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U.N. Security Council Calls For Crackdown On ISIS Funding Streams


There's now an increase in international efforts to cut the Islamic State's many sources of income. Today, the U.N. Security Council held an unusual meeting on the matter. Instead of diplomats around the council table there were finance ministers, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.


JACK LEW: This unprecedented session underscores the importance of combating the financing of terrorism, the international community's dedication to destroying ISIL and the critical role of finance ministries and the broader international financial community in this fight.

CORNISH: The council approved a resolution to work on that. NPR's Michele Kelemen joins us now in the studio. Hey, there, Michele.


CORNISH: So give us more detail on the Security Council resolution.

KELEMEN: Well, it's a long one - 29 pages, including the annexes. And it calls on countries to do much more to crack down on all the ways that ISIS and other terrorist groups get their money. That includes trafficking in arms, drugs, artifacts and through illicit oil sales. Treasury Secretary Lew, as you pointed out, was there and he told the council that ISIS has gone from grabbing territory and looting banks to more secure funding streams. He says the U.S. believes that ISIS has earned about $500 million in oil sales and even more by extorting people in territory that it controls in Iraq and Syria. ISIS, of course, calls that taxes.

CORNISH: Right, I mean, people have known about these revenue streams for a while. So why did they hold this meeting now?

KELEMEN: Well, the U.S. holds the presidency of the Security Council now and it's this month. And it's certainly trying to take advantage of that. And there's a lot more international focus on ISIS after the Paris attacks. Secretary Kerry is also heading up to New York. He's going to be at a meeting tomorrow on Syria on the political track. That's another big challenge. He's trying to get all these sides in the war to get focused on ISIS.

CORNISH: Now, I want to turn briefly to a development in another part of the world in a place where the U.S. has actually been easing sanctions, and that's Cuba. Now, today marks a year after the U.S. and Cuba announced they would reestablish relations. And now I understand there's a new deal on flights, air travel, between the two countries.

KELEMEN: Yeah, that's right. They - two sides agreed to establish regular air service. I mean, right now it's all charter flights. Under this deal U.S. carriers could have as many as 110 flights a day - 20 of them to Havana, the rest to other airports. There's still more to negotiate and, you know, don't expect these flights for another few months. But it could be early 2016. I should also point out, Audie, that Americans aren't - not allowed yet to...

CORNISH: That was my next question. Who can take this flight?

KELEMEN: That's right. Well, you know, the president has been easing restrictions on travel, but still by law there are only specific categories that you can travel under. That means, like, religious trips, people-to-people exchanges, academic conferences and those sorts of things. So Americans if they're buying tickets on these flights will have to say they're going for this or that purpose. And only Congress could ease that ban to make it so that anyone could go for tourism.

CORNISH: All right, Michele, thanks so much for the update.

KELEMEN: Thank you.

CORNISH: That's NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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