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We know ISIS makes money — gobs of it — from oil. U.S. Treasury Department officials believe the terrorist organization makes up to $500 million a year selling oil on the black market.
You see, ISIS owns most of the oil fields in Syria. It transports the oil through tankers that are sold locally. Even though the Syrian government is ISIS' sworn enemy, that hasn't stopped the terror group from selling directly to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's regime, according to CBS News.
The terrorist group also smuggles oil over the borders to Iraq and Turkey.
That's exactly why U.S. and coalition planes have bombed ISIS' controlled oil refineries in Syria since 2014. They want to cut down on this massive revenue source.
The rest comes from a single, surprising source of wealth that generates three times the amount of revenue oil does for ISIS…
ISIS Makes 75% of Its Money from This Sinister Source
A leaked ISIS budget obtained by NPR in December 2015 showcased ISIS' revenue and expenditures for January 2015 from an unnamed province. It turns out that oil and gas only made up about 25% of ISIS' income.
While the group certainly profits from oil, its most nefarious and lucrative revenue source is this:
Illegal taxes and confiscations.
According to the leaked document, taxes and confiscations make up 75% of the income ISIS brings in.
If you want to operate a business or drive on a road in an area occupied by ISIS, you're going to have to pay taxes.
For instance, the group forced telecommunications companies that had relay towers in its controlled zones to pay taxes. Those who refused were either abducted or murdered, according to Forbes.
Taxing innocent people who are just trying to make a living is bad enough, but it's confiscations that made up 44.7% of ISIS' income in just one month…
That's right. ISIS makes most of its money by stealing from people. The leaked document actually itemized everything ISIS stole in the month of January:
- 17 houses
- 80 cars
- 36 trucks
- 180 dunams (acres) of land
- 1,200 cases of cigarettes
- 1,320 sheep
- 50 cows
- $480,000 in material sums
Remember, those confiscations were just from one province.
While attacks on oil refineries will cut into ISIS' income stream, it's clear where the terrorist organization is making the majority of its money — and there may be no way to stop it.
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- CBS News: How Much Does Targeting Oil Sales Hurt ISIS?
- NPR: Leaked Budget Document Provides Glimpse into How ISIS Makes Money