Why Is The U.S. Reluctant To Bomb ISIS Oil Fields?

Yves here. I hope readers who have been following the intricacies of who the friends and foes of ISIS really are (it seems to change over time, and one wonders how much of that is the messaging over ISIS, and how much of it is the kaleidoscopic way alliances keep shifting) will sanity check what the author says is the best explanation of the US preservation of ISIS oil assets: that we hope opponents will rise up and topple ISIS and will use them for better purposes. I’m saying this more cynically than he does, but after seeing America having pinned its hopes on “Syrian moderates,” I’m left wondering if this is a variant of that fantasy.

By Ryan Opsal, an Adjunct Lecturer and PhD Candidate in International Relations at Florida International University in Miami, FL. His doctoral dissertation involves an in-depth analysis of American and Chinese energy policies. Originally published at OilPrice

There has been some revealing new information coming out recently regarding the strategy against ISIS. One aspect many find troubling is the apparent failure of U.S. and coalition forces to sufficiently target and destroy oil infrastructure located in ISIS territory, which accounts for a significant portion of the terror group’s annual income. The argument goes, if we want to impact their operations, we should target their primary sources of income, and choke off their operational funds. So, why does ISIS oil infrastructure still stand? Is this the result of an intelligence failure? Negligence? Or, is there a more purposeful reason?

Using data from the Department of Defense, we can see the targeting of oil infrastructure has indeed been a relatively low priority. Buildings and military positions receive the bulk of coalition attention, and only 260 oil-related targets have been destroyed since operations began, out of 16,075 targets damaged or destroyed. And, we now know just how many of these oil-related targets remain. So, what reason could coalition forces have for holding off?

We now know with a high degree of certainty that ISIS receives the majority of its oil income selling unrefined crude, at the pump. There was some idea this was the case, but now it is more certain. This means the ISIS oil trade goes as far as pumping oil from the ground, and then selling it to a long line of waiting tanker trucks that are typically not affiliated with the group. And, while ISIS used to run some marginal refining operations, that appears to no longer be the case. Additionally, we now know the organization’s largest market is not from exports, but through sales to its local, monopolized market in northern Syria. The fact that most of the income is local, and not from exports is even more fascinating when you learn that not only does this oil find its way to local civilians that need fuel for power generation, but that much of the fuel finds its way to Assad’s government forces and the various rebel groups that are arrayed against ISIS itself.

We also now have a better understanding of the extent of ISIS’ diverse revenue stream outside of oil. For instance, last year, in the midst of the chaos in northern Iraq, the terror group turned to robbery, and stole well over $500 million from Iraqi banks. They also onerously tax the locals that are unfortunate enough to live under their rule. And, most surprising are the large revenues garnered from farming on very fertile Syrian and Iraqi land. These sources are far more important than the oft-reported revenues from hostage taking and the selling of sex slaves. This tells us oil is important, but not a silver bullet to disrupt operations.

So, a possible reason for not decisively interrupting oil operations could include preservation of infrastructure for rebuilding after the conflict. This certainly has precedent, since coalition forces have tried this in Iraq and Afghanistan most recently, and territorial shifts occur rapidly in this current conflict. Consider this a lesson learned from Kuwait in 1991.

Another possibility is the US does not want to cause any environmental damage in the surrounding region, having learned another hard lesson from the First Gulf War. This is possible, but highly unlikely. In the face of open war and killing enemies, it is extremely difficult to imagine any government placing environmental concerns over decisive strikes against an enemy. This approach does not have precedent.

Another scenario, which may be the be most plausible, is a play for local fighters to turn on ISIS, prevent further humanitarian issues in the region, and to maintain supplies to rebel groups fighting both ISIS and Assad. A loss of fuel in this region would be extremely detrimental to the local population, which relies overwhelmingly on generators for power, fueled by ISIS oil. The same goes for all the groups fighting ISIS – they all receive fuel from their enemies’ oil pumps. Without fuel, this could hamper the war effort on the ground, and even draw the local population into further compliance with ISIS. Since oil provides the lifeline for many civilians under ISIS rule, this must be taken into account for any long-term strategy in the region.

Some might mock the fact that the U.S. Air Force, before a recent strike, dropped pamphlets on the oil transport vehicles giving the occupants 45 minutes to vacate their tankers before air attacks would commence. This is simply a recognition of how crucial a local population is to combatting insurgencies and terrorist groups. We know the tanker drivers are most likely not affiliated with ISIS in any way, and might even despise the terror organization. They might even be retrieving fuel to be delivered to the very forces that are fighting against ISIS.

It’s incredibly important to keep in mind the limits of military power when waging counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations, a fact not lost on top military officials in Washington. Our understanding as to how to effectively combat terror groups has grown immensely in recent years, and key aspects of this are to allow for the creation of divisions in the territory and the terror organization itself and to ultimately draw in the local population to your side. The former involves containing the group and allowing those divisions to bubble to the surface over time.

This is a key point by terrorism expert Daniel Byman, where he makes the case for “containment” and “de-legitimation” in a scholarly work from 2007. In a sense, this was U.S. counterterrorism strategy globally before 2001. The other component is key, and was effectively used in Iraq in 2006-2007, when the Sunni Awakening went into effect after local tribal groups cut deals with U.S. forces, and turned on al Qaeda. This was a vital juncture in the campaign in Iraq ushering in relative calm in a turbulent part of the world.

