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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Assad buys oil from Daesh for cash while he sells himself as their worst foe

Vladimir Putin showed again that he is the master opportunist of political spin at the Paris global climate summit. He found a way to tie the recent Turkish downing of a Russian jet to climate change. He claims they did it to protect the flow of smuggled oil flowing into Turkey, and Amy Goodman dutifully carried the headline on this morning's Democracy Now:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Turkey of downing a Russian warplane last week because it wanted to protect the flow of oil from ISIL-controlled territories in Iraq and Syria. Turkey said it shot down the plane on November 24 after warning the Russian pilots they were in Turkish airspace. But Russia says the plane did not stray from Syrian airspace. Turkey has long been accused of permitting ISIL to export hundreds of millions of dollars of oil into Turkey, where it is sold on the black market. Speaking at the U.N. global climate conference in Paris Monday, Putin said Turkey’s motives were to protect this oil flow.
Never mind the enormous damage done to the climate by the bottomless pit of Russian explosives that have been put into the atmosphere by Putin's clients in Syria and East Ukraine, not to mention the lost of life. Never mind that Russian air strikes in Syria haven't gone after ISIS oil infrastructure or that the Russian jet that was shot down had just come back from “intensive bombing” of “civilian Turkmen villages”, not ISIS. Never mind Russia's multiple violations of Turkish airspace in the past few months. Putin was never one to let the truth get in the way of a good story, so now this story is all over the pro-Putin media like RT and DN. But two things are missing from the way this tale is being told. The first is anything that could be called details or proof of this allege Turkish government oil business with Daesh. The second is any acknowledgement of the well documented fact that the Assad regime buys oil and gas from Daesh and has for years. I wrote about it here almost two years ago.

Turkey has been forced to accept over 2 million refugees from Assad's barrel bombs, in addition to being kicked around by the imperialists and Imperial Left.

Whenever I hear someone demand that Turkey close its border with Syria, as Patrick Cockburn claims US President Barack Obama did today, without even mentioning the plight of these refugees, I can only node my head in disbelief. Apparently, they have in mind an alternate border that can be closed to ISIS without considering these refugees.

Who is financing ISIS?

It has become a much favored game among the "anti-imperialists" to blame whoever they like the least for financing ISIS. No proof is required to play this game. Generally that means the United States, or one of its state agencies like the CIA is blamed. If they don't think they can make that stick, they blame the Saudis and the Turks, sometimes Qatar. Generally, when blaming Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Qatar, no distinction is made between the governments, which almost certainly aren't financing ISIS, and wealthy right-wing Salafi citizens who probably are contributing to their funding drives. Putin is doing that now with Turkey and the jets, because while there can be little doubt that ISIS oil is being smuggled through Turkey, many of the old smuggler's routes go through Turkey, it is quite another to claim the Turkish government is not only involved, but using its war assets to protect that trade by going after Russian jets that weren't even attacking that trade.

The truth is that Daesh, or ISIS is largely self-funded. It is estimated that only about 5% of its money comes from foreign sources. Most come from taxes imposed on subject people, road tolls, selling antiquities, ransoms and a variety of criminal enterprises. While all of these contribute, the foreign money too, ISIS makes it big money off of oil.

Everybody know this, which is why learning that before the US hit 238 Daesh oil trucks last Monday, only 260 targets out of 16,075 listed as damaged/destroyed in Operation Inherent Resolve have been listed as "Oil Infrastructure," makes me wonder just how hard they have been trying to destroy Daesh. Only recently did the US decide to "increase the attacks and focus on inflicting damage" on the "sprawling oil fields that the Islamic State controls in eastern Syria in an effort to disrupt one of the terrorist group’s main sources of revenue" according to Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schimitt, writing in the New York Times, 12 Nov. 2015. Before this:
While the American-led air campaign has conducted periodic airstrikes against oil refineries and other production facilities in eastern Syria that the group controls, the organization’s engineers have been able to quickly repair damage, and keep the oil flowing, American officials said. The Obama administration has also balked at attacking the Islamic State’s fleet of tanker trucks — its main distribution network — fearing civilian casualties.
So, the Obama administration, which doesn't mind taking out women and children with a drone strike if they happen to be near a "high value target" that is himself a civilian, has been squeamish about attacking ISIS tanker trucks for fear of killing ISIS truck drivers or security guards that it considers civilians? Give me a break!

Bassem Mrouse, writing about ISIS oil assets for AP, 25 Sept. 2014, after the first coalition strike against ISIS oil, said:
The group's reliance on oil as its main source of revenue could easily be disrupted by the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes.
But that hasn't happened. Mrouse wrote that before the March 2011 uprising, the oil sector was a pillar of Syria's economy, but then the US and EU banned Syrian oil exports and they practically came to a halt. The Syrian government started losing control of its oil assets soon after and by the time of his writing, Daesh controlled most of Syria's oil fields.
Daesh has been able to develop as rapidly as it did because of its oil revenues and one of the biggest customers for this illegal oil business is the Syrian government. That is one of the main ways the Assad regime supports ISIS and has from the very beginning.

