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Well funded and dangerous: assessing the Islamic State’s financing operations

Michael Tierney (Innisfil, Canada)

Journal of Money Laundering Control

ISSN: 1368-5201

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




The existing literature on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has thus far focused on the group’s contemporary or previous financing activities. However, there has not been an analysis of the ways in which ISIS’ funding is likely to change moving forward now that it has come under international scrutiny. The purpose of this paper is to assess the ways in which ISIS’ funding is likely to evolve in the future and to also suggest methods for combating its financing activities.


The paper is theoretical in nature. By assessing the existing literature on terrorist financing, it is apparent that terrorist organizations alter their funding sources and methods after coming under intense international scrutiny. Therefore, two hypotheses are put forth for the future of ISIS’ funding activities: the group will become more effective at building social support among its local population, thereby consolidating is funding sources and methods within Syria and Iraq; and the group will increasingly branch out, searching for sources from a transnational network, as its base in Syria and Iraq begins to deteriorate.


Community support is essential for sustaining a terrorist network. As a result, it is likely that ISIS will increasingly seek funding from a transnational network as its base of support in Iraq and Syria begins to deteriorate. There is also a distinct third possibility that the group will be able to consolidate its base while also moving abroad for financial support. This third option presents the most complicated outcome for the international community in its fight against ISIS.


This study fills a gap in the literature on terrorist financing, particularly with regards to ISIS, to assist the international community in its fight against the group both now and moving into the future.



Tierney, M. (2017), "Well funded and dangerous: assessing the Islamic State’s financing operations", Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 159-171.



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