Hezbollah and Hamas rank at top of Forbes’ ‘Richest Terror Groups’ list

Eight of the ‘Top Ten’ terror groups in terms of income are Muslim, with Hezbollah and Hamas ranked #1 and #3 respectively.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

One of the more far-reaching consequences of former President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is on display in Forbes Israel’s latest ranking of the richest terrorist groups in the world, as in 2017 Iran-backed Hezbollah leaped to the top of list with a whopping $1.1 billion in revenue.

That is not to say that all their income stems from Iran. Terrorist organizations in general also fund their purchase of arms, training and salary payments to their members from such criminal activities as drug smuggling, money laundering, kickbacks, kidnappings, ‘protection’, etc., just as organized crime does.

But the nuclear deal, it should be recalled, allowed for the release of billions of dollars into Iran’s state coffers from the lifting of internationally imposed sanctions, and the unfreezing of its assets abroad. This, in turn, allowed the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism to open the spigots to its proxies, and the results can clearly be seen by comparing this year’s “Top Ten” list with the previous one, made in 2014. Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has been fighting in Syria for years for Iranian ally Bashar al-Assad, was then ranked fourth, with $500 million – only half of what it has today.

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Hamas has $700 million

The Gaza Strip’s Hamas, meanwhile, is now in third place, having actually dropped a rung from 2014. (The Taliban now occupy second place, with a revenue of $800 million). Forbes lists them as currently receiving about $700 million a year, vs. a billion dollars three years ago. They have two well-known state sponsors, Qatar and, again, Iran. But in the decade since it took over Gaza, Hamas also became expert in extracting money from its own citizens.

According to Forbes’ 2014 report, Hamas makes most of its money from a sophisticated tax system aimed at, among other things, pocketing large portions of the international aid that flows into Gaza. It also runs hundreds of businesses, controls several banks, and has levies on all consumer goods entering the Gaza Strip. All in all, the report says, about 15% of Gaza’s economy ends up in this organization’s pocket.

ISIS drops to 5th place

There is a steep drop-off from the top three richest terror organizations to the bottom seven. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are listed next with only $300 million. The Islamic State used to be the richest terror organization the world has ever known, with an annual turnover of around $2 billion in 2014, but its defeat in Iraq and subsequent relinquishment of territory have dropped it to fifth place with a drastic reduction to $200 million.

It should be noted that since this Radical Islamist group is Sunni, they are the enemies of Shiite Iran, so their funding had to come from independent sources – a major part of which came from black-market sales from the oil and gas fields they had taken over and have since lost. Now, says the report, their main sources of cash are donations and ransom money from kidnappings.

The two non-Muslim organizations that made this year’s list are the PKK (#6), which mainly fights in Turkey for Kurdish independence, and the REAL IRA (#10), which still aims to bring about a united Ireland by force, with a mere $50 million in income.