Failure to contain ISIS may further aggravate conditions in Iraq

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Azzaman, August 4, 2014

Military and economic conditions in Iraq will deteriorate quickly in the absence of tough measures to stall advances by militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), according to Iraqi experts.

The experts pointed to the latest successes by ISIS militants as they routed Kurdish militias from districts and villages north and west of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city which they overrun nearly two months ago.

ISIS spread its control over the districts of Zummar and Sinjar, displacing hundreds of thousands of more Iraqis.

But the experts said they were more concerned about ISIS’ military and economic strategy as the ‘s latest moves were closely coordinated and part a scheme to strengthen its position both militarily and economically.

One expert pointed to the group’s capture of two oil fields in the area of Ain Zalah. He said though their production was negligible in comparison with Iraq’s massive output of more than 3 million barrels a day, their capture would boost ISIS’ economy and strategic positioning.

The control of Ain Zalah brings a good portion of the twin-pipeline via Turkey under ISIS’ control as well as a small refinery with a capacity of 20,000 barrels a day – the total production of the two oil fields it has occupied.

One expert closely watching ISIS’ move said the group was taking its new steps carefully and with every new move it was solidifying its economic and military positions.

ISIS is heavily engaged in selling and distributing oil crude and products in both Iraq and Syria through an intricate network of smugglers, another expert said, adding that oil sales now made a large portion of the group’s income.

He said ISIS might not launch an attack to wrest control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk which Kurds militias occupied in June.

Its ultimate aim, he said, was to prevent the Kurds from exporting their oil via Turkey by pushing further north of Ain Zalah to control the newly constructed Kurdish pipeline that ferries their oil to Turkish terminals on the Mediterranean.