The Most Important Question About ISIS That Nobody Is Asking

Tyler Durden's picture

The question of how the Islamic State funds its sprawling caliphate has been discussed in the past: we first broke down the primary driver of ISIS revenue well over a year ago, in September 2014, when we explained that "ISIS uses oil wealth to help finance its terror operations."

Daily Signal's Kelsey Harkness explained the breakdown as follows:

According to the Iraq Energy Institute, an independent, nonprofit policy organization focused on Iraq’s energy sector, the army of radical Islamists controls production of 30,000 barrels of oil a day in Iraq and 50,000 barrels in Syria. By selling the oil on the black market at a discounted price of $40 per barrel (compared to about $93 per barrel in the free market), ISIS takes in $3.2 million a day.


The oil revenue, which amounts to nearly $100 million each month, allows ISIS to fund its military and terrorist attacks — and to attract more recruits from around the world, including America.

Most importantly, we added that to be successful in counterterrorism efforts, "the U.S. and its allies must “push the Islamic State out of the oil fields it has captured and disrupt its ability to smuggle the oil to foreign markets."

None of this was surprising to anyone, but what was quite surprising is that it took the allied forces over a year to take the oil revenue threat seriously and begin targeting the Islamic State's oil infrastructure in earnest.

Today, in an article titled "Why US Efforts to Cut Off Islamic State's Funds Have Failed" Bloomberg tries to explain just how it is that despite a more than a year long campaign, ISIS funding remains as strong as ever, and notes that "the latest round of airstrikes are directly related to the administration’s new math. “You have to go after the oil, and you have to do it in a serious way, and we’ve just begun to do that now,” citing Benjamin Bahney, an international policy analyst at the Rand Corp., a U.S. Department of Defense-funded think tank.

To be sure, there are other sources of revenue: Bloomberg correctly notes that "even if the U.S. finally weakens the group’s oil income, Bahney and other analysts in the U.S., the Middle East, and Europe contend, Islamic State has resources beyond crude—from selling sex slaves to ransoming hostages to plundering stolen farmland—that can likely keep it fighting for years."

Still, without a doubt, the dominant source of funds for the terrorists is oil, and not just oil, but a well-greased logistical machine that keeps thousands of barrels moving from unknown pumps to even refineries, and ultimately to smugglers who operated out of Turkey and other countries.

Here is Bloomberg:

Most often refined in Syria, the group’s oil is trucked to cities such as Mosul to provide people living under its black banner with fuel for generators and other basic needs. It’s also used to power the war machine. “They have quite an organized supply chain running fuel into Iraq and [throughout] the ‘caliphate,’ ” says Michael Knights, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, using the militant group’s religiously loaded term for itself. Because the U.S. apparently believed the real money for Islamic State came primarily via selling refined oil, rather than crude, last year’s strikes heavily targeted refineries and storage depots, says Bahney. He and other experts say that strategy missed an important shift: Militants increasingly sell raw crude to truckers and middlemen, rather than refining it themselves. So while Islamic State probably maintains some refining capacity, the majority of the oil in IS territory is refined by locals who operate thousands of rudimentary, roadside furnaces that dot the Syrian desert.

Here is where it gets interesting: Bloomberg cites Pentagon officials who acknowledge "that for more than a year they avoided striking tanker trucks to limit civilian casualties. None of these guys are ISIS. We don’t feel right vaporizing them, so we have been watching ISIS oil flowing around for a year,” says Knights. That changed on Nov. 16, when four U.S. attack planes and two gunships destroyed 116 oil trucks.

So any qualms about vaporizing "innocent civilians" promptly disappeared when the Pentagon realized that its 1+ year long campaign had been an epic debacle, that a suddenly surging ISIS was stronger as ever, and most importantly, that its critical revenue lifelines had been largely untouched for years. Perhaps they weren't innocent civilians after all.

It is still unknown if this recent crackdown on "dumping oil", or crude which dramatically lowers the price of oil in global markets - it certainly is an odd coincidence that the price of Brent and WTI began its tumble last fall, just when the Islamic State made its dramatic appearance on the world scene - will have an effect and cut off the primary source of funds to ISIS.

But what we have been wondering for months and what we hope some enterprising journalist will soon answer, is just who are the commodity trading firms that have been so generously buying millions of smuggled oil barrels procured by the Islamic State at massive discounts to market, and then reselling them to other interested parties.

In other words, who are the middlemen.

What we do know is who they may be: they are the same names that were quite prominent in the market in September when Glencore had its first, and certainly not last, near death experience: the Glencores, the Vitols, the Trafiguras, the Nobels, the Mercurias of the world.

To be sure, funding terrorist states is not something that some of the most prominent names in the list above have shied away from in the past.

Which one (or ones) are the guilty parties - those who have openly breached terrorism funding laws - we don't know: it may be one, or more of the above, or someone totally different.