It’s important to note that the available information provides a conflicting picture and we can’t be entirely clear on motives at this point. However, the evidence does plausibly point toward forcing realignment of local tribal groups against ISIS, and the maintenance of crucial supplies to resistance groups throughout the region, both corroborated with past actions by U.S. and coalition forces, and counterterrorism strategy. It also remains to be seen if the United States is forced to abandon this strategy given recent attacks and Russian involvement in the region. It may now simply be untenable, for any reason, to forgo attacks on oil infrastructure in the region.

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  1. b

    “to allow for the creation of divisions in the territory and the terror organization itself”

    If the U.S. would want to do that it would seriously attack the oil tankers. Thousands of oil tankers in rows in the middle of the desert. Eliminate them and smuggling stops. IS runs out of money and can not pay its fighters. Then there will be lots of “divisions in the territory”

    As the U.S. is unwilling to do this but wants to install a “Salafist principality” in east Syria and west Iraq the Syrians, Russians and Iranians will now take on that task. Any tanker truck or normal truck with barrels loaded will be eliminated. That will be the end of the “state” within ISIS. It will have to go back underground.

    1. Cynthia

      I find it interesting how such educated people make such basic mistakes time and time again. Iraq – get rid of Saddam – power vacuum – more terrorists. Libya – get rid of Gadaffi – power vacuum – more terrorists. Syria – get rid of Assad – power vacuum – heaps of terrorists. I’m afraid with the best will in the world, there is supremely evil intent at play in the US and NATO governments.

      1. jgordon

        Well the choices are that the corporate state leadership of the west is either stupid and incompetent or stupid and evil. One would be inclined to think that these “failed” policies were deliberately designed to created more terrorists after all.

        After all, the more terrorists they create, the more excuses they have to bloat military budgets and the more they get to destroy civil liberties. “They” being the corporate state functionaries who benefit financially, and the various misc. national security state officials and politicians who get high on the power trip that grinding the peasants under their boot brings.

        1. DanB

          “Ryan Opsal, … PhD Candidate in International Relations…” These graduate schools have faculty incapable -for several reasons- of critically examining USA foreign policy. It follows that you get lots of erudite yet inconclusive analysis and conjecture from graduate students who, like Mr. Opsal, are dependent upon the faulty to certify them with the union card of a PhD. As someone who has a PhD from such a school, I can attest that -as is the case in almost any organization- there are certain lines of inquiry every member -especially graduate students- knows are taboo. Since this is a comment, I’ll just add that reading Mr. Opsal’s post reminds me of what an East German scientist told me about how to write reports for the Party/governmental hierarchy in East Germany: be extra careful to couch and qualify any criticisms of the system so they do not come back to bite you.

        2. fresno dan


          “One would be inclined to think that these “failed” policies were deliberately designed to created more terrorists after all.

          After all, the more terrorists they create, the more excuses they have to bloat military budgets and the more they get to destroy civil liberties.”

          You have reached cynical nirvana….

        3. RUKidding

          Team USA has never “gone after” our BFF’s in Saudi, who, after all, were funding and supporting the original “terrorists” who allegedly flew into the WTC’s, etc. Plus Team USA loves loves loves to excoriate all Muslims, esp citing their allegedly horrific treatment of women. Yet some of the worst treatment of women happens in Saudi Arabia.

          Does Team USA want a lot of chaos and endless War in the MENA?? As they say, ask Pope Francis if he’s a Roman Catholic.

          Bomb the oil tanker trucks in Syria, which amply funds ISIS??? Hell no. never happen. at least not deliberately. Get a clue (said to those who disbelieve and think ISIS is for realz a concern of our fabulous US gov, and our coporate oligarchs. Why it’s almost AS IF, Team USA recruited, armed, trained and continues to fund ISIS… they are ever so useful to the PTB… just like Al Qaeda is… remember waaaaay back when Al Qaeda was the horrablist enemy of all times??? Remember? Now? Eh – we continue to recruit, arm, train and fund them because????).

          Go figure. It’s all bullsh*t to me, that’s just me. Cynical as ever.

          Good luck to all the “little people” bc we’re the ones paying for this.

          1. Ishmael

            I was reading an article that a lot of the oil movement for ISIS was taking place in Malta. Which then clicked with me that there is a large number of US govt personnel (FBI/CIA) in Malta. In fact a couple of years ago a man with the state department was kicked out of Malta for his over the top behavior. Maybe your local agents are getting a cut of the loot so no reason to bomb their business buddies. Hurts the bank account!

        4. unique

          FAILED POLICIES – It is Obama’s failed policies. Obama will not listen to
          the Military or anyone else that knows what they are talking about when
          it comes to taking out Muslim ISIS. They are all making money off of the

          These wars ill never stop as long as there is money involved. How many
          Americans have to die before the people say drop the nuclear bomb to
          stop the war ????? There is no incentive for the elite to stop the war.
          After all their children are not fighting. This whole thing sickens me.

          1. Lambert Strether

            I think the continuities between Bush and Obama are greater than the differences. That said, I was with you until you suggested nuking Syria. Er, civilian casualities? Radiation? World War III? Granted, IIRC that was one of the arguments for nukes; that they were cheaper than regular forces (modulo the externalities). So it’s interesting to see that argument come to light.

            1. Barry Fay

              How great to remember that song – and how amazing that it is even more relevant in today´s world than it was back then when we all thought that Americans were finally waking up to the power elites. Nope! Thanks for the memories.

          2. different clue

            The way to stop the war is for one side to win the war so conclusively that no other side exists in any condition to be able to wage any more war. So . . . which side should one most wish to see in final possession of Syria?

