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ISIS political economy: financing a terror state

Dimitrios Stergiou (Department of Economics, University of Peloponnese, Tripoli, Greece)

Journal of Money Laundering Control

ISSN: 1368-5201

Article publication date: 3 May 2016




This paper aims to investigate the financial aspects of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), its sources of financing and the management of funds in a State-like apparatus.


It is argued that ISIS constitutes a phenomenon not only due to the extreme violence, instrumentalized via “marketing” methods but also on grounds of its declared aspiration to occupy and control land and population with ever expanding borders. After analyzing the group’s sources of funding which are closely interlinked to the areas it controls and its coordinated efforts to establish a proto-terror state framework, a strategy for addressing this threat based on international practices and decisions is being highlighted.


ISIS represents a “sui generis”, primarily self-funded State Scale Entity, a case study for Defense and Security Geo-economics. Its “economic model”, an amalgam of terrorist and criminal practices, could not be used for a viable proto-state it aspires to be.

Research limitations/implications

No official data of any kind are available by international recognized organizations or bodies. The sources for this paper are primarily Western media, journalists, indirect habitants’ testimonies and very few official reports.

Practical implications

Caution must be exercised, when using even trivial platforms of social media and mobile applications, linked even remotely with ISIS or its affiliates.


This paper is a comprehensive presentation of the economic facets of this first modern endeavor for a terror-state.



Stergiou, D. (2016), "ISIS political economy: financing a terror state", Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 189-207.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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