Key allies in the US and UK led war on Islamic State (ISIS) are covertly financing the terrorist movement according to senior political sources in the region. US and British oil companies are heavily invested in the murky geopolitical triangle sustaining ISIS’ black market oil sales.
The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq and Turkish military intelligence have both supported secret ISIS oil smuggling operations and even supplied arms to the terror group, according to Kurdish, Iraqi and Turkish officials.
One British oil company in particular, Genel Energy, is contracted by the KRG to supply oil for a major Kurdish firm accused of facilitating ISIS oil sales to Turkey. The Kurdish firm has close ties to the Iraqi Kurdish government.
Genel operates in the KRG with the backing of the British government, and is also linked to a British parliamentary group with longstanding connections to both the British and KRG oil industries.
The relationship between British and Kurdish energy companies, and senior British politicians, raises questions about conflicts of interest — especially in the context of a ‘war on terror’ that is supposed to be targeting, not financing, the ‘Islamic State.’
Kurds, Turks and blind eyes
One of ISIS’ most significant sources of revenue is oil smuggling. The Islamic State controls approximately 60% of Syria’s oil, and seven major oil-producing assets in Iraq.
Using a carefully cultivated network of intermediaries and ‘middlemen’ in the Kurdish region of Iraq, as well as in Turkey, ISIS has been able to produce a phenomenal 45,000 barrels of oil a day, raking in as much as $3 million a day in cash by selling the oil at well below market prices.
But the sheer scale and impunity of this oil smuggling network has caused local politicians to ask whether certain officials in the KRG and Turkey are turning a blind eye to these operations.
Iraqi, Kurdish and Turkish officials have accused both the KRG and Turkish governments of deliberately allowing some of these smuggling operations to take place.
Tensions between the KRG and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad are escalating over who controls production and revenues from oil fields within the Kurdish region. Kurdish officials see the oil within the Kurdish-controlled territory of Iraq as a means to seek greater autonomy, if not potentially total independence, from Baghdad — whereas the Iraqi government seeks to ensure it retains sovereign control over all sales from its own oil fields, which include those in the KRG.
Those tensions reached a crescendo when the KRG began unilaterally selling oil by exporting it to Turkey, bypassing Baghdad.
KRG and Turkish authorities vehemently deny any role in intentionally facilitating ISIS oil sales. Both governments have taken measures to crackdown on smuggling operations, and US and UK authorities work closely with the KRG to identify ISIS smuggling routes.
Despite KRG arrests of Kurdish ‘middlemen’ involved in the ISIS black market oil sales, evidence continues to emerge that these measures are largely piecemeal, and have failed to address corruption at the highest levels.
According to a senior source in the Iraqi government’s ruling Islamic Dawa Party, US and Iraqi authorities have developed “significant intelligence confirming that elements of the KRG have tacitly condoned ISIS oil sales on the black market.”
The source, which has direct access to top Iraqi government officials, said that the KRG had originally seen the ISIS invasion of Iraq as an opportunity to consolidate Kurdish control over disputed territory, especially the oil-rich region of Kirkuk. The Kurds had not, however, anticipated how powerful ISIS’ presence in the region would become.
In the early period of the invasion last year, he said:
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*This exclusive is published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project. The story was originally commissioned by London’s Middle East Eye, which has published an abridged version available here.