ISIS has begun to use oil in an attempt to spread its influence and counter rival Syrian opposition groups, Erika Solomon reports for the Financial Times.
ISIS, which controls all of the oil-producing regions in eastern Syria, has started blockading oil sales to rival Syrian rebel groups in the north of the country.
The fuel blockade couple cripple rival groups, undermining the civic and military structures that non-ISIS rebel groups have tried to create in Syria.
“We are facing the threat of a famine if the fuel supply remains cut,” an activist from Syria’s Idlib Province told FT. “Power, water and farming are all run on generators here now.”
As a result of the blockade, prices for essential goods have skyrocketed throughout rebel-held regions. Both bread and oil have had their prices triple since the blockade began on around June 10.
The blockade comes as ISIS has tried to expand its influence throughout northern Syria into Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. ISIS has undertaken attacks against rebel-held territory north of Aleppo as the militants have sought to cut off rebel supply lines running from the Turkish border to the city.
Although ISIS and the other Syrian rebel groups are technically opposed to each other and fight over territory, the rebels — as well as the Assad regime — actually buy substantial amount of oil from ISIS. ISIS still holds the major oil-producing regions of eastern Syria, in addition to oil wells and refineries in neighbouring Iraq.
The control of oil infrastructure in Iraq and Syria has allowed ISIS to finance itself and become possibly the best-funded insurgent group in modern history. ISIS’s oil wealth also allows the group to withstand constant US-led coalition airstrikes and have outsized influence throughout much of Syria, even in places the group doesn’t control.
“Isis is sitting on top of this oil and Americans won’t bomb it, because all these people are dependent on it,” Syria analyst Joshua Landis told FT. “Everyone would starve to death because it’s the only source of wealth in Syria and Iraq.”