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 Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security