At the risk of overkill, I am posting these articles from the Financial Times because they provide a bit more detail about the functioning of ISIS than we usually see and because they address some most common questions I am asked about the organization, such as how are they funded, where do they get their weapons, and what is their relationship to Al Qaeda?
The first article deals with arms:
“The best sources of ammunition are Isis’s enemies. Pro-government militia in Iraq sell some supplies to black marketeers, who then sell on to Isis dealers.
Most of all, Isis fighters rely on their rivals in Syria’s three-way war between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the rebels fighting to topple both him and Isis. This is where Syrian arms dealers play a critical role.”
The second, oil:
“Isis controls most of Syria’s oil fields and crude is the militant group’s biggest single source of revenue. Here we follow the progress of a barrel of oil from extraction to end user to see how the Isis production system works, who is making money from it, and why it is proving so challenging to disrupt.”
The third looks at the tensions between ISIS and its precursor, al Qaeda:
“Isis seems obsessed with al-Qaeda, from which it split in 2013 following disagreements over the goals of jihad in Syria. Since then Isis has distinguished itself from its parent through its savagery (there is no limit to the violence it is willing to inflict) and its move to create a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.”
It is worth noting that fighting between ISIS and al Qaeda has been on the rise in both Afghanistan and Yemen, where ISIS is looking to expand it operations. ISIS is also directly courting al Shahab, an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.