The Islamic State’s Trouser Guide
New York Times data journalism shows the organization was less funded by oil than previously believed
An analysis begun 15 months ago and now published by The New York Times of some 15.000 documents from the Islamic State (IS) shows that the organization financed itself primarily through taxes: these it levied in the areas it controlled between 2014 and 2017 not only in the form of a general compulsory zakat levy, but also on the production and processing of, trade in, and even the transport of agricultural and other goods. With grain alone, the IS is said to have collected 1.9 million dollars a day at the height of its power.
“Shiites, Apostates, Christians, Alawites and Yezidis” The IS expropriated the property not through taxes, but directly, as an instruction to officials shows. Dispossessed agricultural good “Sunni” the IS by leasing. A “Ministry for Spoils of War” even recycled the furniture of those who had been displaced or killed “Incredible” and distributed it, among others, to Salafists who had moved from Europe.
For example, Kahina el-H received., the wife of one of the Bataclan terrorists, who came from France, a rent- and energy-free apartment in which “not even a fork” missing, as she enthusiastically reported to her former teacher in an e-mail. In paper letters that did not burn when the ministry was destroyed, IS supporters ask for plasma TVs and washing machines, among other things.
Six times as much money from taxes as from ol
According to the New York Times, analysis of financial flows showed that IS made six times as much money from taxes as it did from the sale of oil from conquered areas in northern Iraq and western Syria, which had previously been thought to be a much more important source of revenue: Analysts from Dubai and Luay al-Khatteeb of the Brookings Institution think tank estimated in the fall of 2014 that oil revenues were as high as $3 million a day; the U.S. Treasury estimated that same year that the eleven major sources of oil in Syria and Iraq controlled by the terrorist caliphate at the time were generating revenues of about $1 million a day.
The fact that the Treasury (as it itself admitted) could hardly rely on reliable figures was already indicated by the rather round sum (cf. Syria: Battle for the Last Ol Field). The expectation that the IS is financed in large part by oil sales was also the basis for the massive bombardment of oil facilities, refineries and convoys (cf. Syria: U.S. launches air offensive on oil fields under IS control).
Compulsory attendance and penalties
Tax revenue bubbles up partly because Salafists keep Iraqi and Syrian administrators working. In Mosul, shortly after the capture of the city, they informed them with loudspeaker trucks that they had to report to their workplaces, where attendance was checked with signature lists. This was followed by telephone calls to ensure that no one stayed at home. Those who wanted to call in sick because of back pain were supposedly told that they would come in person and take care of their backs.
The penalties imposed on officials for misconduct seem to have contributed to an impression among the population reminiscent of the revival after the fall of Hitler’s Germany: according to Mosul residents, the water supply, road traffic, garbage collection, electricity supply and administration functioned more smoothly during the reign of terror than before or since.
At the beginning of the new regime, officials had to paint over the symbols of the old ones on letterheads and forms with felt-tip pens “Seal of the Prophet”. In addition, the IS named 14 authorities, referring to a printout from the 7. century in “Diwans” at.
Later, they also opened new state institutions, including the Hisba, the morality police. Among other things, they checked that the officers did not shave their beards and did not wear pants that reached to or above the bones. To illustrate how wives should short their husbands’ pants, the agency loved to make a brochure.
The team that produced the documents for the New York Times The experts who evaluated the data included Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, who has built up his own archive on the Islamic State, the Yale Islam expert Mara Revkin, and employees of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. Leading the way was correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, who plans to broadcast more findings than those now published in her podcast. The documents will then be made available to other researchers.