Where does Isis get its money and weapons from?

In the UK’s discussions this week about appropriate responses to Isis/Daesh questions have been asked not only about bombing and ground troops, but also about supply lines of weapons, money and people. A brief examination of news reporting on these issues suggest that  a ‘follow the things’ approach to understanding and combatting Isis/Daesh has been emerging over the past year. We’re using this post to begin to piece its elements together. Follow the links to flesh out the stories.

Corbyn’s questions

“[UK Labour Party leader] Jeremy Corbyn posed a series of rhetorical questions when asked whether bombing Isis following the Paris terror attacks would make a significant difference to the situation. In an interview with Lorraine Kelly on ITV, [he] answered “probably not”, adding: “Who is funding Isis? Who is arming Turkey? Who is providing safe havens for ISIS? You have to ask questions about the arms everyone has sold in the region. … So where does Isis get its money, guns and bombs, both in Europe and in the Middle East?” (Brooks-Pollock 2015 np link).


“An independent arms monitoring group has collected evidence that fighters in the Islamic State (IS) group … are using weapons and ammunition manufactured in at least 21 different countries, including China, Russia, and the United States” (Hart & Smith 2014 np link).


“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” (Solomon, Kwong & Bernard 2015 np link).


“Within the territory it controls, ISIS needs access to banks to avoid the risky business of operating entirely in cash, which is bulky and vulnerable to theft. It also needs such access abroad to facilitate the movement of foreign fighters and fund potential external operations” (Levitt 2015 np link).


“The number of foreign fighters traveling to Iraq and Syria, mostly to fight alongside the Islamic State, has grown to 20,000 — up more than 5,000 from previous estimates made in October, according to the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR)” (Sharma 2015 np link)

Sources & additional reading

Angelovski, I., Patrucic, M. &  Marzouk, L. (2016) Revealed: the £1bn of weapons flowing from Europe to Middle East. The Guardian 27 July (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/27/weapons-flowing-eastern-europe-middle-east-revealed-arms-trade-syria?CMP=share_btn_tw last accessed 28 July 2016)

Anon (2014) Islamic State ammunition in Iraq & Syria. London: Conflict Armament Research: (http://www.conflictarm.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Dispatch_IS_Iraq_Syria_Ammunition.pdf last accessed 3 December 2015)

Brooks-Pollock, T. (2015) Paris attacks: Where does Isis get its money and weapons from? The Independent 16 November (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/paris-attacks-where-does-isis-get-its-money-and-arms-a6736716.html last accessed 3 December 2015)

Hart, J & Smith, J. (2014) Where Does the Islamic State Get Its Weapons? Foreign policy 6 October (http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/10/06/where-does-the-islamic-state-get-its-weapons/ last accessed 3 December 2015)

Hille, K. (2015) Russia accuses Erdogan of profiting from oil trade with Isis. Financial Times 2 December (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/404bbbb4-990b-11e5-9228-87e603d47bdc.html#axzz3tGKWVAmI last accessed 3 December 2015)

Levitt, M. (2015) Here’s how ISIS still has access to the global financial system. Business insider  24 March (http://uk.businessinsider.com/heres-how-isis-keeps-up-its-access-to-the-global-financial-system-2015-3 last accessed 3 December 2015)

Noble, J. & Murray Brown, J. (2015) UK’s first air strikes on Syria target Isis oilfields. Financial Times 3 December (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/735eb4c8-998f-11e5-9228-87e603d47bdc.html#axzz3tGKWVAmI last accessed 3 December 2015)

Sharma, S. (2015) Map: How the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria has surged since October. Washington Post  27 January (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/01/27/map-how-the-flow-of-foreign-fighters-to-iraq-and-syria-has-surged-since-october/ last accessed 3 December 2015)


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