ERBIL, Iraq — In a long-fought campaign to drive the Islamic State from the country, Iraqi armed forces have successfully stripped ISIS of every oil field they once held in Iraqi territory.
The recapture of the two oil-rich towns of Shargat and Qayyarah in the northern part of the country, in what is also known as the Kurdistan region, means ISIS no longer controls any Iraqi oil, according to Kurdish media network, Rudaw.
Once a major source of revenue, the loss of Iraqi oil has forced the terrorist group to rely on outside resources to fuel their operations.
“Iraq is no more a home to oil for ISIS. Not only is the group unable to sell oil, but also they want to buy it in order to maintain its activities,” Dr. Bewar Khinsi, an economic adviser to the Kurdistan Region’s intelligence agency, told Rudaw.
Khinsi still estimates that the group makes $750,000 daily from oil fields held in Syria. That comes out to about $22.8 million a month.
“The oil ISIS holds in Syria constitutes 70% of its total income as they hold six key oilfields in the country,” Khinsi said.
The Iraqi military has pushed ISIS back from the height of its power. A report by IHS Conflict Monitor says the jihadist group has lost about a quarter of the territory that it held in January of 2015. IHS Conflict Monitor estimates that some 6 million people currently live under ISIS control, down from 10 million at the group’s peak.
Qayyara was the site of 62 oil wells and an estimated 5 billion barrels untapped. The group set fire to the oil as they fled Iraqi forces. The loss of Iraqi oil fields was a major blow to ISIS’s finances.
However, oil is not the terrorist group’s only source of revenue. They still hold several dams, which produces energy the group sells to the Syrian regime, Khinsi explained.
Iraqi forces now set their sights on the northern city of Mosul, the group’s last Iraqi stronghold. Local reports from the people of Mosul say that ISIS is allowing residents to leave if they pay a fee of around $4,000, suggesting the terrorist organization is already anticipating an attack on the city by government forces.
“The Mosul people do not trust ISIS, as they believe they will lose both, their lives and money,” a Mosul resident told Rudaw.
ISIS must now smuggle oil into Mosul from Syria to keep powering the city, as they see their operations in other parts of the country going up in smoke.