            I would argue that we should wish to see the Assad side win. ( Those of us capable of thinking, anyway). The Assad government at least offers the prospect of a semi-return to a non-sectarianly biased dictatorship where the Christians, Druzes, Shias, Alawites, semi-secular Sunnis etc. don’t have to worry about dhimitude, expulsion or extermination. And how to help the Assad side win? Switch sides and give the R + 6 whatever help they ask for in helping Assad exterminate the rebellion.
            Because it is clear that with R + 6 assistance, the Syrian Arab Army is steadily recapturing ground from the various jihadis, and the Syrian Arab Republic government is slowly coming in behind the Army and decontaminating the remaining rebels from the liberated areas.

            Obama has overtly declared that he supports a jihadi takeover of Syria. Obama is an utter monster of absolute evil. Obama is the evil World Leader of the Global Axis of Jihad. Obama’s loyal supporters will always be with Obama no matter what, which means they will always be against Assad and Putin . . . and therefore with the terrorists. But the rest of us don’t have to pretend that we don’t understand that.

            If you are not with Assad and Putin, you are with the terrorists.

      2. fajensen

        We need more terrorists or there will be no market for Global Hawk and all the other MIL-SEC Bling and then CEO’s may have to wait a whole month before buying another island – which would be an Outrage!

  2. TG

    Well. Yes. But.

    Under Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama, the United States is de-facto allied with ISIS/Al Qaeda etc. Why? I have no idea. Stupidity, wanting to suck up to Saudi Arabia/Turkey, idiotic ‘real politic’ run amok, stupidity ( I repeated myself, but why not). Still.

    So let’s get this straight. Hillary Clinton ALLIED THE UNTIED STATES WITH AL QAEDA (The nut jobs who blew up the twin towers on 9/11, if you have a short memory). And Donald Trump thinks that allying the United States with Al Qaeda is really really stupid, and a famous supermodel is no longer a “10”.

    There are levels of stupidity. What’s in your cortex?

    1. redleg

      3 common denominators
      1. Saudi Arabia
      2. USA
      3. Turkey

      Something must be done about Saudi financing of terrorists.
      Turkey is apparently buying Daesh oil. And go figure, Erdogan’s son in law is Energy Minister and his son owns an oil transportation company.
      The US needs land bases to fight in Iraq…

    2. EoinW

      If the US government was behind 9/11 then it’s not a question of “short memory” nor stupidity. In fact post 9/11 actions begin to make perfect sense.

      1. RUKidding

        Well, some of us said so even as it was happening. Of course, back then, that was treasonous heresy of the worst kind. Now? Not as much, although I have friends who find it a bridge too far to consider that “our” govt would deliberately kill citizens.

        Naïve, much?

        1. Nigelk

          We will always need a Goldstein for our Two Munutes Hate.

          The USSR didn’t want to play anymore after 1991, so we had to find a new “heel”.

          I use a wrestling term to allude to the bad guys because that’s about how sophisticated an operation we’re dealing with.

          Then again, rubes love wrestling by the millions…

    3. Wat

      Ultimately, all the PTB care about is extinguishing what I think is the last secular, multi-ethnic regime in ME who defy the US culture of exploitation, i.e. IMF debt oppression, foreign ownership of critical public assets, social safety net, etc. I understand Syria has no debt…… Syria is a bad example of defiance that could be emulated if allowed to persist.

  3. jgordon

    From the Washington post a couple of days ago: Iraqis think the US is in Cahoots with ISIS

    That seems a lot more plausible than the bizarrely circuitous strategic non-strategy suggested by the author above. It also explains why the Russians managed to just about wipe out ISIS in a month while the US couldn’t do anything to them in over a year of fighting.

    The utter and incomprehensible stupidity of US positions in Syria and the middle east has just about convinced the world that the US is a has-been empire. The US simply can not get away with being this dumb and suffer no consequences for it. This level of stupidity has to be the hallmark of a collapsing empire nearing its end.

    1. JohnnyGL

      U.S. military officials say the charges are too far-fetched to merit a response. “It’s beyond ridiculous,” said Col. Steve Warren, the military’s Baghdad-based spokesman. “There’s clearly no one in the West who buys it, but unfortunately, this is something that a segment of the Iraqi population believes.”

      What’s Lambert usually say on these matters? “If you’ve got to deny it…”

      1. jrs

        What I would say, is I don’t know the truth, but think about it: who has more information Iraqis or those in the west? Obviously Iraqis and if they are basing their position on direct rumors as in 1st or 2nd or 3rd hand reports (anything but propaganda) as they may well be then … Though there may be propaganda reporting things that are not true, if it was true Iraqis quite likely would know, to their bones. And the west would be clueless, except those who don’t tell.

    2. RUKidding

      I saw that article and went: uh huh. Yep. For sure.

      And who would know better than the Iraqis?

      Anyway, there’s loads of evidence out there, if you do some research, that definitely points to Team USA at least assisting in the creation of ISIS.

      I’ve always been totally cynical about it and don’t believe the propaganda about ISIS, the alleged beheadings, etc. That’s just me, but just saying…

        1. different clue

          Colonel Lang addressed that concern in a comment on that very question in an SST thread.
          Colonel Lang noted that ISIS is not attacking Israel FOR NOW. ISIS’s first priority is Syria and Iraq, and then Saudi Arabia after that. Assuming they win all these places, they will indeed “get around” to Israel, good buddy.

