When the Islamic State Comes to Town
Sep 13, 2017
This report leverages remote sensing data and satellite imagery to assess the impact that Islamic State control and governance have on local economies in Iraq and Syria. It paints a bleak picture of life under the Islamic State. Although the group was able to maintain stable conditions in parts of Mosul and Raqqah, conditions in other cities deteriorated under poor governance and an inability to hold territory in the face of military opposition.
The Economic Impact of Islamic State Governance in Iraq and Syria
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At its peak, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) controlled vast portions of territory in Iraq and Syria with several million inhabitants. ISIL's territorial ambition and desire to conduct state-like governance over this territory are integral to its global ideological appeal. By examining ISIL's impact on local economic activity in Iraq and Syria, this report seeks to assess the effectiveness of ISIL's governance over its self-styled caliphate.
This report leverages remote sensing data and commercial satellite imagery to offer a unique, data-driven look inside areas controlled by the Islamic State. It paints a bleak picture of economic life under ISIL, replete with shortages of electricity, massive refugee flows, reductions in agricultural output, and upticks in violence all associated with ISIL control.
At times, ISIL was able to build a dense governing apparatus that helped maintain stable local commercial activity, particularly in its strategic capitals in Raqqah and Mosul. At other times, ISIL mismanaged key resources or sought to punish its citizenry rather than govern it. However, this report suggests that decaying economic conditions in ISIL-held territory are also a product of ISIL's inability to insulate its territory from opposing military forces. Outside pressure against ISIL successfully prevented the group from realizing its governing ambitions across significant parts of its caliphate, with major consequences for its ability to support functioning local economies.
This report is important for those trying to understand the group's impact on local populations in Iraq and Syria, for those seeking to counter its financing or conduct post-conflict stabilization, and for broader efforts to understand the economic impact of insurgent governance.
The Islamic State's Influence on Local Economies
Measuring Economic Activity Using Satellite Imagery
The Economic Impact of Islamic State Governance Across the Caliphate
Case Study Approach
The Islamic State in Mosul
The Islamic State in Raqqah
The Islamic State in Ramadi
The Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor
The Islamic State in Tikrit
Findings and Policy Implications
Methodological Considerations for Within-City Analysis of Remote Sensing Data
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