(NEW YORK TIMES) — Videos of Islamic State fighters driving brand-name S.U.V.s and pickup trucks in Syria, Iraq and Libya are graphic proof that efforts to squeeze the group financially have not done nearly enough. Now that the Obama administration’s program to train and equip anti-Islamic State fighters has ended in failure, there is even more reason to double down on efforts to choke off the group’s ability to raise funds and buy supplies.
For the Islamic State, which is seeking to establish a caliphate across Iraq and Syria, money is a potential Achilles’ heel. Unlike nations like Iran, which have been under international financial sanctions and controls, the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — is not a state. It lacks traditional economic relationships, it generates the vast majority of its revenue from within the territory it controls, and the sources of its revenues are not fully understood — all of which present a difficult challenge, American officials say.
The Treasury Department is leading an international effort to disrupt trade routes, cut access to the international financial system, and impose sanctions on Islamic State leaders and anyone who assists them. Last week, the State Department offered a reward of up to $5 million for information that leads to a significant disruption of sales of oil or antiquities benefiting the group.
Advertisement - story continues below
Administration officials say they are making progress in starving the Islamic State of revenue and the ability to spend that money in world markets for military equipment and other supplies like oil production gear. But the sight of brand-name vehicles in the group’s convoys is a sure sign that something is awry, especially when Toyota, the manufacturer, says it has a policy of not selling to purchasers who might modify vehicles for terrorist activities.