Airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq are absolutely ruining the terror group’s most important source of revenue: oil.
It’s been suspected for some time that ISIS has been struggling to maintain its revenue base through oil sales because of relentless airstrikes and a decline in the global price of oil. A new report from Platts, a firm which provides information on oil prices, has confirmed that suspicion, relying on intelligence gathered after the U.S. military raided Abu Sayyaf, an ISIS commander in charge of oil.
Up until the raid in May, ISIS produced 70,000 barrels a day and brought in $40 million in revenue a month. The stream accounted for about 50 percent of total revenue for the group. The rest the group brings in through cigarette trafficking, taxes and selling valuable artifacts to international buyers.
To operate the oil fields, ISIS had to convince oil workers with special skills outside of Iraq and Syria to migrate to the area.
The U.S. began Operation Tidal Wave II in October to target oil revenues with airstrikes — five months after the raid. Even then, the U.S. was so reluctant to hit oil trucks that it only did so after two F-15s dropped pamphlets in advance, warning civilian truck drivers to vacate the area.
“Warning: airstrikes are coming,” one of the pamphlets read. “Oil trucks will be destroyed. Get away from your oil trucks immediately. Do not risk your life.”
The Pentagon justified the incredibly slow pace oil asset targeting by saying that it did not want to accidentally hit civilians. The strikes have also been staggered, which apparently is part of the plan to track how ISIS regroups in response.
U.S. military spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren announced recently that 90 percent of ISIS’ oil capacity has been eliminated, following coalition airstrikes.
But the United States is not the only air power to hit ISIS oil targets. Russia says its airstrikes have decimated 37 oil production facilities, as well as 17 columns of oil, which Russia claims are used to smuggle oil into Turkey. Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoy said that Russian military had destroyed about 2,000 oil trucks in total.
Russia has previously accused the U.S. of engaging in selective airstrikes against ISIS, in order to contribute to the downfall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
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