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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?