On the southern edge of Turkey, rolling brown pastoral hills slope gently to the Syrian border, with small towns like this one dotting the horizon. The calm on this side of the border, however, belies the scene on the other side.
Just across the border in northern Syria, the Islamic extremist group known as ISIS is fighting a full-tilt battle in its effort to capture and control new territory, part of its push to create a sprawling Islamic caliphate, or separate Islamic state, modeled on the first caliphate that spread across the region in the centuries following the death of the Prophet Muhammad around 640 AD.
As ISIS fighters expand their control, it is in the border region, in villages like Besaslan, where the Islamic State group can make some of the money it needs to finance its wars. Oil-smuggling operations involving millions of barrels have recently been uncovered.
The oil comes from wells and refineries that ISIS has taken over inside northern Iraq and northern Syria, and until very recently it was easy to smuggle it into this quiet part of southern Turkey. One reason is that cheap, smuggled oil is a much-prized commodity in Turkey, where oil is so expensive that it almost doesn’t matter who is selling it, even if it’s your enemy.
In Hatay, Turkey, just a half hour’s drive away, gasoline costs roughly $7.50 per gallon.
Growing international alarm over ISIS expansion and the group’s increasingly visible atrocities — such as beheadings of Western journalists and aid workers, the videos of which are disseminated online — have brought renewed pressure on ISIS and its funding methods on the borders.
U.S.-led coalition forces just a week ago attacked and destroyed many ISIS oil facilities, precisely to cut off the group’s funding.
But the border smuggling is only one way that ISIS generates money.
The U.S. Treasury Department admits it does not have hard figures on the group’s wealth but believes ISIS reaps millions of dollars a month.
“And you have to remember their ‘burn’ rate — how much they spend — is huge, with salaries and weapons and everything,” a Treasury official said. “But on how much they have — there’s a very wide range of estimates out there. We think probably they make around $1 million per day.”
Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counter terrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, D.C., calls ISIS “the best-financed group we’ve ever seen.”
Source: CNN News
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