December 9, 2015 | Quote

Turkey, Russia, Iraq And Syria

Oil has long been the dark, viscous gold fueling the Islamic State group’s vicious insurgency. As the group known as ISIS has captured broad swaths of Iraq and Syria, it has financed the purchase of arms and recruits in large part by seizing fertile oil fields, harvesting revenues reaching $2 million a day, according to American officials.

This lucrative expansion has unfolded despite a formidable coalition of international powers officially committed to halting the trade. The constellation of interests that has enabled ISIS to evade the pressure and sell its oil has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks, amid recriminations over the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces near the Turkish-Syrian border.


“We know it’s happening but the details are deliberately opaque,” said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “When oil is being bought on the Turkish border it’s highly unlikely that it will be sold anywhere else but Turkey. There are indications that oil is smuggled in movable containers and sold to state interests.”

This information makes it clear that targeting ISIS’ oil facilities and cracking down on oil smuggling on the Turkish border will diminish the group’s fortune but “certainly won’t break the bank,” Schanzer said. “Depriving them of territory is how to ultimately bankrupt them.”

Reports suggest ISIS pays Syrians desperate for work to conduct the smuggling, and that the transactions usually take place in U.S. dollars. “Greenbacks are like Kalashnikovs [in Iraq and Syria],” Schanzer told IBT.


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