The U.S.’s Oil Revenues Matter a Great Deal to the Islamic State

ISIS-linked militants are threatening huge natural gas reserves the world needs badly right now, and could supply 90 percent of the country’s power needs. They’ve also made clear their intention to destroy the country’s infrastructure. So why hasn’t the U.S. attacked the Islamic State’s oil-rich stronghold in eastern Syria? According to the new data about ISIS in Syria and Iraq, it’s because of the oil.

The new data comes from the Institute for the Study of War, at the University of Chicago, and the Washington Institute, a think tank for the U.S. Middle East policy establishment.

It shows that oil revenues make a very big difference: to the Islamic State, who receives 100 percent of its income from oil, that money makes its war fighting nearly hopeless. For the U.S., however, it matters a great deal. Here’s what the Washington Institute and the ISW report:

“The U.S. has for the last several years been attempting to exploit Iraq’s resources and use that revenue to offset an increasingly dire position in the Middle East. But over the past year, its efforts have largely failed to find a foothold. The Islamic State has shown that it is willing and able to acquire and employ much larger resources, and has demonstrated that they are able to make considerable use of the revenues that come with them.”

“The result of these developments is an increasingly destabilizing and volatile environment in Iraq and surrounding regions.”

Why so? Because, when Islamic State was just getting started, Iraq’s oil revenue helped to pay for large military forces, but now the Iraqi government is bankrupt and the Iraqi army is largely useless—it is, after all, the U.S., and not the Iraqi government, that is bombing ISIS. And, the oil revenues that are used to pay for these ISIS troops are gone.

That has made it far more difficult for the U

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