ISIS runs out of other people's money

How's ISIS doing these days?

Apparently not well – according to Foreign Policy, its revenues are down 80% since 2015.

The group's apparent collapse is backed up a study released Thursday morning that found three years after Islamic State declared its caliphate on parts of Iraq and Syria, it has lost 80 percent of its revenue and roughly two thirds of its territory. The report, by IHS Markit, a London-based information and analytics group, found the Islamic State's average monthly revenue has fallen dramatically from $81 million in the second quarter of 2015 to $16 million in the second quarter of 2017 – an 80 percent drop.

As money runs out, so does power and legitimacy, particularly in the hard-realities world of the Middle East.  It has to mean that the end is near.  It's always a matter of money.

To paraphrase the late great Lady Thatcher, the terrorists are running out of other people's money.  Foreign policy shows that that "income" is based on rent-seeking and comes in multiple bad flavors:

Much of this money is raised through the "taxes" the group imposes on those who live within its territory. This included an $800-per-truck levy on vehicles entering Iraq from Jordan and Syria, a 5 percent tax collected for social welfare and salaries, a $200 road tax on drivers in northern Iraq, a 50 percent tax for the ability to loot Raqqa's archaeological sites, and a 20 percent tax at similar sites in Aleppo, according to the Thomson Reuters study. Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, has said that the Islamic State earns up to $100 million a year in the illicit artifact trade.

In addition, garbage pickup, heating oil, and electricity generators were all taxed. These payments generated up to $30 million each month, according to Thomson Reuters. A 2015 report by the New York Times, supported with data from Rand Corp., put annual tax and extortion revenue higher, at $600 million in 2014.

Columb Strack, a senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit, which produced the report, said the key reason was loss of territory.

What's striking about that statement about land and the fact that it comes down to money, according to the study, is how conventional ISIS is an enemy.  Up until now, ISIS has always been portrayed as an all powerful entity that engaged in unconventional warfare that didn't follow the normal rules and thus was ill suited as a foe or the West, which has always followed the conventional rules.  It wasn't the case at all.

Take out its leadership, take away its land, and shut off its money stream, and there isn't much left of this group.

The lead lining, however, according to the study, is that ISIS will likely take its show on the road, meaning launching more terror attacks in the U.S. and Europe.  The destruction of this group is therefore imperative.  But we know now that it pretty well comes down to land and other people's money.

How's ISIS doing these days?

Apparently not well – according to Foreign Policy, its revenues are down 80% since 2015.

The group's apparent collapse is backed up a study released Thursday morning that found three years after Islamic State declared its caliphate on parts of Iraq and Syria, it has lost 80 percent of its revenue and roughly two thirds of its territory. The report, by IHS Markit, a London-based information and analytics group, found the Islamic State's average monthly revenue has fallen dramatically from $81 million in the second quarter of 2015 to $16 million in the second quarter of 2017 – an 80 percent drop.

As money runs out, so does power and legitimacy, particularly in the hard-realities world of the Middle East.  It has to mean that the end is near.  It's always a matter of money.

To paraphrase the late great Lady Thatcher, the terrorists are running out of other people's money.  Foreign policy shows that that "income" is based on rent-seeking and comes in multiple bad flavors:

Much of this money is raised through the "taxes" the group imposes on those who live within its territory. This included an $800-per-truck levy on vehicles entering Iraq from Jordan and Syria, a 5 percent tax collected for social welfare and salaries, a $200 road tax on drivers in northern Iraq, a 50 percent tax for the ability to loot Raqqa's archaeological sites, and a 20 percent tax at similar sites in Aleppo, according to the Thomson Reuters study. Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, has said that the Islamic State earns up to $100 million a year in the illicit artifact trade.

In addition, garbage pickup, heating oil, and electricity generators were all taxed. These payments generated up to $30 million each month, according to Thomson Reuters. A 2015 report by the New York Times, supported with data from Rand Corp., put annual tax and extortion revenue higher, at $600 million in 2014.

Columb Strack, a senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit, which produced the report, said the key reason was loss of territory.

What's striking about that statement about land and the fact that it comes down to money, according to the study, is how conventional ISIS is an enemy.  Up until now, ISIS has always been portrayed as an all powerful entity that engaged in unconventional warfare that didn't follow the normal rules and thus was ill suited as a foe or the West, which has always followed the conventional rules.  It wasn't the case at all.

Take out its leadership, take away its land, and shut off its money stream, and there isn't much left of this group.

The lead lining, however, according to the study, is that ISIS will likely take its show on the road, meaning launching more terror attacks in the U.S. and Europe.  The destruction of this group is therefore imperative.  But we know now that it pretty well comes down to land and other people's money.

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