Wednesday 7 October 2015

Leaked documents Indicate ISIL Revenues for Deir-az-Zor Province in Jan 2015

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi has published on the 'Jihadology' blog a text called 'Unseen Islamic State Financial Accounts for Deir az-Zor Province'. He points out that there is little support for the idea that private Gulf Arab funding lies behind ISIL, it now seems that the group is not dependent on foreign donors in any meaningful way. It now seems that it gains funding from resources within the territories it operates, including taxation, sales of oil and gas, antiquities and the like. Somehow (how?) he has obtained some leaked documents from ISIL’s Diwan Bayt al-Mal (financial ministry) in oil-rich eastern Syria’s Deir az-Zor province (Wilayat al-Kheir) giving "a first time view of IS budgets by its own account for the month of Rabi’ al-Awal 1436 AH (c. 23 December 2014-22 January 2015)". There is a breakdown of figures indicating that 28% of the revenue comes from oil and gas (c. 66,000 dollars a day), 24% from taxes and 44.7%  of the income actually comes from confiscations of property and money. But 64% of the expenditure of the 'state' is on its security apparatus - soldiers' salary, police, and military bases.

Al-Tamimi points out that these figures suggest that "conceptions of IS income need to have a more sober and realistic perspective on the role oil and gas revenues" and "one should dismiss accounts that portray IS’ predecessors as being suddenly enriched from eastern Syrian oilfields and antiquities beginning in late 2012, based on hearsay about alleged computer flash sticks".
The sale of antiquities under the authority of the antiquities subdivision of the Diwan al-Rikaz is not explicitly mentioned in the accounts here, but it is most likely included within taxation as part of the IS bureaucratic structure.
The total suggests that income is 1,988,000 dollars a month, which means taxation would be about 765000 dollars, or which some would be the "khums" postulated for antiquities. What proportion is difficult to say, but note the values suggested by the receipts in the Abu Sayyaf cache for the same period as this leaked document. "Two of the individual transactions presented from December 2014 illustrate tax payments of more than $10,000, while [a] third constitutes a little over $1000" but these are just three receipts which account for an unknown proportion of the antiquities trade in the same province for a period of ten days. This would suggest that at least 30000 dollars of tax (so that's about one sixth of the total taxation) comes from the sale of antiquities.  According to Zack Beauchamp:
ISIL's reliance on extorting the people under its control isn't sustainable. That's not just because it is likely alienating those populations and exacerbating the risk of any uprising. It's also because you can only tax and steal from Syrians and Iraqis for so long before there's nothing more to take. [...] ISIL, then, can't keep up this funding model forever. "It is theft that is filling ISIL coffers, not any kind of functioning economy," reporters at Germany's Die Zeit concluded after a separate, weeks-long investigation into ISIL funding. "The caliphate is unsustainable."
More importantly, where did the  Al-Tamimi documents com from? Are they authentic? Can they be relied on? Were they 'leaked' from the Abu Sayyaf archives? Can they be treated as independent sources, or do they come from the same sources as the Abu Sayyaf material? 

See also: Zack Beauchamp, 'These leaked records cast light on how ISIS makes its money', Vox October 7, 2015.

Vignette: Jihadist money tree.

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