Monday, September 15, 2014

Robert Spencer: Despite US pressure, Turkey fails to cut Islamic State oil revenue

by Robert Spencer

The whole world rushes to condemn the Islamic State — and yet, when it comes to doing something effective to stop it, suddenly it becomes more difficult. And the Obama administration’s incoherence regarding the anti-Assad forces in Syria — arbitrarily designating some jihadis as “moderate” and arming them to fight those with whom they’re actually collaborating — is unlikely to inspire confidence, especially in so untrustworthy and self-serving an ally as Turkey.

“Turkey fails to cut Islamic State oil revenue despite US pressure,” by David E. Sanger and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Sydney Morning Herald, September 14, 2014 (thanks to Kenneth):
Washington: The Obama administration is struggling to cut off the millions of dollars in oil revenue that has made the Islamic State one of the wealthiest terror groups in history, but, so far, has been unable to persuade Turkey, the NATO ally where much of the oil is traded on the black market, to crack down on an extensive sales network.
Western intelligence officials say they can track the Islamic State oil shipments as they move across Iraq and into Turkey’s southern border regions.
Despite extensive discussions inside the Pentagon, US forces have, so far, not attacked the tanker trucks.
However, a senior administration official said on Friday “that remains an option”.
Difficulties over a wider US-led effort against the Islamic State were evident in US Secretary of State John Kerry’s talks in Cairo where Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi urged the military coalition to target groups other than the Islamic State.
Turkey’s failure to help choke off the oil trade symbolises the magnitude of the challenges facing the White House both in assembling a coalition to counter the Sunni militant group and in starving its lifeblood.
The Islamic State’s access to cash is critical to its ability to recruit members, meet its growing payroll of fighters, expand its reach and operate across the territory of two countries.
“Turkey, in many ways, is a wild card in this coalition equation,” said Juan Zarate, a senior adviser at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
“It’s a great disappointment: There is a real danger that the effort to degrade and destroy ISIS is at risk,” Mr Zarate said, referring to the Islamic State. “You have a major NATO ally, and it is not clear they are willing and able to cut off flows of funds, fighters and support to ISIS.”
Turkey declined to sign a communique on Thursday in Saudi Arabia that committed Persian Gulf states in the region to counter the Islamic State, even limited to the extent each nation considered “appropriate”.
Turkish officials told their US counterparts that with 49 Turkish diplomats being held as hostages in Iraq, they could not risk taking a public stance against the terror group.
Still, administration officials say they believe Turkey could substantially disrupt the cash flow to the Islamic State if it tried.
“Like any sort of black market smuggling operation, if you devote the resources and the effort to attack it, you are unlikely to eradicate it, but you are likely to put a very significant dent in it,” a senior administration official said on Saturday.
At the core of the talks are the dozen or so oil fields and refineries in Iraq and Syria on territory the group has controlled. The output has provided a steady stream of financing, which experts place at $US1 million ($1.1 million) to $US2 million a day; a pittance in terms of the global oil market, but a huge windfall for a terror group.
Underscoring the complexity of Mr Kerry’s mission to gain support in the Middle East, the Egyptian President earlier told the visiting Secretary of State that any international coalition against terrorism should not just focus on Islamic State militants, but also Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the Egyptian regime’s foe, the Muslim Brotherhood….
How awkward to make such a demand of an administration that supported the Brotherhood.

Robert Spencer


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