The Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) Antonio Guterres has warned that Daesh has been left with as much as $300 million following the loss of its territory in the Levant.
In the report released yesterday, Guterres cautioned that the extremist group is seeking a revival with such a vast sum of money, which is particularly useful “with none of the financial demands of controlling territory and population.”
Following the group’s rapid expansion since 2014 and its capture of vast swathes of the Levant, it started to significantly lose territory two years later as a result of an international coalition through which both local and foreign actors fought against it. It gradually lost control of its major strongholds such as Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. It now only has scattered sleeper cells around the region.
While the loss of territory and a governed population has deprived the group of revenue from oil fields and taxes, Daesh is still able to generate wealth by receiving funds via informal money transfer businesses known as “hawaladars”, as well as earning money through the lucrative industry of stolen antiquities which have been looted from various sites throughout the Levant. There have also been claims that Daesh has a special unit for selling such antiquities, according to returnees from the conflict in the recaptured territories.
This break in activity, however, “may be temporary” according to Guterres, and there has been a recent surge in speculation and warnings that the group is being revived in the Levant and may launch a new campaign of terror. In July, for example, Iraqi intelligence revealed that Daesh’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is allegedly “currently based in Syria with his Arab and foreign followers” and enjoys strong support within the group.
Last week, UN experts wrote in another report that Daesh leaders are seeking to create conditions and consolidate power for an “eventual resurgence in its Iraqi and Syrian heartlands.” The relative stability that former Daesh-held territories are experiencing following the group’s defeat “may not last long, possibly not even until the end of 2019”, they claimed.