International Security

How the Islamic State Made Its Billions

Crude oil

© Shutterstock

November 15, 2015 23:55 EDT

Is oil from IS-controlled fields being mixed in with legitimate exports to Europe?

The Islamic State (IS) has moved through the Middle East over the course of the past year in a persistent attempt to establish a caliphate. With over 30,000 fighters on its payroll, including their families, jihad is an expensive business.

IS has made its estimated $2 billion fortune on bank seizures, ransom payouts and the illegal antiques trade, as well as taxation and extortion. But oil has been at the core of the Islamic State’s money-making machine, bringing in an estimated $100 million in 2014.

In an ironic twist, the group’s number one enemy, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose war machine needs oil as much as the Islamic State needs cash, is the top buyer of IS crude.

Channel 4 News tracks the supply chain of oil produced in IS-controlled fields in Syria to Turkey, where it becomes mixed with legitimate oil and then onto Europe.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Bahri Altay /

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