SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – IS terrorist group is funding its push into Syria and Iraq with oil-smuggling that starts at seized Syrian oil fields, goes through makeshift refineries and can end up in jerrycans carried by mules into the hilly borderland of Turkey. A major route linking Syrian oil fields with the smuggling enclaves of southern Turkey offers a window onto the complexity of the oil network run by IS terrorists.
“It clearly won’t be possible to choke off completely,” said David Butter, a Middle East economy expert at the UK think tank Chatham House. The route begins with oil fields run just a few years ago by Western energy giants and now controlled, along with fuel-smuggling operations in Syria, by the IS. They took truck oil drawn from those fields or stolen from pipelines to rudimentary refineries, according to Syrian human-rights activists, Western and Turkish government officials, and a Syrian businessman involved in the trade.
The refined products are sent to the Turkish frontier, where they’re hauled over the border by trucks, horses or mules, according to these accounts. Fuel has also been floated across rivers on rafts or pumped through underground pipelines before finding its way to markets across southern Turkey. Turkey largely turned a blind eye to the illicit fuel trade, which ramped up at the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011 along smuggling routes that have existed for decades.
Even as the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, solidified its control of the trade, Ankara shied away from an aggressive stance. The terrorist group has been holding 49 Turkish diplomats since June 11. Oil fields IS controls are producing an estimated 100,000 barrels a day, or about 3.2 million gallons, according to analysts and a Western official familiar with the operations—about as much as Sudan. The revenue can bring in as much as about $2 million a day, estimates Luay al-Khatteeb, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.
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