ISIS Finances

Who Pays for ISIS in Libya?

August 24, 2016

EOIL’s first major publication drawing upon our thousands of pages of primary source materials and hundreds of categorized webposts dating back to 2014, has been released by the Norwegian think tank, Hate Speech International.

In the report  “Who pays for ISIS in Libya?” (which you can access by clicking here or download the pdf version here) James Roslington and Jason Pack look at the Libyan group’s sources of seed capital and how its financial model differs in key ways from that of the parent organization in Iraq and Syria.

We conclude that ISIS’s financing mechanism in Libya appears to have failed long before the local group suffered its military reversals over the past few months. The Libya case study also reveals the importance of financing to ISIS’s and other jihadi organisations’ sustainability and organizational models throughout the world.

Our findings are also timely. As Sirte is being progressively liberated, ISIS lucre is being uncovered.  We write:

As central Sirte was falling to anti-ISIS fighters in late August 2016, they discovered various caches of ISIS loot acquired from Sirte’s formerly wealthy class in mid-2015 which revealed quite a bit about how the group acquired its war chest. Gold, jewelry, and foreign cash were stashed in ISIS’s so-called Dar al-Muhasaba (Accounting Department).

These seizures are reminiscent of how the Nazi regime utilized pillaged Jewish property — both doling it out as favours to loyalists and using it for state building purposes. Also reminiscent of totalitarian regimes is the extent to which groups of Sirte’s inhabitants that were willing to acquiesce to ISIS’s state building efforts could benefit from them financially. The key to getting on ISIS’s good side was paying tax and adhering to its social norms.

RUSI held a launch of this paper at 61 Whitehall, London on September 5th.  Presentation of the research findings and their implications for policymakers in the UK and across Europe was followed by a panel discussion with Mary Fitzgerald and Abdul Rahman al-Ageli about the current situation in Libya and the ongoing military campaign against ISIS more widely. The discussion was chaired by report author Jason Pack.  We are following this up with other events in DC and Oslo about ISIS’s finances.