How Isis’ oil could fuel our cars

I combattenti dell’Isis controllano numerosi giacimenti. Secondo alcune inchieste, parte del greggio passerebbe per la Turchia e raggiungerebbe l’Europa.

To carry out war – like the one triggered by Isis over Syria and Iraq and then “exported” to Western countries in the form of terrorism – money is needed. A lot of money. For this reason, the Islamic State’s army has identified a set of measures to finance itself.


An article published by The Financial Times in October denounced that “the trade in oil has been declared a prime target by the international military coalition fighting the group. And yet it goes on, undisturbed”. Thanks to revenues deriving from it, fundamentalists can buy arms and resources needed to fuel their war machine.

“Dozens of interviews with Syrian traders and oil engineers as well as western intelligence officials and oil experts reveal a sprawling operation almost akin to a state oil company,” the newspaper reports. From the oilfields of al-Omar and al-Jabsah in Syria to Ajil and Allas fields in Iraq, there are numerous oilfields managed by Isis. Fundamentalists also recruited skilled workers, from engineers to managers, in order to maximise profits. Indeed, they reached an estimated production of 34-40 thousand barrels per day. Considering that oil is sold for 20 to 45 dollars per barrel, we can easily assume daily revenues worth 1.5 million dollars. As for cash money, according to a study published by UK Treasury, fundamentalists can count on a network of complaisant local banks.

Some Iraqi oilfields have been seized by Baghdad’s government army in April. Isis, over 10 months only, has gained 450 million dollars. This is the great difference between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State: the former is an organisation living on donations from wealthy foreign sponsors, whilst the latter tries to establish itself as an independent system. The question that now arises is: who do fundamentalists sell oil to? In the area they control, the entire society depends on DAESH’s oil. Hospitals, shops, agricultural machinery, and electricity generators do need diesel, and estimates show that fundamentalists control an area populated by some 10 million people.


SINJAR, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 15:  Peshmerga forces take positions on November 15, 2015 in Sinjar, Iraq. Kurdish forces, with the aid of massive U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, liberated the town from ISIL extremists, known in Arabic as Daesh, in recent days. Although many minority Yazidis celebrated the victory, their home city of Sinjar lay in almost complete ruins. Local Yazidi fighters wo fought with Kurdish forces and some former residents have been taking any salvagable items out of the rubble, the town being uninhabitable and perilously close to the frontline.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Oil fuels Isis’ war in Syria and Iraq ©John Moore/Getty Images


Abroad, there are many realities buying oil from Isis, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes not. According to the UK newspaper, even Syrian rebels, who fight against the Islamic State, are forced to buy diesel for their provisions. There’s more: an investigative report carried out by the monthly newspaper Alternatives Economiques shows how Isis would be able to sell oil in the international market, thanks to smuggling networks spreading crude oil towards Turkey.

A situation that has been confirmed by experts, interviewed by the New York Times in 2014, which talked about truckloads that pass through Turkey thanks to bribes, headed to Europe. Just a year ago, the EU ambassador in Iraq, Jana Hybaskova, clearly declared that some member states buy oil from Isis. On 16 November, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said he personally saw satellite images of truck convoys of tens of kilometres. Headed to global markets.


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