ISIS Reportedly Loses All Its Iraqi Oil

| by Zach Cohen
An oil field is set aflame in Qayyara as ISIS retreats.An oil field is set aflame in Qayyara as ISIS retreats.

Since Iraqi forces reclaimed the town of Shargat in northern Iraq from ISIS, the terrorist group has reportedly lost all sources of oil production in the country. 

Shargat is home to more than 100 mobile refineries, and was a key point in ISIS's oil-smuggling operation.

"They brought crude oil from Qayyara, Mosul and Syria and they refined it in the small refineries in Shargat," locals told Kurdish media network Rudaw. "The separated gas and oil and transported them back to Syria and Mosul." Shargat was liberated from ISIS on Sept. 22.

ISIS has relied on oil as its main source of revenue since 2014, when it took control of Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul. But in recent months, Kurdish and Iraqi forces have reclaimed large swaths of oil assets, including Qayyara's 62 oil wells, which were liberated in August. These recent victories have cut ISIS oil revenues by as much as 90 percent.

ISIS still controls some oil stores, but without the ability to produce more, its operation has taken a huge hit. Speaking to Rudaw, Dr. Bewar Khinsi, economic adviser to Kurdistan Region's intelligence agency says, "not only is [ISIS] unable to sell oil, but also they want to buy it in order to maintain its activities." 

At its peak in late 2014, ISIS was making an estimated $1.5 billion a year in revenue, with around $500 million coming from oil, according to The Huffington Post. As of July, the group's total revenue had allegedly been cut in half.

Now that ISIS's only sources of oil are its six oil fields in Syria, which Rudaw reports, produce just 80,000 barrels per day. For comparison, a single Iraqi oil field, Hijel, which Kurdish peshmerga forces liberated in May, produced 100,000 bpd. 

Syria used to be able to produce nearly 400,000 bpd, according to Forbes. The Syrian civil war has dramatically reduced the country's output. ISIS controls about one-third of Syria's oil production. 

Oil is not the only source of revenue for ISIS. It uses a taxation scheme, which according to The Washington Post, is sometimes closer to extortion, to collect money from people who live in areas it controls. Reuters estimates ISIS makes as much as $360 million per year in this way, according to The Washington Post. Other income sources include kidnapping and ransom, which the U.N. reports yields between $35 and $45 million per year.

Sources: Rudaw (2) (3), The Huffington Post, Forbes, The Washington Post, U.N. / Photo credit: Rudaw

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