Tags: Emerging Threats | Exclusive Interviews | Iraq | Iraq in Crisis | Middle East | MidPoint | Syria | War on Terrorism

Mideast Expert Robert Rabil: ISIS Swims in Oil Money

By Sean Piccoli   |   Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 05:39 PM

The fanatical Sunnis carving up Syria and Iraq made control of local oil supplies such a high priority early on that today they're funding their jihad by selling oil to a sworn enemy: the Syrian government from which they stole the crude, a Middle East studies professor told Newsmax TV on Tuesday.

Robert Rabil, of Florida Atlantic University, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner that ISIS is selling up to 20,000 barrels of crude a day from just one oil field seized in July.

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"If you look at their action early on when they were fighting in Syria, they weren't interested first and foremost in fighting the Syrian regime," said Rabil. "They were interested mostly in controlling vital and geostrategic areas in Syria. This is why now they control 60 percent of Syria's gas and oil industry."

ISIS oil is going not only to Syria but to less above-board buyers along smuggling routes that ISIS controls in and around Syria and Iraq — and at deep discounts that help the would-be founders of the Islamic State curry favor with locals, said Rabil.

He described ISIS as a hybrid of religious inquisition, army and crime syndicate.

"You have a military and you have a mafia, and you have the Salafi ideology," he said, referring to a radical strain of Islam, Salafism, that ISIS invokes to justify its violent campaign to create a religiously pure caliphate in the Middle East.

Before ISIS became a $2 billion self-funding juggernaut, however, its founders required aid from sympathetic parties. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey filled that role to various degrees, said Rabil, either by financing or quietly endorsing Salafist movements, including that of ISIS, from Syria to Chechnya.

"This is problematic now," he said.

Raising cash may be easier than establishing a bona fide "caliphate," however, because as Rabil noted, the very word is derived from "khalifa," meaning "successor" — in this case, the agreed-on successor to the prophet Muhammad.

Islam splintered into rival camps — Sunni and Shia, and offshoots of those — precisely because Muhammad didn't name a successor on his death in 632. For any group or nation to call itself the "caliphate," meaning the legitimate spiritual home of all Muslims, "you must have a consensus," Rabil said.

"You are not going to have consensus," he added.

Even the Saudis have renounced ISIS after watching the terror group butcher its way through local populations, Muslim- and non-Muslim, in Syria and Iraq.

But ISIS is still flush with oil revenue and literally hundreds of millions of dollars looted from banks in captured Iraqi cities.

Rabil said it's unlikely that ISIS oil is making its way to the United States.

"It's going to Europe more," he said.

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