Washington (AsiaNews) - The Islamic State " the world's wealthiest terror group, generating tens of millions of dollars a month from black market oil sales, ransoms and extortion". This was revealed by David Cohen, the US Treasury Under Secretary in charge of financial intelligence and terrorism. According to the American accounts fundamentalist leaders earn about a million dollars a day just from the sale of oil, which they now control after the military clashes that have rocked Syria and Iraq.
The problem, Cohen says, is that the group " has "amassed wealth at an unprecedented pace from different sources than most terror groups. This poses a particular problem to the United States and its allies: We have no silver bullet, no secret weapon to empty ISIL's coffers overnight. This will be a sustained fight, and we are in the early stages".
The politician adds that the Islamic State, "is different from al Qaeda does not attract most of its funds from deep-pocketed rich donors, often in Gulf countries, or from state sponsors. With the important exception of some state-sponsored terrorist organizations, ISIL is probably the best-funded terrorist organization we have confronted".
The energy market remains the largest source of income: " Oil sales alone from captured refineries are allowing the militants to produce some 50,000 barrels a day sold "at substantially discounted prices to a variety of middle men, including some from Turkey, who then transport the oil to be resold". Even the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is battling militants, "has made an arrangement to purchase oil from fields and refineries once under Syrian control".
The income generated by abductions is also notable. In 2014 alone, the Islamic terrorists through kidnappings, particularly of journalists and European hostages. Then there is the market for extortion at the expense of small business owners in the cities under the control of the Islamic State, forced to pay what is termed "a sophisticated extortion racket."
One of the most sensitive aspects is the Arab Gulf States' support of the Islamic militants. According to Cohen, "Gulf countries are "enormously important in the anti-ISIL coalition for a whole variety of reasons, including the counter-financing aspect." Significant progress has been made in countries like Saudi and the United Arab Emirates, Cohen said, both nations he has visited in the push against IS. But in Qatar and Kuwait, seen in the past as "permissive jurisdictions for terrorist financing... there is more work to be done".
In fact, the Gulf countries have been the driving force in the arms race in recent years, and many believe this market hides the weapons supply and money laundering of various terrorist groups. These, which originally targeted the regimes in the area, have been transformed over time into open threats to civil society and minorities. Among the biggest arms dealers in the area is the American company Lockheed Martin, which signed a billion dollar contract in February 2013 with Saudi Arabia.