      1. fajensen

        Beheading’s are not “alleged” – they are real; all over the internet there are pictures of one grinning ape after another holding the head of a Kurdish girl by the hair. If one care to look. The US supports torture, indefinite detention, secret renditions, death patrols all over South America and now: Planet of The Apes coming to a market place Near You (once NATO has bombed a safe path for them).

        Isn’t Globalisation just Great?

  4. ewmayer

    “Preservation of infrastructure” might explain why the US doesn’t bomb the oil wells, but not why the US appears to also refrain from doing anything against those “long lines of waiting tanker trucks”, which are restricted to roadways and would thus seem to offer juicy targeting opportunities. “Keeping the locals happy” doesn’t explain the lack of targeting of oil convoys across the border to, say, Turkey.

    But the author has overlooked a fundamental possibility: That the U.S. regime-change-deciderers have for the most part merely been making a show of going after ISIS, because they see the group as useful against that New Hitler, Satanic-evil-incarnate Assad the Younger. That also explains the lack of hue and cry in Washington about the repeated instances of U.S.-supported ‘moderate rebel’ factions surrendering all their shiny military gear and fat stacks of cash upon first contact with ISIS. Having propagandized ISIS – like Assad – as evil incarnate, the DC warheads can’t well directly support the group, but looking the other way when the weapons funnels from Libya, the Gulf and Turkey ‘accidentally’ get pointed toward ISIS, either as a result of ‘misdirected’ weapons supplies to the ‘moderate rebels’ or in direct exchange for bubblin’ crude, well, that is another matter entirely.

    1. McKillop

      Well, yeh, but, but, the guys who own and drive the trucks, “We know” are “most likely not affiliated with ISIS in any way. . .”
      They “might even despise the terrorist organization.”
      “They might even be retrieving fuel to be delivered to the very forces that are fighting against ISIS”.
      It seems to me that delivering oil bought from anyone demonstrates an “affiliation”. I’m not sure enough about the truckdrivers’ attitudes to comment on their hidden desires or actions. For all I know they could be part-time pool keepers for Assad. Or Erdogan.

      1. Praedor

        I couldn’t care less if they despise IS or are not affliliated. If I help a murder do a murder without actually taking direct part, or if I help said murderer get away from authorities, I am, de facto, an accessory after murder. Guilty.

        Blow the “non-affliliated” to bits because they are, de facto, propping up and objectively supporting IS by their conscious actions. Guilty. Valid targets.

        So it is the Russians and Iranians who are the only ones not corrupted by US foreign policy games.

  5. Rufus

    WOW! The “PhD candidate” who wrote this brilliant article must have not seen the news about ISIS oil being sold to Turkey, rathar than the “local market.”

    I bet this genius is doing his so-called PhD research on a Soros scholarship… or maybe it’s on State Dept funds…or was that on Saudi donations? Next time you publish another one of your gems, kindly disclose who your sugar daddy is, will you?

    Son, if you were my student, I’d kick you out of the program, you unethical lying little decepticon zero.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      For someone who pretends to have so much insight, your comment is not well informed. And ad hominem attacks are against our official site policies, and comments with strong assertions and no supporting links are not well received either.

      This paper, which is the best work we’ve seen on the topic, finds strong but as the authors caution, not definitive evidence that ISIS oil is smuggled into the Turkish port of Ceyhan and sold into the global market. For instance:

      An additional manifestation of the invisible nexus between Ceyhan and ISIS became evident through the concurrent study of the tanker charter rates from the port and the timeline of the terrorists’ military engagements (see section 3.4 on this page). It seems that whenever the Islamic State is fighting in the vicinity of an area hosting oil assets, the exports from Ceyhan promptly spike. This may be attributed to an extra boost given to crude oil smuggling with the aim of immediately generating additional funds, badly needed for the supply of ammunition and military equipment.


      Moreover, the whole thrust of the article, that the US SHOULD be bombing ISIS oil fields and isn’t, is hardly the sort of disconnect in the US “we’re after ISIS” official PR that anyone in State would want to point out. So the idea that this grad student is funded by State is a howler.

      And Soros funded types are much more explicit in going after Russia. I suggest you familiarize yourself with Chrystia Freeland, one of his favorites.

      1. kemal erdogan

        The ties of turkish government with jihadis, including ISIS has been ongoing for many years. One can assume that the trucks going to ports cannot directly be linked to the government. But russion sat images also show that a large chunk of oil goes to the refinery in Batman. That refinery is run by a government controlled company. So, that part is certainly dark given that turkish government need not truck loads of crude to feed its batman refinery (there is a pipeline built in 1970s). The only explanation for the refinery buying that oil would be some fishy business, to say the least.

        1. Wilf

          And a reason to be suspicious about the cabinet appointments of the new Liberal government of Canada, led by Justin Trudeau.

      2. Fiver

        No less a bastion of Imperial Democracy than Brookings Institution (the Obama/Clinton ‘smart’ power and regime change authority) features this proof, courtesy of Freeland, that the reason the ‘mainstream’ is what it is, is that it settles around a simple, one-dimensional Official Narrative that hardens on contact and never lets go, even if found suspect from the get-go, even if the ‘internals’ are deforming the script in their zest to be free and known, because those who’ve helped to create, or tied themselves directly to it (the Narrative) cannot so easily roll it back as more knowledge and new events themselves emerge.


