ISIL and The New Great Game


“The amount of oil that ISIL were able to sell, was up-upwards of around $3-4,000,000 per day.” – MARTIN CHULOV

By mid-2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant controlled territory equal to the size

of Jordan.

On the June 29, 2014 the would-be caliphate now unveiled its self-appointed

Caliph - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It began as an insurgency against US occupation in Iraq,

but now, insurgent groups from across the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia pledged

their allegiance to ISIL.



The self-declared ‘Islamic State’ of Iraq and the Levant would ally modern communications with age-old rule by fear to govern and grow.

“They're a bunch of psychopaths who love  to decapitate and mutilate people.”


“This is the most socially mediated conflict in history without doubt.” – SHIRAZ MAHER

This sort of projection of terror by ISIS through the social media, through the internet, through YouTube, I think in a way that was

never being done before, created a climate of fear which demoralised their opponents whether they were army or Syrian or− they were

the Iraqi army or Kurds. So, they ran away even before the first shots were fired.” – PATRICK COCKBURN

In August 2014, with ISIL’s march across northern Iraq and eastern parts of Syria seemingly unstoppable, a long-awaited, international military response finally arrived.


Twelve years on from declaring a so-called ‘War on Terror’, an American president, leading

a multinational coalition that included the Gulf countries as well as Turkey, once more announced a new campaign to combat the same scourge.

Air strikes

As initial air strikes centred on the oil-rich Kurdish region where Western oil companies

had multi-billion dollar investments, the coalition’s bombing failed to make a

significant impact against ISIL.


The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant hadn’t been destroyed or degraded. A united coalition, was being exposed as a patchwork of conflicted interests, and ISIL’s usefulness to its supposed enemies, was proving its greatest asset.


It was a contradiction, and opportunity, that Turkey found impossible to resist.



Turkey’s national interests remained focused on preventing Kurdish sovereignty – at any price.


As ISIL took control of oil and gas fields in both Syria and Iraq, Turkey played its part in keeping the black gold flowing.


ISIL made full use of the resources in its control. And it found that mortal enemies were also willing buyers.

“ISIL is sitting here… surrounded by enemies. How is it getting its oil out? Most of this oil is actually being shipped in a very simple way in trucks which are literally just travelling across the border. And one of the most conspicuous routes is between Syria and Turkey where you actually have these convoys of trucks just transporting

this oil within broad daylight.”


“ISIL commandeered the oilfields of eastern Syria to sell crude to the Syrian regime, which it used for its own war effort, but it’s also been able to smuggle large amounts of oil across the border into Turkey, that has sustained the ISIL war effort as well. There were figures in 2014 that the amount of oil that ISIL were able to sell, both to the Turks and the Syrians, was upwards of around

 $3-4,000,000 per day– MARTIN CHULOV

US-led coalition

A US-led coalition force supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait, bombed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant from the skies. But on the ground, ISIL maintained its control as well as its resources.


The rise of ISIL exposed the unresolved rifts in the region’s politics. Enemies of old were being drawn deeper into a new web of tangled interests.


In October 2015, both Russian and American fighter-jets dropped bombs on Syria, both with

their own objectives, both claiming ISIL as their number one target.


Russia, like Iran, sought to preserve its ally President Assad, while the US-led coalition stirred for regime change.

Syria was stuck in the middle of a fight for regional control.


Less than a month before snap elections in November 2015, a suicide bomb attack at a peace rally in Ankara, devastated the Turkish capital. Nearly 100 dead in its capital city, bore testament to Turkey’s contradictory policies.


The heavy price Turkey was warned it would pay, for its part in the chaos across its borders,

was now exacted on its own citizens.  Amid rumours of state complicity, the Turkish government, honed in on a familiar suspect. Without claiming responsibility for the attack, ISIL was front and

centre in yet another deadly maelstrom.


The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is becoming further entwined in a widening web, with allies and foes competing, and coalescing, for their own interests. NATO countries jostle with Russia and Arab states resisting a resurgent Iran, while all the time they all insist they’re fighting ISIL.


And all the while ISIL stands its ground and dares to rise.

 “It’s been 14 years since 9/11.

It’s been 12 years since the invasion of Iraq.

It’s been a year since Mosul fell…

Trillions of dollars have been spent, tens of thousands of lives,

have been lost, what is the excuse?

There is none.”


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