Friday, March 20, 2015

Blog 5 -ISIS Is the World's Richest Terror Group, But Spending Money Fast

New analysis by the U.S. intelligence community shows that ISIS is now the richest terror group in the world, thanks to a 2014 raid on an Iraqi bank that may have netted hundreds of millions of dollars. Officials who doubted initial reports of a $400 million theft have revised their estimates upward. Michael Sheehan, executive chairman of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, says ISIS is all about holding territory, which is expensive, and that support for terror attacks in the West is a lower priority, even if they grab headlines. ISIS now pays its fighters -- and bureaucrats -- from money it stole from the Central Bank of Iraq when its fighters overran Mosul and took control of the local branch last June. An executive with the Iraqi Central Bank gave a lower figure, $85 million, and U.S. intelligence officials also said privately the number was grossly inflated. But officials now think the number should be revised. According to one analyst, the total really is in the "hundreds of millions," even if $400 million is too high. That would make ISIS the richest Islamist terror group in history, with a significantly higher bank balance than al Qaeda prior to 9-11. ISIS is also spending money quickly, said the U.S. analyst, and is burning through its Mosul haul. It's uncertain how much of the bank money is still available, said the analyst, or where it is being kept. Some reports have the funds still in bank vaults under heavy guard. When ISIS took control of large swaths of Syria and Iraq last summer, the International Energy Agency estimated it had access to 3 million barrels of oil and could ship up to 30,000 barrels a day. Both those numbers have been reduced dramatically by air strikes from the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, say U.S. and IEA sources.
Clifton Coleman

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