        Look at Ukraine now. A total disaster. Anyone who blames Russia for that incredible mess has the sort of cracked-lens blind spot vis a vis the West that only profound bias can deliver- sadly, often a feature of individuals with familial roots in East Bloc countries – Ziggy comes to mind. That man’s Russia obsession was one of the key drivers for the total miscalculation of national interests that has nailed the US public interest to the wall for decades in exchange for never-ending war in pursuit of a ‘pax Americana’ the world might’ve gone for had it not become so obvious so quickly after the Soviet collapse that what that meant was US hegemony with US rules and no other choices allowed.

      3. Rufus

        Hi Yves,

        Your point is well taken. Regarding the ISIS oil, the author posits an interesting hypothesis, but where that oil is really going is pretty well documented by now. Just because a hypothesis sounds good and interesting does not mean it has any merit unless data supports it. None of the data we see coming out now supports the author’s claims. Unless, of course, we start believing the lies that come out of our government… or worse yet, the government of Turkey… As far as PhD candidates go, I have learned to not put much value on what they say or write until at least 10 years after they actually earn that PhD. I just hope his studies are not sponsored by those elements I mentioned, however, many, many are.

        As far as George Soros is concerned, I have lived in Eastern Europe, and have seen this man’s work. He is a devil on steroids. He’s an admitted unapologetic Nazi collaborator, a destroyer of economies, and subverted of democratically-elected governments across Europe and who knows where else. The only reason he is not being rounded up by the Israelis to be put on trial like other WWII criminals have is because he is a well-connected so-called “liberal.” As I wrote, I have seen and experienced this monster’s work. Here he is admitting to collaborating with the Nazis in confiscating his fellow Hungarian Jews’ property (many/most of whom ended up in concentration camps) and not experiencing any guilt whatsoever. He simply “did what he had to do”… how do you like that?…


        So I am sorry if I am not impressed with Soros’ Open Society, etc. I am also not impressed that he is one of Obama’s principal advisors. Oh, but wait, it seems Obama is supporting ISIS too… and Obama was also supporting the Nazis in Ukraine not too long ago… and much of that trouble in Ukraine was stirred up by Soros’ organizations to begin with… go figure…

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          With all due respect, I don’t see how you see my remark regarding Soros’ work in Eastern Europe as in any way supportive. My point here was narrow: Soros’ grantees are generally quite aggressively anti-Russia. The poster asserted that the writer might be Soros-funded which is barmy given how Soros operatives are not subtle about their point of view, and that grantees come from much tonier schools or have deep roots in an area of interest.

      4. hemeantwell

        Over the past couple of weeks a variety of sites, both in and out of the MSM, have been raising questions about the relationship between Turkey and ISIS, and the question of oil shipments often comes up. That this guy doesn’t even refer to Turkey or Erdogan in his article is a red flag. Most favorably, even if his analysis is correct, he should be familiar with the state of the debate and participate in it. Instead, he objectively ignores it. So, most favorably, this is not exemplary public intellectual behavior. Less favorably, it strikes me as disinformation/distraction, burnished by an academic connection.

  6. McKillop

    And why should anyone doubt that the new newest policy isn’t designed to show a softer more gentle side of the forces that destroyed Iraq and Libya? I was reading about the elf on the shelf as an agent for change just recently. The influence of such a creature might be obvious to those inclined to look.

  7. William C

    FWIW my daugher, whose job requires her to know what is going on in the Middle East has given up using Western media and uses Al Jazeera instead, because, as she said, if you rely on the Western media, you do not know what is going on in the ME. She blames a combination of incompetence and dishonesty (I do not think she had NC in mind when she said this but was commenting on the mainstream media).

    1. Crazy Horse

      That would be the same “independent” Al Jazerra that is owned by the monarchy of Qatar?

      “Qatar is an hereditary constitutional monarchy governed by the ruling Al Thani family in consultation with a council of ministers, an appointed advisory council and an elected municipal council.

      It’s a kingdom — complete with a royal family that controls massive wealth from their substantial oil and gas reserves.”

      US State Dept. summary

      nothing to see here–move along

      1. JeffC

        And the BBC has long been (or at least once was) among the more respected MSM sources, even though government owned.

        Seems to me that no significant news source out there is free of unfortunate ties, explicit or hidden. Before judging any of them, including AJZ, check out their actual news coverage.

        1. Crazy Horse

          The point being that you and I lack the background and range of information sources to accurately evaluate the bias and validity of AJZ’s “actual news coverage.” So we end up giving it credulity according to how well it fits into our individual intellectual biases.

          That is why I suggest that the first step in deciding whether to trust a news source is to FOLLOW THE MONEY!

      2. Thure Meyer

        Al Jazerra is an interesting news alternative. Anyone who bothered to watch their non-stop coverage during Mubarek’s ousting in Egypt or the events in Libya would know that. They also do terrific interviews which are never shown in the US.

        Watch the coverage and compare it to other news organizations – then judge. And most importantly present a coherent argument as to where and why it’s biased.

        That’s not to say they are a paradigm of virtue and/or fairness, but they do provide a different and often informative point of view. If you only watch US based news, you will never get a clear picture of world events.

        Plus, railing on them based only on a State Dept. blurb is kinda pathetic

      3. snackattack

        Yeah, Al-Jazeera’s coverage is quite biased in favor of Qatar’s positions. In particular, Qatar is aligned with Saudi/Turkey/USA on both Syria and Yemen, and Al-Jazeera’s coverage has a noticeable slant on these topics.

        Personally I find a combination of BBC/Al-Jazeera/RT to be a good news combo. Often both sides of an issue will be represented by one of the West/Gulf/Russia.

