In news that may not come as a surprise to some, the terrorist group ISIS is apparently running out of money. The main reason: thousands of people who have until now resided in areas controlled by ISIS are fleeing for Europe.
The refugees escaping the region include ISIS’ most skilled and talented workers, such as doctors, engineers and other professionals. The group is therefore suffering a “brain drain” as well as losing money.
At the same time that people are leaving the so-called Caliphate, the cost of supplies in Mosul, ISIS’ capital, have skyrocketed drastically. Refugee Sayf Saeed, a dental student who escaped Mosul and traveled to Baghdad early in the summer, pointed out that since ISIS took control of Mosul, the cost of fuel in the city has increased from about 30 cents per gallon to about two dollars per gallon.
He also added that Mosul’s residents are suffering devastating poverty and that, “The only relief kitchen is run by locals. Every day there’s a line round the block. They give out one meal a day to the starving.”
Another reason that the flow of cash has slowed down is because foreign donors are contributing much less to the organization since British jihadi Junaid Hussain was killed in a United States drone strike last month.
Hussain was a technical guru and responsible for much of ISIS’ recruitment, online scams and hacking which raised cash severely needed by the group. Since his death, ISIS’ online activity has significantly decreased.
In light of losing money on several fronts, ISIS is resorting to taxation in order to raise money. There is a problem with that approach however. The greater than eight million poor people who remain in the region are simply unable to pay any kind of taxes. Meanwhile, millions of others have departed, taking their money with them.
A counterterrorism analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, points out that, “The people who have highly desirable skill sets like doctors are fleeing. The oil industry is another area where [ISIS has not] preserved the level of talent that they need.” He further added that, “If people are leaving because of ISIS’ inability to provide basic governance, that calls their legitimacy into question.”
Some analysts have estimated that while ISIS earned about $1.4 billion in 2014, at least one-half of that came from robbing Iraqi banks - a one-time cash deposit. Analysts also believe that the salaries of the group’s militant fighters alone cost about $358 million per year.
As a result of the financial problems faced by ISIS, many fear that the organization will turn to its followers in other countries to carry out isolated attacks. In fact, this week alone, Malaysia raised its threat level over fears that ISIS may conduct an imminent attack.