Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the National Security Working Group, and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have released a letter urging the Administration to take additional steps to cut off funding to ISIS. ISIS has become the most well-funded terrorist groups in recent memory by exploiting black markets, smuggling routes and using third party facilitators to sell oil. In the letter Casey and Rubio urged the Administration to consider labeling ISIS a ‘Transnational Criminal Organization,’ a designation given to Hezbollah, that would send a strong signal to other countries and potential third parties that the U.S. is prioritizing cutting off funding to the group.
The Senators’ wrote, “Any strategy to roll back the group’s gains must include efforts to cut off their resources. Although ISIS is already under both U.S. and international sanctions, we should employ all available tools to curtail these activities and disrupt its financial networks. ISIS’s cash flow from this criminal enterprise relies on smuggling routes and black market sales.”
The full text of the Senators’ letter can be seen below:
Dear Secretary Kerry:
In recent weeks, we have seen ISIS’s campaign of terror intensify, from the threat of genocide on Mt. Sinjar to the abhorrent murder of Jim Foley. ISIS poses a unique and potentially unprecedented threat to our national security and to the security of our partners in the region. We strongly support the Administration’s efforts to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces turn back ISIS’s territorial gains in Iraq and encourage your support for continued military and diplomatic assistance to Iraq including the Kurdish region.
However, we remain concerned that despite these efforts, ISIS has the resources, weaponry, and operational safe havens to continue to threaten the stability of the region and U.S. national security interests. ISIS’s criminal activities – robbery, extortion, and trafficking – have helped the organization become the best funded terrorist group in history. This wealth has helped expand their operational capacity and incentivized both local and foreign fighters to join them.
We are particularly concerned about reports that ISIS continues to profit from the illicit sale of oil from reserves in territory they hold in both Iraq and Syria. In a recent interview, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, Luay al-Khatteeb asserted, “A month ago, the ISIS--controlled oil market in Iraq was reported to be worth $1 million a day. Now, with expansion, further control of oil fields and smuggling routes, the market is believed to be raising around $2 million a day. This could fetch them $730 million a year, enough to sustain the operation beyond Iraq.”
Any strategy to roll back the group’s gains must include efforts to cut off their resources. Although ISIS is already under both U.S. and international sanctions, we should employ all available tools to curtail these activities and disrupt its financial networks. ISIS’s cash flow from this criminal enterprise relies on smuggling routes and black market sales.
Reporting indicates that some smuggling routes cross through other countries in the region which, like the United States, have a clear national security interest in maintaining stability. Additionally, there are reports that some government officials in the region have helped to facilitate this illicit cross-border trade. Please outline what steps the United States is taking to ensure that countries in the region are identifying, interdicting, and prosecuting smuggling networks that do business with ISIS in violation of international sanctions.
Although reports indicate that ISIS sells much of its ill-gotten oil back into Syria, in some cases to the Syrian regime, some of the oil is making its way to third countries. What other steps is the State Department taking to discourage regional actors from buying oil or gas that passes through ISIS hands? If appropriate, the Administration should use existing sanctions to designate and hold accountable the individuals and entities that help facilitate ISIS’s oil smuggling.
ISIS has taken a page from Hezbollah’s playbook, using smuggling and extortion to finance its operation. As you know, we are part of a bipartisan group of members of Congress that has urged the Administration to designate Hezbollah as a Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO). We believe the State and Treasury Departments should also consider designating ISIS as a TCO, which would send a strong signal to our partners in the region that we are prioritizing cutting off ISIS’s financial support.
In addition to funds raised by ISIS from its illicit activities, there are also concerns that ISIS is receiving significant financial support from private individuals residing in several U.S. partner countries in the region. We urge you to make the halting of these private financial flows a greater priority and to make clear to countries in the region that continued financial support of ISIS could lead to imposition of financial penalties on their citizens and financial institutions by the U.S. Government.
ISIS’s brutality demands a robust response from the United States. As you have said, airstrikes in Iraq should be only one component of our efforts to help combat the ISIS threat in the region. Another component should clearly be a comprehensive strategy to cut off the organization’s access to funding and other resources.
Thank you for your attention to this critical matter of mutual concern. We look forward to your reply to this letter, which can be provided in a classified format if necessary, and to continuing to work with you on these important issues.
Robert P. Casey, Jr. Marco Rubio
United States Senator United States Senator