        1. Praedor

          Sure, so I ignore anything they report that points at Shia, Iran, Assad, or any other group or country the salafist ass-clowns have an issue with. But I trust them when reporting on the West/US. They are far more truthful and willing to ask questions that need asking than ANY US media talking head or organization.

        2. craazyboy

          It’s said that Qatar itself exists at the whim of the Saudis, so we can’t place complete faith in Al-Jazeera for truth in reporting. But at least Murdoch hasn’t bought ’em yet. Plus Israel doesn’t bother inviting the King of Qatar to Indoctrination Camp that all US freshmen congress folks get invited to.

          1. William C

            My daughter never said Al Jazeera was independent or perfect or without bias, simply that if you needed to know what is going on in the ME, it was superior as a source of factual information to the Western media which is seriously deficient. And her job does mean that she has to know what is happening in the ME so she is not following it for ideological reasons but for purely practical ones.

      4. fajensen

        … while western media is supported by click-ratings* and most of the articles probably written by robots.

        Some of the con-slutting work I did back in the day was on classifiers to distinguish between a tank, a tractor or a car – for example – from sensor-network data.

        Now, if you have a subscription to Reuters (or other databases) and some developers, it is a relatively benign exercise to measure click-rates on news articles, arrange experiments where different people are served different web-pages from the same news-URL, and then run some machine-learning on the parameters that define the selection and presentation of web-content so that click-rates (and add click-trough rates) is optimised.

        Those Support Vector Machines and Bayesian Classifiers simply *knows* that We, The People, wants more of Kim Kardassian’s butt-crack, sob stories with dogs and babies, and of course “contentious” items reinforcing current strains of xenophobia, lighting up “debate fora”.

        The result is: The Daily Mail.

  8. Michael Fiorillo

    There’s a lot of seemingly willful credulity – thousands of tanker trucks not affiliated with ISIS, drivers who may “secretly” hate it, gross understatement of Turkey’s role in permitting the shipment and sale of the oil – in this article, and it surprises me to see it in Naked Capitalism.

    Definitely not up to the usual standards.

  9. Jackiebass

    The oil is going to Turkey. Aljazera interviewed a former pentagon official. He claims that the US was aware more than a year ago that the oil was going to Turkey. This piece doesn’t say much for the University of Miami and the quality of it’s doctoral program.

  10. Ignim Brites

    The fact that the war against IS is undeclared and conceived as a part of the GWOT rather than a war on a state puts some constraints on how overtly the war is carried on.

  11. Skip Intro

    The characterization of the ‘The Surge’ and ‘Sunni Awakening’ as a successful strategy is bizarre and somewhat ahistorical:

    The other component is key, and was effectively used in Iraq in 2006-2007, when the Sunni Awakening went into effect after local tribal groups cut deals with U.S. forces, and turned on al Qaeda. This was a vital juncture in the campaign in Iraq ushering in relative calm in a turbulent part of the world.

    US Forces ‘surged’ out of the ‘Sunni Triangle’ and hunkered down in Baghdad, and started paying and arming the local insurgents instead of fighting them. While it is a winning strategy for the troops, many would recognize that as surrender, tarted up with Orwellian framing. It is indeed a strategy to applaud, almost as good as not invading in the first place, but spinning it as ‘counter terrorism’ is a stretch, particularly when the Al Qaeda brand is applied to an organic insurgency resisting both a foreign occupier and a Shiite government with death squads bent on pay back. And the level of success is indeed questionable, as many of the former insurgents and Sunni/Baathist officers who wandered off when the army disbanded have found a home in Daesh. To whose advantage was that ‘relative calm’?

  12. financial matters

    Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to see that the US has good intentions for Syria.

    Considering the recent exploits in Ukraine and Libya, the US grab for resources does not seem to bode well for the local populations in these countries. Smash and grab seems to be more the foreign policy being pursued along the lines of shock doctrine.

    Russia seems to be taking on a more stabilizing role in the area even in working with Jordon and Israel as well as the R+5. (Russia plus Syrian army forces, Iran, Iraq, Hizbollah, Kurds). While we have the US talking about the sovereign rights of Turkey.

    I think Michael Flynn has it right

    “Flynn: We have to work constructively with Russia. Whether we like it or not, Russia made a decision to be there (in Syria) and to act militarily. They are there, and this has dramatically changed the dynamic. So you can’t say Russia is bad, they have to go home. It’s not going to happen. Get real. Look at what happened in the past few days: The president of France asked the US for help militarily (after the Paris attacks). That’s really weird to me, as an American. We should have been there first and offered support. Now he is flying to Moscow and asking Putin for help.”

  13. rjs

    in answering the title question, because the smuggling of from ISIS is managed by Bilal Erdogan, the son of our NATO ally Turkey’s president, and ultimately sold as Kurdish oil at a cut rate to Israel…

    the Turkish takeout of the Russian jet was in retaliation for the Russian bombing of a convey of ISIS oil tankers that were delivering oil to Erdogan..

    1. TimmyB

      Remember all the news reports that stated Russia would coordinate its flights over Syria with the U.S. to avoid any confrontations? I do. If these reports were true, and I have no reason to doubt them, Russia told our government the timing and flight path of the plane Turkey shot down. Want to bet Turkey also had this information, which they used to ambush the Russian plane?

  14. craazyboy

    We won’t know fer sure what the Republican Guard is up to until Al-Jazeera gets some reporter boots on the ground and digs up the story. Or Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.

