International

ISIS Wants Greenbacks — And That’s A Worrisome Sign

Here’s the good news: ISIS is strapped for cash and morale is low. Here’s the bad news: ISIS is strapped for cash and morale is low – and the terror group wants greenbacks.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Islamic State group has been facing bills coming due, ranging from paying salaries to keeping the lights on, literally. The payment conduit of choice? Black market dollars.

Not an easy time for a caliphate that has lured recruits from economically disastrous regions with bonuses, cash payouts for having children, and of course the eventuality of martyrdom.

Losing the incentive luster may mean that recruiting faces a crunch along with cash reserves, which in turn have been decimated by airstrikes and other measures, reported the newswire, and of course the precipitous slide in oil prices — a commodity that has long been the financial backstop of the organization. In the famous Iraq city of Fallujah, fighters who not long ago commanded the tidy sum of $400 now get nothing.

One cryptic sign, at least for the payments industry: in an effort to collect “taxes” that are owed on a large number of basic services, ISIS has in just the past few weeks begun coming with hands outstretched for dollars.

Beyond the irony of the fact that the group pledging to destroy Western civilization is in fact acknowledging the relatively safe and universal appeal of that civilization’s most dominant method of payment, lies a challenge.

Just last month, the United States dropped bombs in Mosul, Iraq, blowing up caches of cash — that is, dollars. Government officials said the total dollar tally, while unconfirmed, stood in the millions.

With tangible dollars incinerated, it stands to reason that ISIS will turn to alternative ways to get access to U.S. dollars with the knowledge that it takes money to run a state, however ill-defined and ill-intentioned it might be.

That most likely will come in the form of securing cash through means as yet truly untested. Not oil, not buildings housing stacks of money … but redoubled efforts in trade-based money laundering, via customs services. To that end, ISIS, which does have some money movement through financial institutions, may even turn to technology (laptops, apps, credit cards and other conduits not exactly in short supply) to find funding.

Stay tuned for a new(ish) front in the continuing war on terror.

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