Great French leader ‘Napoleon Bonaparte’ once said that “an army marches on its stomach.” This effectively means that a huge logistical network of money and weapons is required for the fighting capacity of any army. These Islamic state militants who controls vast parts of land in Iraq and Syria are no exception to the above rules stated by Great Napoleon Bonaparte. But important questions come from that; from where did these logistical networks of the Islamic State militants originate and how these are run by the militants.
Coalition aircraft’s were bombing Islamic State militants from last year but instead of showing any sign of slowdown, these militants were capturing more and more territories in Syria and Iraq. But these militants are now on the run and losing a lot of ground to the Syrian Army and its allied forces on a daily basis after the Russian bombing started in September 2015.
The main reason behind this is that the Coalition forces were bombing empty deserts while on the other hand Russian fighter jets have targeted logistical networks and command/control structures of these militants. The main reason behind shooting down the Russian SU-24 fighter jet is that Russian bombers targeted oil tankers carrying oil from ISIS controlled territories to Turkey. Those oil tankers belonged to the son of Turkish President Erdogan.
So if the West is serious about destroying ISIS then they should destroy sources of revenue of ISIS which originates from the allies of the West. ISIS militants gets money mainly from smuggling of oil and cotton from their occupied territories in Syria and Iraq. Islamic State militants also earns around 1 billion USD per year by allowing trafficking of Afghan heroin through the territories they occupy in Syria and Iraq.
But first we will talk about the most important source of revenue of Islamic State militants; oil. They smuggle this oil to Turkey from the territories under their control in Syria and Iraq. ‘Ali Edibogluan’ who is a member of the Turkish parliament opposition said in 2014 that Islamic State had smuggled oil worth more than 1 billion USD in last year into Turkey from oil fields in northern Syria and Mosul in Iraq. This oil is smuggled into Turkey by ‘BMZ’, a shipping company which is owned by ‘Bilal Erdogan’ who is the son of current the Turkish president.
Tankers of ‘BMZ’ takes oil from territories under the control of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and then heads to ‘Zahko’, a Turkish city. This oil is then refined in Turkish refineries and after refining, it is transported to Israel, as well as many Asian and European countries via pipelines from the Turkish port of Jihan. This oil is bought at a rate of 20 USD/ barrel by ‘Bilal Erdogan’ and his associates and then later it is sold at international market rate to the above stated countries.
So approximately 20 USD/barrel is made by Bilal Erdogan and his associates and in whole they have made around 2 billion USD by this illegal sale of Syrian and Iraqi oil via Turkey. The Islamic State militants receives their share of money by this oil smuggling from Turkish intelligence agency ‘MIT’, senior officials and an Israeli-Greek broker known as ‘Haj Fareed’.
This oil is being smuggled from Syria to Turkey for the last 4 years since the start of this so called ‘Arab Spring’. Some part of this smuggled oil is consumed in domestic Turkish markets also. Aerial footages taken by the Russians defense ministry also shows large convoys of tankers carrying oil headed into Turkey from Syria and Iraq.
‘Sadik Al Hiseni’ who is head of security in Diyala city of Iraq says that they have arrested many Turkish tankers carrying oil out of Iraq. ‘The New York Times’ and ‘The Guardian’ have also reported many times that Turkish mafias and some government officials are the main clients of this oil smuggled by Islamic State militants. All of the above stated proofs leaves no doubt that Turkey with other countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan are the main source of revenue for these militants.
Militants have received a lot of money not only through oil smuggling but by smuggling cotton and heroin also via Turkey. Cotton is the main crop of Syria and around 7 percent of the world’s cotton was supplied by Syria before this ongoing Western and Gulf sponsored insurgency in Syria. It is grown in fertile lands of northern Syria, right now which is mostly in the hands of terrorists groups like the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra front.
According to the Swiss newspaper ‘Tribune de Geneve’, Islamic State militants smuggles this cotton to western countries via Turkey. Around 75 percent of cotton producing land in Syria is in hands of these militants and thousands of tonnes of this cotton is shipped to European markets via Turkey every year.
Another main sources of revenue for these Islamic State militants is the smuggling of heroin and other drugs from Afghanistan to Turkey via the land they occupy in Syria and Iraq. According to the Russian Federal Drug Control Services (FSKN), these militants earns around 1 billion USD per year by facilitating the trafficking of these drugs via the land they occupy in Syria and Iraq. Viktor Ivanov, head of FSKN says that around 50 percent of Europe’s heroin comes from IS occupied territories. Majority of militants of the Islamic State are so scared that they take lots of drugs themselves before going into battle. A few days ago, Serbian police busted a racket with 16 kilogram of heroin which was shipped from Turkey to European countries. A recent report released in 2015 by the US State Department says that Turkey is the major center of trade for heroin and other drugs.
So this is how these Islamic State militants are funding their terrorists activities in Syria and Iraq. If Western countries seriously wants to destroy these militants, then they should stop their allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar from funding these terrorists.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Al-Masdar News.
Abhimanyu Kohar is an Indian youth activist and expert in West Asian Conflicts and Economics. He is leading Yuva Kranti, a group of youth activists in the Indian capital of New Delhi.
He has organized a number of national and international conferences in New Delhi and has graduated in Electronics and Communication Engineering.