United States, Russia target ISIS oil resources with heavy bombardment
BEIRUT — The United States and Russia are going after the Islamic State group's oil industry, destroying refineries and hundreds of tanker trucks transporting oil from eastern Syria in a heavy bombardment in recent days designed to cut off the extremists' biggest source of income.
The campaign appears to be having some effect, with oil prices rising in parts of Syria that rely on crude smuggled out of ISIS areas. But experts say it will be hard to cut off the trade completely because they are likely to switch to smaller, more elusive vehicles.
Putting an end to the industry would mean destroying the oil fields in Syria, but that would bring hardship to millions in the population under ISIS rule and others who depend on the group's oil for fuel as winter sets in. Seizing the fields would require ground forces.
Still, the campaign could hit hard an industry that American officials say generates more than half the revenue ISIS uses to maintain its rule over a swath of territory in Syria and Iraq and pay its fighters.
ISIS controls nearly all of Syria's oil fields, which are concentrated in the east of the country and produce about 30,000 barrels a day, along with one field in Iraq. It smuggles most of its output abroad, mainly to Turkey, selling at cut-rate prices that generate nearly $50 million a month.
Russia's blitz this week by warplanes and navy cruise missiles destroyed 15 oil refining and storage facilities in Syria and 525 trucks carrying oil, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. On Sunday, U.S. officials said warplanes destroyed 116 oil-hauling trucks in eastern Syria.