The Islamic State has established a market in the Middle East for oil stolen from conquered fields in Syria and Iraq, depending heavily on oil sales to pay for ammunition and basic goods for its mujahideen. Reports claim that it has established a major market in Turkey, a NATO country who should be at the forefront of the fight against ISIS.
The Islamist terror group, the Daily Beast reports, has been using smugglers and what appear to be rudimentary organized crime syndicates already established in Turkey to provide oil at a much lower price than the legal fuel sold in the country. Sales of this oil have provided Islamic State leadership with millions of dollars in revenue that it has used for munitions, food, and to establish electric and water services in conquered cities, like the proclaimed “capital” of the Islamic State, Raqqa, Syria.
The Turkish government has attempted to document the amount of fuel being sold by Islamic State allies in Turkey, the Daily Beast notes, and official Turkish military figures suggest that more than 15 tons of fuel and pipelines were confiscated in the half-month between August 22 and September 4th. In July, a report citing experts by NBC claimed the Islamic State could be making as much as $3 million a day in oil sales internationally, including sales in Turkey. At the time, Islamic State supporters on social media distributed photos of jihadists claiming to distribute oil to those in need in ISIS-controlled cities.
In addition to Turkey, Islamic State jihadists are believed to be selling their oil to prominent Iraqi businessmen in areas not controlled by the group, as well as others throughout the region. Unlike other nations in the region, however, Turkey is a NATO country, tasked in light of the recent NATO summit in Wales with helping destroy the group. Instead, argue some analysts, Turkey has become something of a safe haven for Islamic State economic activity.
Celalettin Yavuz, a political analyst and former military officer who taught at Turkey’s military academy, told the Daily Beast that the situation for the Islamic State near the Syrian border has become so accommodating that “pipelines are no longer built during the night, but in broad daylight.” The number of troops patrolling the border is insufficient to stop the flow of jihadists into Turkey (or into Syria, if they are traveling from the West to join in the jihad). Such lenience allows the Islamic State to sell diesel fuel for $0.70 a liter (or $2.65 a gallon), while legal fuel sells at more than $1.85 a liter ($7.00 a gallon), according to the publication.
This recent report that the Turkish government is not doing enough to prevent the Islamic State from making money within its borders follows a number of claims that the government is actively aiding the terrorist group. In a report from the Jerusalem Post, one Islamic State member confirmed that Turkey helped the group: “Turkey paved the way for us. Had Turkey not shown such understanding for us, the Islamic State would not be in its current place. It [Turkey] showed us affection.” He added that, in addition to helping the Islamic State economically, wounded jihadists received medical treatment in large numbers in the nation.
While not all of Turkey’s border population supports the Islamic State, many are struggling now to keep them out. The Washington Post noted in August that many towns now regretted cooperating with the Islamic State while intended to help anyone supporting the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Said one resident of a Turkish border town: “Turkey welcomed anyone against Assad, and now they are killing, spreading their disease, and we are all paying the price.”