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Cash Crops: How the Islamic State Profits from Agriculture

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Oil sales, extortion, and looting have received large amounts of attention as tactics used by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) to generate revenue. A study published in the October issue of Food Policy highlights the need to also consider how a less explored strategy–agricultural production–also contributes to the profits of ISIS.
“We didn’t approach this from a political perspective,” says Hadi Jaafar, an assistant professor of agriculture at the American University of Beirut. He co-authored the paper with Eckart Woertz, a senior researcher at the Barcelona Center for International Affairs. Rather than examining the group’s politics and terrorist tactics, the researchers wanted to shift the focus to their objective of becoming a state. To do so, Woertz says there needs to be an understanding of where a state’s income comes from, whether that funding is sustainable, and what may happen if its revenue is exhausted.
In 2013 and 2014, the ISIS occupied large portions Iraq’s Ninewa Province and the Jazirah region of Syria, both known breadbaskets in the region. While it is not clear whether their occupation was strategic for the agricultural value, the usage of a book called The Management of Savagery by ISIS is notable. The jihadist manual serves to instruct how to build a statelike structure and recognizes the role agriculture could play in establishing a functional caliphate. – READ MORE

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