  15. EoinW

    Hard to believe that the military that has killed hundreds of thousands of Muslims is suddenly limiting objectives for fear of taking more innocent lives. Also hard to believe those running that military, the same people who were prepared to bomb Iranian nuclear plants(all options are on the table) now care about the environment.

    Here’s a simple idea: the military/industrial complex has made a fortune on this endless war scenario. So how does it maximize profits even more? How about a war were it gets to arm BOTH sides!

  16. RLS

    Daniel Lazare, in his Nov.30th article, The Saudi Connection to Terror takes the view that the sale of Isis oil, either to foreign or domestic markets, the bank robberies, the sale of art objects of historical significance, etc can not account for the cost of conducting Isis operations. In his view it is mainly the financial support from the Gulf states, mostly Saudi Arabia that allows Isis to be what it is. Could it be the US failure to bomb Isis oil infrastructure is not due to the reasons addressed in the article but due to the recognition of this inconvenient truth?

    1. Jagger

      In his view it is mainly the financial support from the Gulf states, mostly Saudi Arabia that allows Isis to be what it is.

      Yes, I agree. Undoubtably ISIS will continue to be funded by the Saudi’s whether the oil flow is stopped or not. So cutting the oil tanker line may hurt some economic players but I doubt it will cripple ISIS. Although the Saudi’s have the ability to financially cripple ISIS, why would they? ISIS is doing exactly what Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and the US want them to do in Syria.

    2. Fiver

      Good points to you and Jagger’s response. I would like to add my own 2 cents that Russia decided to hit the oil operations not just for the immediate impact, but also to show that continued effective fighting by ISIS after the oil ‘pipeline’ was shut down would automatically prove the very points you raise, i.e., that even this late in the game, US allies that simply could not be acting without US knowledge are still funding/supplying ISIS at a level that suggests a generalized green light.

  17. Eureka Springs

    While I certainly admit to an ongoing fascination when it comes to my governments horror show I’m always amazed at myself and others who pose the kinds of questions raised in this post since we’ve known much for so long now.

    We should never have to ask… we should be fully informed and know the reasons why… what the missions is, who we arm and why etc. Instead we are constantly trying to decipher and rationalize into some sort of decency albeit misguided what our lying war criminals are up to. Why we aren’t demanding a Gov’t which operates in such a manner is the big question, imo. All these people should be in prison. They have all our information yet we can have none of theirs?

    We know who is considered allies – USA, Turkey, Saudi, Qatar, Israel – the very worst of human kind on earth today.

    We know the term ‘moderates’ is a lie.

    We know all our leadership says Assad must go – and that should be an All Stop WTF moment for anyone. For all of Assads failings he was re-elected with an overwhelming percentage of Syrian votes in the midst of us fomenting this war with weapons funneled from and through Libya after we destroyed it.

    And we know Uncle Scam will gladly bomb anyone for the most petty reasons so not bombing those tankers…. If US/ IS/Turk didn’t control the oil fields then the Syrian Gov’t would. We know Uncle Scam loves oil as much as MIC… to ask why we are not bombing oil infrastructure/revenue controlled by the very people armed and empowered by US and our allies from the get go…. pretends we are at all capable of being up to some good.

  18. Praedor

    This is why I am glad the Russians have gotten involved. They don’t believe in the fantasy of “moderate rebels”. They will hit whatever the hell they deem a good target, including oil…especially if they really believe (or have proof) that Erdogan is profiting from ISIS oil smuggling. Can support Assad AND get back at Erdogan at the same time for shooting down a Russian jet.

    And stick a finger in the moron US eye. “Moderate rebels”. Please. Moderates behead and actually eat liver from their fallen enemies (cannibalism). Or they simply group execute captured Syrian govt soldiers. Violations of international law and the law of war…but then the US is BIG on violating its own and international law in war so, birds of a feather.

  19. Peter Pan

    I prefer to get my information on Syria, Iraq and Yemen from the blog sites “Moon of Alabama” and “Sic Semper Tyrannis” as well as “RT News” (the so-called Russian propaganda channel) and “South Front” videos (more so-called Russian propaganda). All of them seem more well informed than the Western news media. Their expressed opinions seem much more rational.

    1. TimmyB

      I agree 100%. Our so-called “war” against ISIS is a joke. The U.S. government’s main goal in Syria is to overthrow Assad. Thus, we let our allies fund, arm and supply ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria. We also take no actions that would degrade the ability of these terrorist groups to fight Assad.

      How odd it is that ISIS actually took over more territory in Syria AFTER we started bombing them.

  20. Praedor

    The report buys into the Myth of the Surge and Sunni Awakening, that it was a great US success. The US merely took advantage of a naturally occurring shift (the Sunni Awakening) that, by pure chance, coincided with the arrival of many more US forces in-country. The Sunni’s themselves were the ENTIRE basis of any “success”, such as it was. Not the surge in US forces, not any policy plan of the US. The US was simply smart enough to pay off those that would otherwise be blowing up US forces so they wouldn’t…until the money ran out.

    Well, the money DID run out and the US mostly left. Those very same Sunnis of the Awakening turned against US interests in Iraq and some even became part of IS.

  21. TimmyB

    The reason the U.S. has avoided bombing the oil trucks is that overthrowing Assad is the main priority of the U.S. government. Our governemt does nothing to degrade ISIS’ capacity to fight the Assad regime. We are effectively allied with ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria in overthrowing the regime.

