Oil, Extortion Still Paying Off for ISIS

By Patrick Johnston

Patrick B. Johnston is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. His research and analysis focuses on terrorism, insurgency, illicit economies, and threat finance, with particular expertise on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and conflict in the Philippines, as well as U.S. intelligence policy issues.

As ISIS loses territory across Syria and Iraq, its capacity to generate revenue has declined drastically. Nonetheless, ISIS continues to profit from its oil industry, black market antiquities trading, and taxing and extorting local populations under its control. The U.S. government has worked with allies in the region to try and cut off ISIS financing, albeit with mixed results. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with Patrick Johnston, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and expert on ISIS financing, to discuss the group’s primary sources of income and how the U.S. and its partners can more effectively counter ISIS’ financing.

The Cipher Brief: ISIS has generated significant revenue from a variety of sources including oil, antiquities trading and the taxation of local populations to name a few. But with ISIS rapidly losing territory across Iraq and Syria, where does most of its revenue now come from?

“The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

Access all of The Cipher Brief’s national security-focused expert insight by becoming a Cipher Brief Subscriber+ Member.


Related Articles