Call this one ‘Tough times makes strange bedfellows’. What do hardworking prairie people and Isis terrorists have in common? They’re both suffering because of what’s happened to oil prices.
Before the price of the black gold collapsed, the Islamic State earned close to $3 billion a year, much of it from oil and gas in Iraq and Syria. Compounding their problems resulting from the lower price, the U.S.-led Coalition has been targeting deadly airstrikes at those installations, and the Isis folks have had to abandon many of them.
What are they doing to make ends meet? Would you believe fishing, farming and selling cars? In Iraq, which we think of as mostly desert, there are hundreds of lakes north of Baghdad that generate millions of dollars a month from the fish that are pulled out, a lot of which come from fish farming. Some of the longtime farmers and fishers chose to stay and help Isis, to avoid being attacked.
The militants also tax agricultural land, and collect a 10% levy on chickens and other goods that are imported from elsewhere. New revenue is also being generated from car dealerships and factories that were once run by the Iraqi government in the days of Saddam. All of this has only partially offset the loss of oil income, so other possibilities are being developed.
The image that most of us in this part of the world have of Isis is of a gang of ruthless murderers shouting ‘Death to America’, and extorting many millions in exchange for hostages. That is indeed the most horrible part of the picture, but it sounds as though they also have a few Harvard MBA’s directing an economy that’s becoming fairly sophisticated.
If Donald Trump were to achieve the impossible somehow and end up in the White House, who knows? He might end up traveling to a place like Mosul, offering to play Let’s Make a Deal.
Yikes ! What a strange era this has become.
I’m Roger Currie