September 22, 2015 | Quote

‘Muslims Are Fleeing in Droves’: ISIS Suddenly Has a Caliphate Problem

“They claim to create this Islamic utopia and Muslims are fleeing in droves,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider.

“A legitimate caliphate … is supposed to be able to provide services to its citizens.”

ISIS relies on residents of its “caliphate” for revenue — it makes most of its money from taxation — and for services that give ISIS-controlled territories the appearance of being a functioning government.

“Taxation certainly would [be] an issue with people fleeing,”  “Another significant problem is brain drain … the people who have highly desirable skill sets like doctors are fleeing.”

ISIS has targeted doctors and engineers for recruitment to the caliphate so they can provide essential services to the population under ISIS control. Oil is another major source of funding for ISIS, which raked in an estimated $100 million in 2014 from selling crude on the black market.

“The oil industry … is another area where they haven’t preserved the level of talent that they need,” Gartenstein-Ross added.

Aside from a possible brain drain and loss of revenue if there are fewer people to tax as ISIS continues its attempt to seize territory across Iraq and Syria, the refugee exodus from the Middle East could call ISIS' legitimacy into question, Gartenstein-Ross said.

But this might not negate the idea that ISIS could be worried about the caliphate losing its appeal among Syrians and Iraqis.

“If you look at the areas that we consider Assad-controlled territories, a lot of them are actually where the bulk of the fighting is occurring,” Gartenstein-Ross said. “If so, the thing they’re fleeing most is war.”

“It’s the areas that are most disputed where the refugees are coming from … It's the same patterns you see in any war that has ever occurred. There are still massive amounts of refugees from territory ISIS has taken control of.”

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