the U.S. financial system, freeze the group's assets, and make it unable to find a bank that would transact with them.
Under Sec Cohen @CarnegieEndow: “Treasury will continue to… disrupt ISIL’s financing… with our partners… we will degrade and… defeat ISIL.”
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) October 23, 2014