There are several different funding channels that are currently generating the capital ISIS needs to carry out their terrorist attacks. Right now the most common fundraising efforts stem from: antiquities trafficking, kidnappings, private donations and oil sales.
ISIS has been selling artifacts and other works of significance on the black market. These antique artifacts are from ancient Mesopotamia, which is one of the earliest known organized societies.
Dr. Michael D. Danti, an expert for the American Schools of Oriental Research, said that selling these artifacts has led to “the worst cultural-heritage crisis since World War II.”
There is currently no data backing up just how much money ISIS has raised through this form of trafficking, but it is apparent that ISIS has an organized operation.
“Over the last 16 months, ISIS has developed a highly organized approach to looting, trafficking, and selling antiquities and other cultural property for funding,” Dr. Danti said. “To ISIS, antiquities are natural resources to be mined from the ground or pilfered from cultural repositories.”
It is apparent that ISIS will do whatever they need to in order to carry out their violent mission. The terrorist group is capturing people in an attempt to collect a ransom upon their safe return. ISIS has kidnapped Americans and when ransom payments are not made, they have executed their victims and posted the videos online.
John Cassara, a former special agent for the U.S. Treasury Department said that ISIS has kidnapped “multi-hundreds, if not thousands of victims,” in an attempt to raise money. Cassava also noted that an estimated $45 million has been collected through kidnapping payments in 2014 according to the Financial Action Task Force report.
Due to the financial success the kidnappings have produced, Cassara expects ISIS to continue these practices as part of a “vicious cycle” as long as ransoms are paid. This has led to a discussion amongst lawmakers regarding whether or not the United States should pay ransoms for kidnapped citizens.
ISIS also heavily depends on private donations from wealthy individuals from different countries around the world. Dr. Weinberg stated that four U.S. allies have “failed to effectively obstruct the flow of [private donations] and to try punishing its practitioners.”
Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are the four U.S. allies that have failed to keep the funneling of funds to ISIS from taking place, “despite promises to do so.” Dr. Weinberg went on further to cite “dozens of examples of such negligence.”
To combat these issues, Dr. Weinberg made the argument that, “the U.S. should develop a broad range of options for when our allies refuse to do the right things versus terror financiers.”
According to Dr. David Andrew Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, ISIS makes more money off of oil sales than they do through their kidnapping practices.
“ISIS actually makes more money off of oil sales,” Dr. Weinberg testified, “but ransoms have helped al-Qaeda conquer that territory in the first place.”