News & Analysis

Terrorist group ISIS has quite the lucrative business model

- September 23, 2014 2 MIN READ

ISIS is currently the world’s most sinister terrorist group – and they’ve got a solid marketing strategy to drive their operations. The terrorist group was formerly part of the Iraqi-headquartered Al-Qaeda, but due to power struggles, the group parted ways. After several name changes, the new terrorist group have settled on calling themselves the Islamic State (IS). In recent months, they’ve caused a stir across the media and the hearts of humanitarians alike by decapitating journalists like James Foley on video.

The decapitation videos have gone mega viral on social media channels, only to increase IS’ intimidation factor and spread extremist ideology. What’s more concerning is the influence of this terrorist group has on people around the world – in fact, many are heading to Syria to join their cause. 

Interestingly, the increasing use of social media by extremists and terrorist networks has been explored by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an international think tank. In a paper titled ‘Radicalisation: The Role of the Internet’, the Institute says: “Some have argued that this [trend] has come about as a result of government strategies to ban jihadist websites, which has pushed their members onto other forums, like YouTube and Facebook and other local equivalents.”

“These platforms have lower technical and financial barriers to entry, and have the added bonus of reaching much wider constituencies than is likely via a dedicated website.”

Unfortunately, Western countries including Australia is not shying away from interfering in the affairs of war-stricken nations. How are we to shut down the operations of a group so ruthless? As comedian Russell Peters once said, if you can’t intimidate someone, you can’t win.

Besides, the IS has quite the lucrative business model. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy recently published the infographic (below) that explains exactly how the IS funds its criminal activities. As an organisation, IS is estimated to be worth over $2 billion after acquiring (/robbing) the central bank of Mosul in Iraq and is estimated to generate $2 million a day selling crude oil on the black market.

The IS has an estimate of 10,000 fighters with the ability to “hire” 20,000 to 30,000 more, and pay each fighter $150 a day in addition to providing military gear and equipment. No matter how you shine it, the IS is a business – perhaps, one of the most profitable in the world, though it’s unclear how much hip-pocket investment is being poured into it.

And all we’re doing is providing them with (metaphorical) ammunition. An entrepreneur’s motivation to succeed is in many cases fuelled by other businesses wanting to shut them down.

Maybe we could embrace the traditional Canadian philosophy of ‘staying the hell out of it’. Who knows? It might just work. It hasn’t really been tried. A business tends to shut down when no-one engages in it.


Infographic retrieved from Business Insider.