The Archivist: Unseen Islamic State Financial Accounts for Deir az-Zor Province
03 November 2015
By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
The question of where the Islamic State [IS] acquires its funding has been a
subject of much discussion. Though ideological partisans often see a private
Gulf Arab funding hand behind IS, the general consensus now seems to accept
that IS is not dependent on foreign donors in any meaningful way, and thus
largely acquires its revenues from resources within the territories it
operates, including taxation, sales of oil and gas, antiquities and the like.
Thus, the majority of the debate now focuses on trying to determine the
relative importance of each of these sources of revenue.
A number of analyses have been produced relying on local sources within Iraq
and Syria, and in this regard I highly recommend Die Zeit's investigation
from December 2014, the fruit of a team of researchers including my colleague
However, a deficiency in all the work thus far on IS finances is a lack of
statistics from IS itself on income and expenditures, and so a degree of
guesswork in estimating has always been involved. The exclusive documents
that will be presented below- obtained from IS' Diwan Bayt al-Mal (financial
ministry) in eastern Syria's Deir az-Zor province (Wilayat al-Kheir)- provide
a remedy in giving a first time view of IS budgets by its own account for the
month of Rabi' al-Awal 1436 AH (c. 23 December 2014-22 January 2015).
For context, Deir az-Zor province has been almost entirely under the control
of IS since July 2014, while a regime presence still holds out in parts of
Deir az-Zor city and at a military airport. In defeating the rebels in Deir
az-Zor province, IS has gained a monopoly on oil and gas resources in the
province. The province's long-standing importance to the oil and gas sector
of the Syrian economy is well-known, and it undoubtedly constitutes the
largest pool of oil and gas resources in Syria that IS has been able to
As part of its narrative of 'breaking the borders' between Syria and Iraq, IS
created a 'Euphrates Province' that spans eastern Deir az-Zor province and
western Anbar province, including the districts of Albukamal in Syria and al-Qa'im,
Rawa and Anah in Iraq.
Figures in the documents help us to quantify IS financing. From IS' richest
province in fossil fuels, revenues and expenditures for the province come in
the form of millions of dollars on a monthly basis, not tens or hundreds of
millions. Further, despite the significant holdings of oil and gas resources,
these sources of revenue by no means constitute the majority of IS' income in
the province. Statistically, revenue streams for the province can be divided
as follows using the data from the documents:
Source Percentage of Revenue
Oil & Gas 27.7%
As can be seen, a plurality of the income actually comes from confiscations
of property and money. This may take place for a number of reasons: e.g.
residents who fled their homes, violations of IS regulations and illicit
smuggling of goods, particularly forbidden items like cigarettes and alcohol.
Movement across border areas is important in this regard when combined also
with transit fees for legitimate travel and transportation of goods.
Meanwhile, IS' expenditures primarily go towards military upkeep in the form
of expenditures for bases and paying fighters' salaries. Conspicuously absent
from the expenditures are accounts for salaries of workers officially under
the authority of the Diwan al-Ta'aleem (education). The reason for this is
that the IS process of revamping the education system in accordance with its
ideology required the closing of many schools in this period to subject
teachers and staff to 'repentance' and Shari'a lessons, while the regime
continued to pay salaries though under strict conditions for the recipients
to come in person to the relevant places stipulated by the regime. Note that
the Islamic Police comes under the Diwan al-Hisba working closely with IS'
judiciary department (Diwan al-Qada wa al-Mazalim), and both these diwans
play key roles in confiscations of goods and property. Here is the breakdown
of expenditures by percentage.
Expenditure Percentage of Expenditure
Expenditures for bases 19.8%
Fighters' salaries 43.6%
Islamic Police 10.4%
Diwan al-Khidamat (Services Department) 17.7%
Diwan Bayt al-Mal: aid sums 5.7%
Some more points of analysis to consider:
– Popular conceptions of IS income need to have a more sober and realistic
perspective on the role oil and gas revenues. Daily revenues from the oil
wells here (total divided by 30) yield on average $66,433. If this is the
average revenue from IS' best oil holdings in Syria and one engages in
reasonable extrapolation, then one will come nowhere near the total figure of
$3 million a day for IS in oil sales that was widely touted in the media in
summer 2014, even when making allowances for subsequent damage to
infrastructure from coalition airstrikes. A sounder estimate would put such
income at no more than 5-10% of that figure.
– On a related historical note, one should dismiss accounts that portray IS'
predecessors as being suddenly enriched from eastern Syrian oilfields and
antiquities beginning in late 2012, based on hearsay about alleged computer
flash sticks revealing IS finances and off-base regarding the dynamics of
control of eastern Syrian oil over the course of the Syrian civil war (pace
the Guardian report, IS' predecessor ISIS did not exist in late 2012, let
alone 'commandeer' eastern Syrian oilfields).
– The sale of antiquities under the authority of the antiquities subdivision
of theDiwan al-Rikaz is not explicitly mentioned in the accounts here, but it
is most likely included within taxation as part of the IS bureaucratic
structure. Documents captured from the Abu Sayyaf raid by U.S. forces appear
to show a 20% tax to be paid on antiquities sold in Deir az-Zor province. Two
of the individual transactions presented from December 2014 illustrate tax
payments of more than $10,000, while the third constitutes a little over
– Despite IS' propaganda on 'breaking the borders' and the creation of
'Euphrates Province', the inclusion of Albukamal within Deir az-Zor province
financial data and transactions is an example of how IS still deals in prior
administrative boundaries. Compare with a previous July 2015 document I
published fromWilayat al-Kheir's Diwan al-Khidamat ordering for an Abu Dujana
al-Libi to be paid $100,000 for a road project between Albukamal and al-Qa'im.
