ISIL, JAN and the war economy in Syria
This paper is based on original empirical research drawing on interviews with a range of respondents who live both inside and outside ISIL held areas in Syria. It explores how the collapse of the state and the spread of the war economy enable ISIL’s expansion and JAN’s infiltration in Syria. ISIL has developed a comprehensive model for running a proto-state, a model that includes governance and the provision of public services; for example, a judiciary system, policing, education, an army, an ideology and intelligence. The war has also destroyed the local legitimate economy, especially in opposition-controlled areas, and has led to the rise of an illicit economy that is centred on violence. The extremely high levels of unemployment, together with very high prices and the absence of other sources of income, has left men of fighting age, who typically have to provide for their families, in a very exposed position and vulnerable to recruitment by extreme organisations. The paper suggests that the main aim of any strategy to counter ISIL’s proto-state building approach must be legitimate state building. The paper also proposes measures to counter the logic of war economy in Syria. This includes reviving the legitimate economy and imposing much stronger controls on the borders of ISIL areas with Turkey and Iraq.