- ISIS, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, is pulling in $1 million a day, says the U.S. Treasury
- 12 coalition countries are meeting in Kuwait to come up with a plan to choke off ISIS financing
- Oil sales, extortion and social media are three main ways ISIS raises funds
- U.S. Treasury says Qatar and Kuwait remain "permissive jurisdictions for terrorist financing"
ISIS has been defined as the wealthiest terrorist group on record, using a combination of black market oil sales, extortion and sophisticated social media to raise money to fund its expansion into Iraq and Syria, according to the U.S. Treasury.
A policy to combat ISIS on many fronts is taking shape, but western diplomats here in the Middle East say trying to get coalition members on the same page is proving difficult. The harsh reality remains that despite an ever-increasing focus on ISIS, the group is still pulling in about $1 million a day, according to the U.S. Treasury.
A dozen coalition countries led by General John Allen -- U.S. envoy in the fight against ISIS -- met in Kuwait on Monday with a two pronged strategy: to decide what are the best tools to choke off ISIS financing and to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world in terms of messaging.
Another part of this effort is getting coalition members to agree on the final goal. Some big regional Sunni powers, specifically Saudi Arabia and Turkey, are still eager to purse a broader coalition campaign which includes taking down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This remains a stumbling block on the path to an effective coalition.
But there are indications that a more defined strategy against ISIS has emerged over the past week. In his address to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Thursday, the lead official on ISIS financing said progress had been made before going on to name those countries which are lagging behind.
David Cohen, the Under Secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury, said both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have both made progress in choking off funds from wealthy Gulf Arab trading groups that support what many defined as a broader Sunni cause in support of ISIS. However, Cohen went onto to say both Qatar and Kuwait remain "permissive jurisdictions for terrorist financing."
That is a strong statement considering Kuwait has set up a financial intelligence unit and Qatar passed a law regulating fundraising by charities within the tiny but wealthy Gulf state with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.
Pressure on Qatar is coming from both sides of the Atlantic. Douglas Alexander, the British Labour Party's shadow foreign secretary, said the visit of Qatar's young Emir to London this week is the ideal opportunity to apply more pressure.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani is scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron later this week to define the efforts put forth to undermine ISIS. The ability for the Prime Minister to lean on Qatar is complicated by the Gulf state's spending spree in London as owner of Harrods, the London Shard building and a slew of other prime assets.
Meanwhile, as I reported at the beginning of September, ISIS's oil production and distribution network is not what it was just a few months ago, when up to 70,000 barrels of crude was finding its way onto the black market.
Cohen from the U.S. Treasury suggests -- using his revenue number of a million dollars -- that production has been reduced to 25,000 barrels and that the Assad regime is still on the receiving end of that ISIS-controlled oil. Now the coalition wants both the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and Turkey to close off routes used to distribute that oil. Both have reportedly made pledges to do so. Over the past week U.S. airstrikes are supporting an Iraqi military effort on the ground to finally secure the Baiji refinery north of Mosul.
The effort to pull 60 countries of a coalition together, diplomats tell me, is as complicated as the region itself -- especially with so many countries vying for the upper hand.