Other administrative documents from 'Euphrates Province' indicate that IS
administration rarely seems to deal with the territory as a united entity,
but rather by its Syrian and Iraqi halves. This is so even as travel within
'Euphrates Province' is relatively easy, as a friend of mine from Rawa now
works in Albukamal, and residents on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border
regularly cross both ways for business, market shopping etc.
– Ultimately, the most vital IS revenues depend on the continued existence of
its bureaucratic structure within the territories it controls, and there is
little one can do to disrupt that short of destroying that structure
militarily. The suggested siege-like strategy to trigger a collapse from
within is impossible to realize in the current circumstances, as one cannot
wholly isolate IS territory from interactions with the outside world, and so
cash flows will continue. The Iraqi government's decision to cut off direct
salary payments to workers in IS-held areas will certainly help reduce IS
taxation revenues, but it was not the sole avenue for cash flow, and though
hardships for residents will increase, IS' rigid security apparatus is still
highly capable of suppressing major revolt.
Below are the documents with translation.
Diwan Bayt al-Mal
Bayt al-Mal Administration
15 Rabi' al-Thani 1436 AH
5 February 2015
Rough draft of the operation of the management of wealth project.
Bayt al-Mal in Wilayat al-Kheir
Copy to the Diwan al-Wilaya [governor's office]
Copy to the Diwan al-Hisba [checks for potential irregularities in the
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Table of accounts for Wilayat al-Kheir for the month of Rabi' al-Awal of the
year 1436 AH
Table for income to the treasury of Wilayat al-Kheir.
Wilayat al-Kheir Albukamal Al-Mayadeen Al-Badiya Borders Tajammu'at [Deir
az-Zor area residential districts]
Oil wells $820,000 $513,000 $630,000 $30,000
Gas $12,000 $330,000
Electricity $53,000 $68,000 $13,000 $9,000 $188,000
Taxes $611,000 $313,000 $297,000 $577,000 $200,000
Confiscations $33,000 $17,000 $280,000 $2,700,000 $744,000
Total accounting of income for the treasury of the Wilaya for the month of
Rabi' al-Awal of the year 1436 AH from the centre of Wilayat al-Kheir,
Albukamal, al-Mayadeen, al-Badiya and the border centres for the Wilaya is
Table of confiscations for the month of Rabi' al-Awal of the year 1436 AH:
Wilayat al-Kheir Albukamal Al-Mayadeen Al-Badiya Borders Tajammu'at
House 6 17 56
Car 3 2 80 11
Truck 1 11 36
Material sums $2000 $1300 $13,000 $480,000
180 dunams 20
Forbidden items Cigarettes: 3000 packs 100 cases of cigarettes 1200 cases of
Livestock 93 600 head of sheep 1320 head of sheep, 50 cows
In what follows is a table of expenditures for Wilayat al-Kheir for the month
of Rabi' al-Awal of the year 1436 AH:
Expenditure for the bases: "Provision of food" etc. in the centre of the
Expenditure for the bases: "Provision of food" etc. in al-Mayadeen $130,000
Expenditure for the bases: "Provision of food" etc. in Albukamal $98,000
Expenditure for the bases: "Provision of food" etc. in the Badiya $512,000
Expenditure for the bases: "Provision of food" etc.: airport $104,000
Mujahid allowance [monthly salaries for fighters] from the city centre
Mujahid allowance from al-Mayadeen and Albukamal $480,000
Mujahid allowance from the Badiya $1,360,000
Media centre $155,000
Islamic Police centres $580,000
Diwan al-Khidamat for the centre and countryside of the wilaya $988,000
Diwan Bayt al-Mal: aid sums $318,000
Zakat taxes in Wilayat al-Kheir for the month of Rabi' al-Awal of the year
Zakat on wheat:
. $300,000 distributed upon [i.e. imposed as zakat taxation on] the
cultivated lands in 'wheat' in Wilayat al-Kheir, without taking into account
the kusur of the zakat [zakat that could not be paid]* for the year 1435 AH,
and accounting of zakat will be accomplished in the month of Rabi' al-Awal
Zakat on barley:
. $170,000 distributed upon the cultivated land in 'barley' in Wilayat al-Kheir,
without taking into account the kusur of the zakat for the year 1435 AH, and
accounting of zakat will be accomplished in the month of Rabi' al-Awal every
Zakat on wealth:
. $1,200,000 of zakat on wealth in Wilayat al-Kheir.
Zakat on camels:
. $206,000 from zakat on "camels" in Wilayat al-Kheir taking into account the
kusur of the zakat for the year 1435 AH.
Zakat on fruits:
. $100,000 distributed upon the cultivated fields and the fruits of the trees
in Wilayat al-Kheir without taking into account the kusur of the zakat for
the year 1435 AH, and accounting of zakat will be accomplished in the month
of Rabi' al-Awal every year.
*[Note: My friend Rashad Ali further clarifies that the kusur of zakat is
that which is not obliged/charged for zakat taxation, as it falls below
minimum threshold for mandatory zakat taxation].