Washington: Asserting that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has become the most well-funded terrorist group in recent memory, two top US Senators have urged the Obama Administration to label the outfit as a 'Transnational Criminal Organisation', a designation given to Hezbollah.
"ISIL has the resources, weaponry, and operational safe havens to continue to threaten the stability of the region and US national security interests," Senators Bob Casey and Marco Rubio said in a letter to Secretary of State, John Kerry yesterday.
"ISIL's criminal activities robbery, extortion, and trafficking have helped the organisation become the best funded terrorist group in history. This wealth has helped expand their operational capacity and incentivized both local and foreign fighters to join them," the letter said.
Noting that the ISIL-controlled oil market in Iraq is now reported to be worth USD 2 million a day, the Senators wrote any strategy to roll back the group's gains must include efforts to cut off their resources.
"Although ISIS is already under both US and international sanctions, we should employ all available tools to curtail these activities and disrupt its financial networks. ISIS's cash flow from this criminal enterprise relies on smuggling routes and black market sales," the Senators wrote.
ISIS, they alleged, has taken a page from Hezbollah's playbook, using smuggling and extortion to finance its operation.
"As you know, we are part of a bipartisan group of members of Congress that has urged the Administration to designate Hezbollah as a Transnational Criminal Organisation (TCO).
"We believe the State and Treasury Departments should also consider designating ISIL as a TCO, which would send a strong signal to our partners in the region that we are prioritising cutting off ISIL's financial support," they said.
The senators said in addition to funds raised by ISIL from its illicit activities, it is also receiving significant financial support from private individuals residing in several US partner countries in the region.
"We urge you to make the halting of these private financial flows a greater priority and to make clear to countries in the region that continued financial support of ISIS could lead to imposition of financial penalties on their citizens and financial institutions by the US Government," they said.