ISIS top man is almost a ghost, a man of very few appearances and whenever he does show up he makes sure that all the 6 billion inhabitants of the planet know about it. In one of his staged appearances, the whole wide world seemed to ignore all what he said and focused on one thing: The Rolex watch in his hand. After all the guy does have an exquisite taste but it’s not his taste what matters here, what matters is the fact that traditionally Rolex watches have been linked to the big money owners, the affluent and successful business leaders and this here is the core of the issue.
Since its debut, ISIS has shown business skills as equally as military skills and although one would question how can you form a well trained and highly occupied militia in a fortnight, some sorts of business successes can be done in such a short time especially when the resource is strategic, offers high returns and the competition is virtually non-existent. All these apply to oil so it was normal and understandable that the first thing ISIS did after invading parts of Iraq and Syria was to control oil resources; they even advertised a job opening in November 2014 for an oil field manager to manage their valuable asset, and put it back on the right track all the while pushing competition out of the market by turning to the black market to sell their oil for prices as low as $20/barrel and sure enough there was never any shortage of customers. But that was just a short lived phase because the world which was happy with the low prices at the beginning quickly realized that the negative effects reached as far the shale oil rigs in North Dakota. That was when the US led a coalition in order to presumably stop ISIS and they started their air raids and soon enough it was obvious that those raids where just orchestrated to prevent ISIS from entering certain areas of interest; for example the raids were really effective and served their purpose when ISIS threatened the federal state of Irbil yet not even one plane left base when the Yazidis were being slaughtered and pushed to extinction.
With oil profits drying up, the rolex-wearing business man had to tap into another resource that is abundantly available in the area he controls (and no I’m not talking about dates); actually this area is extremely rich in archeological ruins and artifacts that are valued in many millions of dollars and which have a buyer base that is as enthusiastic and deep pocketed as the oil clients ( just today I heard that someone paid $187 million for a Picasso painting, so can you imagine how much they would pay for a 4000 year old statue?)
And as any smart investor he first tested the grounds and he did so in Mosul. People sat horrified in front of their tv screens as they watched ISIS fighters tear down and break apart statues that were almost older than humanity itself but then they all sighed in relief after archeologists came to say that most of the statues on display were dummies and replicas and that the real ones were hidden. Great news, now instead of having to tour all the sites, ISIS can go to one central warehouse and find all what they need to sell (that’s how you cut your supply chain costs and increase profitability, told you this guy was a business man in a previous life!)
A few days ago, the US military euphorically announced the killing of a top ISIS oil expert along with 40 aides (maybe that was the dude who replied to their 2014 ad and got hired) yet they sat and watched as the militia entered the 4000 year old Palmyra which we call Tadmor; again no planes flew over that area (starting to sound a bit eerie no?) there also is a great historical reserve and while after the attack on Mosul ISIS videoed how they were destroying the ruins, nothing has come out of Palmyra yet and I don’t think anything will because the guys will be busy making deals to sneak as much as they can out of the country and sell for whatever prices they can get – after all they need the money and the same parties that had no problem in buying ISIS oil have no problem buying those valuable ruins and historical artifacts either. UNESCO has confirmed it and EBAY as well – you can find many valuable coins on e-bay and for relatively low prices.
ISIS seems to be investing heavily in 3 things that are highly profitable, oil, the trade of rare artifacts and prostitution – 3 commodities and services that has been sought out since the oldest time and although they claim that prostitution and all what is related to tourism are against their dogma it seems they have little trouble when it comes to making money of them for after all and like one of my MBA professors used to constantly state “It’s not unethical, it’s just business.”