    We bomb electric power stations in Syria, but leave oil infrastructure alone. Our government started bombing ISIS 14 months ago and didn’t bomb a single oil truck. What, pray tell, prevented the U.S. from dropping the same leaflets and then bombing the trucks 14 months ago? Nothing. As President Obama stated, our goal was never to eradicate ISIS. Instead, Obama said he would “contain” ISIS. This means allowing ISIS to continue as an effective fighting force against Assad.

    The evidence we are allowing ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria to be effective fighting forces against the Assad regime is overwhelming. The fact that the author doesn’t address this point undercuts his article completely. We don’t do anything to stop oil smuggling. We don’t do anything to prevent allies from arming and supplying ISIS. Frankly, our “war” against ISIS is little more than a propaganda campaign aimed at the American people. It’s a phony war.

  22. digi_owl

    That pamphlet drop reminds me of how the British tried to use air strikes after WW1 as a cheap way to police their holdings around the world.

    Some village or other started getting uppity? There would be a pamphlet drop warning them them that if they didn’t stop there would be a bombing run of the village x hours after said drop.

  23. washunate

    In the event Opsal really is looking for substantive feedback, rather than just trying to stand out amidst the sea of conformist, establishment supporting PhD candidates who know deep down the US runs an empire but care more about a lucrative (or at least prestigious) career than actually fixing international relations, I’d highlight two components for deploying the full weight of an academic institution to explore more fully:

    the strategy against ISIS

    It would be really interesting and in the public interest to actually reveal a specific strategy regarding ISIS. There has been some recent attention about Huxley being more right than Orwell, but that conclusion flies in the face of the actual operation of the national security state. Perhaps nowhere has Orwell been more right than in the secrecy and use of force embraced by government decision-makers. The issue is not distraction and pleasure seeking. The issue is that the government openly lies to the public while going to extreme lengths to keep truth hidden from interested parties that challenge the party line.

    Related to that, of course, is the high probability that there is no strategy against ISIS. The very focus on the Islamic State is part of the problem, one of the big lies. The strategy is against Syria as a relatively stable, secular, sovereign state – exactly the same blueprint applied to Iraq, Libya, and the Ukraine. It’s what the US would do to Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and other states that have developed sufficient military capability and/or strategic international partnerships that the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan cannot simply slap on some sanctions and send in a few fighter jets and cruise missiles and proxy soldiers to wreak havoc. One point of opportunity in international relations in particular may be to seek assistance from our friends in Paris, Berlin, and elsewhere who obviously still support the American empire but appear at least to be doing so with less enthusiasm. And just to give some perspective here, hopefully a PhD student in international relations knows that the US operates military assets in virtually every nation on the planet. The Armed Forces TV network alone broadcasts to American personnel in something like 175 nations.

    A final thought on this front is a budget project. There is so much secrecy in the way that spending works in the national security state that being able to piece together a detailed budget could be very revealing.

    prevent further humanitarian issues

    A second important area of study is exploring the off-used, catch-all word humanitarian in the context of defining and defending US foreign policy. Some variant on the theme of humanitarian assistance is almost always deployed by the warmongers to justify an intervention that involves the use of force, both directly by American personnel and indirectly by funding, training, and equipping non-American personnel. Exposing when such language is simply used as cover for other actions is quite valuable, particularly where instances of the US causing humanitarian issues is brought into the context. For example, it has been over a decade now since the very Army General sent to investigate the Abu Ghraib atrocities testified to Congress about his report. A government that cared about humanitarian issues would do something about the matter. As he has stated quite plainly:

    there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.

    If the US is to be an effective leader calling for the provision of humanitarian assistance, it is very noteworthy when we ourselves cause the suffering. And far from a historical matter, it is all too current, as the blatant attack on the MSF hospital complex in Afghanistan shows.

        1. Nigelk

          like every war since Napoleon (and likely before)?

          Our hands haven’t been clean since Hearst “supplied the war” against Spain in 1898 so we could gobble up the colonial possessions of that weakened empire.

          Some ‘republic’ we’ve got here.

        2. Fiver

          The explanation released the other day re the hospital bombing left one with only 2 options:

          a) How could any procedure for simply communicating the coordinates of a ground position to the military be so complex and convoluted just reading the breakdown of the steps it takes makes it feel it’s just asking for too much slack from readers, or

          b) This cover explanation, no matter how poor a light it puts on US rules for engagement beats confessing to the real rules of engagement, or

          c) This is the best they can offer in terms of and excuse for bombing the hospital – it manages to not implicate anyone of them (US forces personnel) directly, either, which is SOP when possible.

  24. susan the other

    Strategically what does IS do for us? It sits in the middle of the Middle East and disrupts any hope of those countries coming together politically. It causes turmoil and terrorizes civilians into a paralysis so no civil action is taken. It gives us the upper hand militarily because we can use them to attack where ever. It sends refugees flying into the EU, destroying their social safety net and their civility. It steals Iraqi oil with impunity and funds itself. And on and on. Agency reaches its zenith in IS. IS is now conveniently a catch phrase for Islamic terrorism when in fact IS is our henchman. None of this would have befallen the Middle East had it not been for oil. Solution: end oil.

  25. Richard Hagen

    Washingtonsblog.com linked to a very informative site concerning Syria and Ukraine called Southfront.org

  26. Fiver

    If the worldview of the player is inconsistent with the true world reality, an otherwise fine head can on occasion go wrong. Helps to know what the other viewpoints to any conflict are seeing.

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