ISIS, Inc. (They’re making out like bandits…)

“There’s no trade without war; there’s no war without trade,” the famous quip by Jan Pieterzoon Coen, a leading officer of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century, not only points to the dark beginnings of capitalism, it also spells out a basic fact: You need money to wage war, loads of it. So from where does the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gets its money and how stable are its finances?

Much has been said about ISIS’s professional organizational structure with regional governors and specialized agencies for portfolios like propaganda, secret services, military and finance. The organization indeed publishes an annual report like corporations do. On 400+ pages it outlines what kind of activities it has pursued ranging from car bombs to proselytizing. Apart from gaining an intra-organizational overview of operations and strategy, the document is obviously meant to attract endorsements and raise finance. Yet there is a major difference to your average corporation report: funding sources are not mentioned. The report tries to give the air of accountability without delivering it.

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