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ISIS black market oil operation booming: officials - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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 A picture made available on July 31, 2014, shows smoke rising from the Baiji oil refinery during the clashes between the fighters of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Iraqi forces in Baiji city, on July 30, 2014. (EPA)

A picture made available on July 31, 2014, shows smoke rising from the Baiji oil refinery during the clashes between the fighters of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Iraqi forces in Baiji city, on July 30, 2014. (EPA)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) black market oil smuggling operation is continuing to thrive despite escalating air strikes targeting the group’s positions in Iraq and Syria, Iraqi officials and regional oil traders informed Asharq Al-Awsat.

Local and regional sources confirmed that Iraqi black market oil, which is being used to fund ISIS’s terrorist operations, is being smuggled into Iran, Turkey and Syria, although the majority of this illegal oil is sold within Iraq.

Kurdish Iraqi businessman Hoshang Barzanji told Asharq Al-Awsat that black market ISIS oil is being sold by traders in Mosul, Kirkuk, Erbil and even the capital Baghdad via intermediaries. “They have intermediaries who deal directly with ISIS fighters regarding prices and quantity.”

Barzanji said that ISIS’s black market oil operation is thriving, despite the efforts of the international anti-ISIS coalition that is seeking to confront the group across Iraq and Syria. “These brokers do not admit purchasing oil from ISIS; they claim that they buy it from Iraqi smugglers . . .Even if they know they are dealing with ISIS fighters, this doesn’t matter to them because they don’t care about politics,” the Kurdish businessman said.

“The ISIS members who are involved in this are all Iraqi nationals and they do not deal with these intermediaries and brokers through political or military means, but rather as [ordinary] smugglers who are selling illegal goods, even if these funds are going to support the [ISIS] organization,” Barzanji added.

He affirmed that ISIS black market oil is big business, not just for the terrorist group and its intermediaries, but the end-of-the-line traders who sell this on across Iraq and the region.

“ISIS sells one barrel of oil for between 10 and 12 US dollars, while brokers or dealers can subsequently sell this on for between 25 and 30 dollars,” Barzanji said. Brent Crude currently stands at approximately 85 US dollars.

However Chief of Staff to the presidency of Kurdistan, Fuad Hussein, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Iraqi security forces have scored some successes against ISIS’s black market oil operation, citing Kurdish Peshmerga forces defense of Iraq’s oil rich Kirkuk province.

“If ISIS occupied Kirkuk province it would have taken control of oil wells and export pipelines through which half a million barrels per day (bpd) are exported to Turkey, and 300,000 bpd to Baiji [in Iraq]. This ultimately had been their objective . . .To take control of Kirkuk and the Baiji oil refinery so that all the [major] oil wells and refineries are in their hands,” Hussein said.