Assad supporters don't want this well known, especially now that he is being re-marketed as the perfect partner to fight ISIS with, and they are accusing Turkey of buying ISIS oil, but the The Wall St. Journal again shined some light on it with this piece Thursday:
Syria and Islamic State Are in Business
Treasury sanctions an Assad ally who buys oil from the caliphate.
26 November 2015
The claim by many foreign-policy sophisticates is that while Syria’s Bashar Assad may be awful, at least he’s fighting Islamic State. The reality is that Assad is devoting most of his military effort to fight Sunni opponents of his regime other than Islamic State. Until he defeats those other rebels, Islamic State is useful precisely because it makes him appear to be more tolerable to many in the West.

Well, now we have new evidence of Assad’s complicity with Islamic State. On Wednesday the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned four individuals and six entities providing support to the Syrian regime. They include Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, whom Treasury describes as a “wealthy Russian businessman” and “long-time World Chess Federation president.” Russia’s assistance to Assad is no secret, but President Obama has been trying to get Vladimir Putin to cooperate in a diplomatic settlement. The Ilyumzhinov sanction suggests the U.S. doesn’t expect much progress.

The bigger news is the sanction of George Haswani, whom Treasury identifies as “a Syrian businessman who serves as a middleman for oil purchases by the Syrian regime from ISIL,” another name for Islamic State. The European Union added Haswani to its sanctions list in March. Oil sales are one of Islamic State’s main sources of financing, and U.S. air strikes have recently been targeting its oil convoys. If Haswani is buying oil from Islamic State, then Assad is essentially financing the terrorist caliphate that is supposedly his mortal enemy. More...

I wrote about this years ago in Bashar al-Jihad: How Assad finances terrorists with oil after The Telegraph broke this story:
Syria's Assad accused of boosting Al-Qaeda with secret oil deals
Western intelligence suggests Bashar al-Assad collaborating with jihadists to persuade West the uprising is terrorist-led

By Ruth Sherlock, in Istanbul and Richard Spencer
7:53PM GMT 20 Jan 2014

The Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad has funded and co-operated with al-Qaeda in a complex double game even as the terrorists fight Damascus, according to new allegations by Western intelligence agencies, rebels and al-Qaeda defectors.

Jabhat al-Nusra, and the even more extreme Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), the two al-Qaeda affiliates operating in Syria, have both been financed by selling oil and gas from wells under their control to and through the regime, intelligence sources have told The Daily Telegraph.

Rebels and defectors say the regime also deliberately released militant prisoners to strengthen jihadist ranks at the expense of moderate rebel forces. The aim was to persuade the West that the uprising was sponsored by Islamist militants including al-Qaeda as a way of stopping Western support for it.
Intelligence gathered by Western secret services suggested the regime began collaborating actively with these groups again in the spring of 2013. When Jabhat al-Nusra seized control of Syria’s most lucrative oil fields in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, it began funding its operations in Syria by selling crude oil, with sums raised in the millions of dollars.

“The regime is paying al-Nusra to protect oil and gas pipelines under al-Nusra’s control in the north and east of the country, and is also allowing the transport of oil to regime-held areas,” the source said. “We are also now starting to see evidence of oil and gas facilities under ISIS control.”

The source accepted that the regime and the al-Qaeda affiliates were still hostile to each other and the relationship was opportunistic, but added that the deals confirmed that “despite Assad’s finger-pointing” his regime was to blame for the rise of al-Qaeda in Syria. More...
The Financial Times also ran an extensive piece about this, 15 October 2015,
Isis Inc: Syria’s ‘mafia-style’ gas deals with jihadis, by Erika Solomon in Beirut and Ahmed Mhidi, an independent journalist based on the Turkish border. Here is an excerpt:
Syrian activists and western officials have long accused the regime of making secret oil deals with Isis, which controls nearly all of Syria’s petroleum-producing east. But an FT investigation shows co-operation is strongest over the gas that generates Syria’s electricity. Interviews with over a dozen Syrian energy employees have revealed agreements that are less about cash than about services — something they may find more valuable than money.
As you can see, it has long been known that the Assad regime and Daesh have been in the oil business together. For Vladmir Putin to accused Turkey of shooting down the Russian jet to protect its alleged oil business with ISIS, and and for Amy Goodman to run this story without reporting the well known, long standing charges that Assad is in the oil business with ISIS, makes them both hypocrites.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

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