UN Targets Islamic State Revenue From Oil, Artifacts, Ransom

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The United Nations Security Council adopted a binding resolution threatening economic and diplomatic sanctions against countries and individuals that help Islamic State and other terrorist groups profit from trading oil, antiquities or hostages.

The resolution requires governments to ensure that they aren’t engaged in direct or indirect trade with Islamic State and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups such as the al-Nusra Front in Syria. It was adopted on Thursday with support from all 15 Security Council members.

The U.S. and its European allies cosponsored the Russian-drafted text in a rare display of unity, in contrast to their deadlock over Syria’s civil war and the conflict in Ukraine. Two UN diplomats, discussing diplomatic deliberations on condition of anonymity, said the resolution will hold accountable countries such as Turkey and Syria that allow the purchase of oil from the militant group.

“This is the type of case which clearly shows the need for the use of collective efforts to resolve the issues we’re facing,” Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin told the Security Council after the resolution’s adoption.

“We took yet another important step in suppressing the funding of terrorists, first and foremost as a result of the illegal trafficking of oil, and also to suppress the terrorist threat which Syria, Iraq and other states in the Middle East are coming up against, and whose impact is felt far beyond the limits of the region,” Churkin said.

’Collective Security’

U.S. envoy to the UN Samantha Power said the unanimous vote “shows our joint commitment to confronting violent extremist groups that threaten our collective security and the human rights that the United Nations was created to defend.”

The text, which stops short of threatening the use of force, urges governments to share information on Islamic State’s financing networks, bans exports of all antiquities from Syria and reiterates the call on countries to prevent Islamic State benefiting from political concessions or ransom payments made to secure the release of hostages.

It pushes states to stop aircraft, auto and truck traffic, including oil tankers, going to or from areas in Syria and Iraq where the extremist groups operate.

Oil Revenue

It also requires governments to adopt laws and regulations that criminalize any participation in financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting such acts.

The resolution doesn’t spell out specific penalties for those found guilty of helping Islamic State. It would require the Security Council to debate whether any violations have occurred and what punitive measures it would order.

It reaffirmed previous resolutions discouraging the paying of ransom without spelling out new consequences for yielding to the demands of kidnappers.

Islamic State earns about $1 million a day from oil sales, and has taken in at least $20 million in ransom payments in 2014, David Cohen, who was undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at U.S. Treasury Department, said in October.

A November UN report estimated that Islamic State was selling oil at $18 to $35 a barrel, bringing its potential revenue from crude to as much as $1.65 million a day.

Taxing Looters

The report says the group encourages looting historical and archaeological sites and profits from taxing the looters, adding that it was difficult to estimate how much revenue that generates.

Over 12 months, the group was able to raise as much as $45 million from kidnapping for ransom, the UN said in the report.

UN diplomats say that while the extremist group’s oil revenue has declined by more than half with the fall in global crude prices, there are still enough middlemen and black-market routes to raise funds for terrorist acts.

The resolution requires all 193 members of the UN to report within 120 days on measures they’ve taken to comply with it. The UN’s existing al-Qaeda sanctions committee will monitor and report on any progress.