At this point, however, three things are certain: whoever the commodity trading house may be that is paying ISIS-affiliated "innocent civilians" hundreds of millions of dollars for their products, they are perfect aware just who the source of this deeply discounted crude is. Crude so deeply discounted, in fact, it results in massive profits for the enterprising middleman who are engaging in openly criminal transactions.

The second certainty: whoever said middleman is, it is very well known to US intelligence services such as the NSA and CIA, and thus to the Pentagon, and thus, the US government.

The third certainty is that while the US, and Russia, and now France, are all very theatrically bombing something in the Syrian desert (nobody really knows what), the funding of ISIS continues unabated as someone keeps buying ISIS oil.

We wonder how long until someone finally asks the all important question regarding the Islamic State: who is the commodity trader breaching every known law of funding terrorism when buying ISIS crude, almost certainly with the tacit approval by various "western alliance" governments, and why is it that these governments have allowed said middleman to continue funding ISIS for as long as it has?

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Abitdodgie's picture

Why are we still asking these questions we all know its the USA.

Took Red Pill's picture

"we hope some enterprising journalist"

They don't exist! Except for

Gearoid O Colmain
MANvsMACHINE's picture

I already asked that question but a nail gun showed up at my front door so I quickly changed the topic.

Squid-puppets a-go-go's picture

I think Tyler missed the memo on this one, judging by the content above

At the G20 yesterday behind closed doors  russia said it is considering making public to 40 countries buying ISIS oil, noting that the list included some G20 countries


TruxtonSpangler's picture

The No Agenda Show posed this very question over a year ago.

HowdyDoody's picture

One middleman has been revealed.

In the fight against ISIS, Putin is taking no prisoners.

"Daesh’s smuggled oil is exported to Turkey by BMZ, a shipping company controlled by none other than Bilal Erdogan, son of “Sultan” Erdogan. At a minimum, this violates UN Security Council resolution 2170. Under the light of Putin’s message of going after anyone or any entity engaged in facilitating Daesh’s operations, Erdogan’s clan better come up with some really good excuses."


ACP's picture

Not to mention his daughter runs a hospital for ISIS terrorists and continues to bomb and execute the Kurds. Erdogan is part of the problem and needs to be assassinated.

Squid-puppets a-go-go's picture

how does a woman run a hospital for isis without getting raped by the patients?

strannick's picture


ZH is to ISIS what GATA is to gold.

Recall Turkish banks killed for similar embargo breaches

Occident Mortal's picture

The world is corrupt as fuck.

Rich white men, put their own personal funds into extreme high risk commodity projects and then bribe politicians to plough billions of public funds into military endevours to overcome their dubious ownership rights and deeply unlikely routes to market.

This whole Qatari pipeline is EXACTLY just such a corrupt scam. Some middle age billionaire white dude will be at the root of all this chaos spilt blood and misspent treasure.

ACP's picture

Yup, all blood-soaked highways lead to Soros.

strannick's picture

pretty sure Qataris are rich brown guys. 

daveO's picture

...with British and American bank accounts.

Anonymous User's picture
Anonymous User (not verified) daveO Nov 19, 2015 10:18 PM

But wait, SOROS is from another tribe...totally differen from WHITE.

Could it be the jews fault? NOT AGAIN. Couldn't be, right? After all, they are these innocent little lambs...

Nevertheless, since we know is Zionists fault, and most zionists are jew...therefore logic is irrefutable.

And look what they need all that oil for :


Rabbi's daughter Naomi Russell does Ass To Mouth after her OILY ass gets split open   [Explicit content. Click at your own risk.]


NidStyles's picture

Jews worship money. Capitalists use it as a tool to benefit their people. 

Tarshatha's picture

"Islamic State has become the world's best-funded terror group by seizing oil fields across Syria and northern Iraq, selling it to brokers in Turkey from where it has been traced to other countries in the Middle East

and apparently even to Israel."

Implied Violins's picture

Hey Tylers,

An article expounding on the how's and why's of ISIS was recently written by Brandon Smith:

Explains even more about ISIS than provided in this article, IMHO.

ATM's picture

You haven't been to Africa have you. Corruption must have started there along with humans.

Rusty Shorts's picture

I've been to Africa, if you want something done, just take a bottle of Brandy to the Chief of the village. .. or Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General.

nmewn's picture

Why, why...this changes everything we thought we knew about skin color and greed! ;-)

Debt-Is-Not-Money's picture

The Tribe don't consider themselves to be white.

Slave's picture

Took the words right outta my mouth.

Manthong's picture

So let me get this straight … FACTA screws  the little ‘merican guy who tries to hold a few bucks out of the reach of the US Hydra, but ISIS trades on the international markets as if they were the Mother Theresa investment fund.

"HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom” 

All I can say is that there is a Bitcoin for that.

robobbob's picture

sorry, but I don't classify khazarian or ashkanazi as "white". nor are the leaders of saudi or qatar who are funding much of this.

you must be using the same race chart the MSM used to come up with a mexican named zimmerman as being "white"

froze25's picture

Always remember that the Majority of the masses are uninformed, will not do any research and believe anything that a Dem "leader" will tell them. The Liars at the top know this and use it. They even encourage it through the National Dept. of Education. Critical Thinking leads to independent thought so that is the last thing that is taught to children.

socalbeach's picture

Except this quote from the article which is ridiculous.  Russia has been very transparent about what they're bombing:

"The third certainty is that while the US, and Russia, and now France, are all very theatrically bombing something in the Syrian desert (nobody really knows what), the funding of ISIS continues unabated as someone keeps buying ISIS oil."

Manthong's picture

Anybody got any spare Polonium?

Questan1913's picture

And.....the French security services had been tracking some of the Paris attack terrorists for 10 years and "knew" the others??

Debt-Is-Not-Money's picture

10 years?

How long do you have to "track" someone before they end up working for you?

ersatz007's picture

How late do you have to be until you're absent?

logicalman's picture

The fact that her dad controls the cops and the military might be a factor in this.

Another thing to consider is that the people who 'run' hospitals only ever get near a patient by accident.

ALWAYS look at the money first.

That doesn't imply that I agree with your assesment of risk, by the way.


Mr. Magoo's picture

So we are to believe that ISIS/IS/ISIL/DAESH/AL QAEDA are openly running oil fields in Iraq and Syria and selling on the black market and the biggest baddest military with all the latest technology and gadgets cant stop them.

 Never underestimate the stupidity of the American people, now if I can figure out a way to cash in on that stupidity I could have an early retirement

Kayman's picture

Howdy  and ACP

I scrolled down below and apparently some people can't/don't read. 

Erdogan just built himself another palace. Gosh almighty, I wonder were all his money comes from ?  

Turkey will do everything it can to stop the creation of Kurdistan.  Erdogan wants Assad gone.  ISIS is hardly going to make a deal with Iraqi Shia's.  So lucky for ISIS, Erdogan doesn't mind getting his hands dirty for a price.

 But Russia doesn't mind incinerating Turkish truck drivers.  No wonder ISIS is flailing around stupidly blowing up Russian planes, slaughtering French civilians and beheading Chinese.

Allah is going to have to conjure up multiples of the 72 chaste goats for the coming martyrs. 

Manthong's picture

So.. were the Halliburton guys toasting each other thinking they get to do the re-build?

wulf's picture

Russia bombing some tankers:

"Well there's proof that the US' satellites aren't worth shit. A blind person with a stick would have seen those long lines of trucks buying oil, and the blind person would have ordered the strike. The US claims to have all these fantastic satellites, and it claims to have been bombing ISIS for more than a year, yet these oil selling activities have expanded. That tells me one of two possible things. 1. The US has shit satellites. That's why it so relies an Facebook and Twitter for info on ISIS troop movements. That would also explain why there are no videos taken by ISIS showing them being attacked by US aircraft. Or ... 2. The US is in on all the illegal activity and has given it it's blessing. The US knows ISIS is making billions through the sale of oil, and didn't want to do anything about it, which means the US is supporting international terrorism?"
The_Dude's picture

I'll take 'Covert Support' for $300, Alex..

This is just the CIA simplifying its drugs for guns scheme (Iran-Contra).  Now, no moving drugs.  Just let them steal land and sell oil to buy weapons and let them wreak havok.

Again, when ISIS start blowing shit up in Tel-Aviv, I'll start debating if they are for real.

gladius17's picture
gladius17 (not verified) The_Dude Nov 19, 2015 7:54 PM

"Now, no moving drugs."

You sure about that bro?

Pure heroin has been hitting the streets here in the USA since 2012. Which, coincidentally, is when ISIS appeared out of nowhere. The heroin is coming from somewhere....and the money is going somewhere. I'm guessing it's coming from Afghanistan via the CIA, and the funds are going to ISIS.

ersatz007's picture

Ding ding ding!  Winner winner chicken dinner!


Tigg47's picture

"which means the US is supporting international terrorism" I would go one step further: US IS an international terrorist.

Gasplantguy's picture

Correct Oh Sage . Don't forget Nadhmi and Al Kaffajii! !Plus le change!

Icewater Enema's picture

Glad Tylers are bringing this up, better late than never. The Turks "allowing" oil through their country has been know for some time, here from a year ago:

The other question is: Who then sells them the arms and other supplies?

MrTouchdown's picture

If Obammy and the chicken hawks in congress aren't willing to carpet bomb orphans and widows, then we shouldn't even be paying attention to what happens in the middle east. Close shop and bring everybody home. Let the savages sort themselves out.