The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is the richest terrorist network in history. It's making around $3 million a day from oil revenue, human trafficking, theft and extortion. In total, ISIS is worth around $2 billion. This is unprecedented in terms of the net worth of a terrorist organization.
Most terrorist organizations rely on state sponsors for funding, but ISIS is independently wealthy. By operating like criminals, this group of militants has established a consistent stream of revenue.
It smuggles oil and antiquities, sells women and children into sexual slavery, holds foreigners for ransom and extorts local businesses. Thus, ISIS is not only organized, it has access to natural resources.
What's worse, ISIS has global ambitions, and hopes to continue to spread its influence beyond the Middle East. It is a bloodthirsty, ruthless and unabashedly violent organization.
This group has no problem being violent towards women, and intentionally films and photographs both beheadings and mass executions.
ISIS is not to be trifled with. With such malicious intentions and steady funding, it poses an extraordinary existential threat to much of the world.
If there is any hope of defeating ISIS, the United States and its allies must find a way to cut off its sources of revenue. This will require taking away both the territory under its control and eliminating its access to resources, which is easier said than done.
Despite its relative youth, ISIS is now worth more than older terrorist networks like al-Qaeda, al Shabab and the Taliban. Considering both al-Qaeda and the Taliban have both been around since the 1980s, this is somewhat shocking.
Additionally, ISIS is now worth more than a number of small countries as well, such as Tonga, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands or the Falkland Islands.
Likewise, ISIS is also wealthy in terms of land, as it now controls a territory that is roughly the size of Belgium. Presently, ISIS has around 13,000 square miles of territory under its control.
It's absolutely terrifying that an organization has been able to accumulate such wealth and influence so rapidly. Early on, ISIS received much of its funding from other states, such as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Today, however, it is decidedly self-sufficient.
ISIS is like a startup company, but for terrorists. It's true that ISIS has origins in al-Qaeda, and it formed about a decade ago. Yet, in terms of the current nature and structure of the organization, it's extremely young. Like a successful startup, it has risen to prominence within a very short time.
Moreover, it's not as if ISIS is offering extensive reporting on its finances, as companies are required to do. Anything that we know about ISIS and its funding comes from US government intelligence reports and other experts.
Accordingly, its very difficult to know how much money it's really bringing in. Simply put, this group could be accumulating wealth much faster than anyone is able to measure.
At present, ISIS is either richer or catching up with many of the world's most successful young companies:
Snapchat is currently one of the most popular apps around. There's good reason for that, it's awesome. You take a photo, send it to your friend and unless your friend takes a screenshot, it can only be viewed for a matter of seconds. It's fun, playful and something all age groups can enjoy.
A year ago, Snapchat's valuation was at $2 billion -- the same as ISIS today. Now, it's valuation is $10 billion. With the stream of revenue ISIS currently has coming in, it has the potential to increase its total worth close to that of Snapchat.
GoPro cameras are pretty amazing. They allow you to record video handsfree, while still capturing high-quality video. Recently, a soldier in Afghanistan even wore a GoPro during a firefight with the Taliban.
At present, GoPro is worth a little over $2 billion -- the same as ISIS.
Spotify is one of the best music apps around. It helps you find and organize all of your favorite music, and introduces you to new jams in the process.
Currently, Spotify is worth around twice as much as ISIS, at $4 billion. Sooner or later, however, ISIS could surpass this Swedish company.
If you are into productivity and organization, then you either already know about Evernote or you would absolutely love it. It provides you with a convenient digital space to record important thoughts and reminders, but with decidedly more creativity than a notepad.
At the moment, Evernote's valuation is about $1 billion. Thus, ISIS is worth twice as much.
Tango is a fantastic mobile messaging service that conveniently works in many countries around the world. With more than 200 million registered members, it's one of the fastest growing mobile message services.
Presently, Tango is worth around $1.5 billion, about half a billion shy of ISIS.
Eventbrite is awesome for anyone holding or going to an event. It allows for quick and easy ticket purchase right from your phone. Event planners and promoters can also use this app to advertise their events on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Goodbye paper tickets.
Currently, Eventbrite's valuation is around $1 billion, half of that of ISIS.
Dianping.com is China's largest restaurant review website, it's basically the Yelp of China. It recently turned down an offer from Google -- either a very stupid move or a sign that it's very confident it will continue to grow.
At present, Dianping.com is worth around $2 billion, much like ISIS.
Thus, it is abundantly clear that ISIS has as much money as many of the world's most successful young companies. Likewise, it's gaining wealth as fast or even faster than most of them. This has to be taken seriously, or this abhorrently violent terrorist organization will continue to grow at a rapid rate.
Photo Courtesy: Twitter