This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Conniving as Only a Mind Mired in Medieval Tribalism Can

"In the tangled world of the Middle East, 'My enemy’s enemy is my friend' is the dictum most likely to cause tragic mistakes. Very often, the saying would be more accurate if adapted to read: 'Beware the tyrant who cynically poses as an enemy of your enemy in order to strengthen his grip on power.'
So it is with Bashar al-Assad in Syria. From the very beginning of his country’s insurrection, Assad has done his best to help Islamist zealots hijack the Syrian opposition; he worked particularly hard to create ideal laboratory conditions for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL]. His supremely cynical aim was to convince the West to accept him as an essential bulwark against the very threat he helped to conjure into being. Put bluntly, Assad is an arsonist posing as a fireman.
This is an old trick. Every Arab dictator since Nasser has sought to confront his people and the world with a stark choice: either support me or watch the jihadists take over. The ruse is obvious, time-honoured – and remarkably effective."
David Blair, The Telegraph, December 2015

From December of 2015 and an informed journalist's take on the situation known for quite some time that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was earning huge profits through the oil fields it had taken from the governments of both Iraq and Syria, with the help of Turkey and Syria. Nominally it was taken for granted that both countries viewed ISIL as terrorist threats, but Turkey is well known to have nurtured ties with the Sunni jihadis and it was no surprise that oil reached the black market through Turkey, and Syria's Bashar al-Assad saw sinister profit for himself in their enrichment as well.

So the latest revelations that the Syrian government was busy cutting deals with ISIL -- aiding the jhadis to earn over $40-million monthly from oil sales should be no big surprise. It's just that with the emergence of actual documentation which a U.S./British raid on an ISIL commander's base have revealed the details and since the devil's in the details, there is great fascination to parse those documents. In the form of thousands of spreadsheets maintained by ISIL's oil minister, Abu Sayyaf.

Last year's big U.S. Special Forces raid secured those documents for penetrating inspection into how well ISIL was benefited when it captured some of Syria's eastern oilfields in 2013. Two years earlier claims had surfaced that the regime was purchasing oil from Islamic State, and they were held to be rumours which Syria could easily deny. Now the scale of the collusion between the Syrian regime and Islamic State has been fully revealed.

In late 2014 to early 2015, at the height of production, $40.7-million in monthly profits accrued to the Islamic State treasury. Helping to shore up its wealth just as the wealth of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States swelled through the sale to the West of their petroleum resources. One memo in particular highlights the ties through a query from ISIL's treasury to the office of Abu Sayyaf seeking guidance on the establishment of investment ties with businessman linked to Bashar al-Assad's Baathist regime.

Citing agreements permitting truck and pipeline transit from fields controlled by Syria through ISIL-controlled territory, the background to the guidelines requested was abundantly clear; purported enemies made for tight business partners. Once Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had established his caliphate, he recognized the potential in Abu Sayyaf, appointing him top operator of ISIL's oil business, headquartered in the al-Omar field near the Iraqi border, previously operated by Royal Dutch Shell.

The human dimensions are just as fascinating. Rather than dismiss Syrian state employees from the oilfields, Abu Sayyaf persuaded them to remain where they were, to work for ISIL, and their recompense would be salaries much higher than they had previously earned; up to four times national rates. So 152 Syrians remained to work at the al-Omar field in Deir Ezzour, and aside from their princely salaries they also received the occasional threat of beheading for any disobedience they might be rash enough to engage in.

The division of the ISIL oil ministry headed by Abu Sayyaf was responsible for delivering $289.5-million to ISIL in the space of six months. Until the raid that destroyed Abu Sayyaf in 2015, those handsome revenues continued to roll in, profiting Islamic State with the neighbourly aid of the Syrian regime.

Department official Adam Szubin said militants were selling as much as $40 million a month of oil at the installations which was then spirited on trucks across the battlelines of the Syrian civil war and sometimes further.
"ISIL is selling a great deal of oil to the Assad regime," Szubin, acting under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence with the Treasury, told an audience at Chatham House in London.
"The two are trying to slaughter each other and they are still engaged in millions and millions of dollars of trade," Szubin said of Assad's government and Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The "far greater amount" of Islamic State oil ends up under Assad's control while some is consumed internally in Islamic State-controlled areas. Some ends up in Kurdish regions and some in Turkey, he said.
"Some is coming across the border into Turkey," Szubin said when asked for details on the money trail.
"Our sense is that ISIL is taking its profits basically at the wellhead and so while you do have ISIL oil ending up in a variety of different places that's not really the pressure we want when it comes to stemming the flow of funding - it really comes down to taking down their infrastructure," he said.
Reuters, December 10, 2015

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