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Editorial: Cut off Islamic State's money supply

An image made available by the jihadist Twitter

An image made available by the jihadist Twitter account Al-Baraka news on June 9, 2014, allegedly shows Islamic State militants waving a jihadist flag as vehicles drive on a newly cut road through the Syrian-Iraqi border between the Iraqi Nineveh province and the Syrian town of Al-Hasakah. Credit: Getty Images

Islamic State militants whose barbarism is destabilizing the Middle East are being attacked from the air in Syria and Iraq by a U.S.-led coalition. While President Barack Obama got only limited support for military force at the United Nations last week, he got a unanimous vote from the Security Council for an alternative way to cripple the terrorists -- stopping the money flow.

The Islamic State is different from most terrorist groups, which rely primarily on outside benefactors, either individuals or foreign nations. The Islamic State mostly self-funds its violence and has an estimated $2 billion on hand. Much of its revenue is raised by smuggling oil out of captured fields and refineries. It has looted banks and stolen rare artifacts from ancient sites, which are then sold on the black market.

Shutting down these transactions by cutting Islamic State access to the world's financial institutions, especially in Turkey, is key to undermining its power. Penalizing these third parties for the terrorist acts of their customers should dry up the funding. What happened in a Brooklyn courtroom a week ago, the same day the air war began, is already sending chills through international financial institutions.

For the very first time, a federal jury found Arab Bank, headquartered in Jordan, liable for financing terrorism. The closely watched civil case, brought under the 1990 Antiterrorism Act, found the bank knowingly acted as a conduit for tens of millions of dollars to fund 24 Hamas terror attacks in Gaza and the West Bank from 2001 to 2004.

Sophisticated terrorist networks such as Islamic State cannot succeed without processing their dirty money through legitimate banks. The U.S. Treasury has already taken action. Now the other members of the UN must follow.