Islamic State Is Using a Protection Racket to Fund Its Resurgence in Syria

While it has been over two years since U.S. forces and their local allies drove Islamic State (IS) out of its territorial base in northeastern Syria, the organization has not disappeared. It is in fact trying to rebuild by extorting money from the civilian population. Haid Haid writes:

In June, IS sleeper cells were linked to eighteen attacks and sixteen deaths, on par with IS-linked violence in May, when fourteen died in 26 attacks. The group’s survival is due, in part, to its ability to extort business owners to finance their operations and regrow their networks.

For months, IS has been using the threat of violence to operate extensive protection rackets in the Raqqa and Deir Ezzor governorates. The inability of local authorities to provide sufficient protection from IS has left many people with no choice but to pay. . . . Unless the conditions that enable the group to finance itself are addressed, the group’s survival will almost certainly be guaranteed.

Estimating IS’s earnings from illicit shakedowns is difficult, but media reports suggest the group is generating several million dollars a year this way. While far less than the $80 million a month the group was generating in 2015, it is more than enough to make the group dangerous. IS’s territorial defeat in 2019 reduced its state-like financial responsibilities, and its current cash flow is more than sufficient to finance its hit-and-run operations and ensure its survival.

Read more at Arab Weekly

More about: ISIS, Syria, War on Terror


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria