Russian intelligence claims that Turkey is cooperating with ISIS in the terrorist group’s profitable oil smuggling operation. Russian intelligence captured footage just a few days ago showing nearly 12,000 oil tankers at the Iraq-Turkey border making their way into Turkey. The video also shows the convoy as it is attacked via air strike.
“The [aerial] imagery was made in the vicinity of Zakho (a city in Iraqi Kurdistan), there were 11,775 tankers and trucks on both sides of the Turkish-Iraqi border. As many as 4,530 of them were on the territory of Turkey and 7,245 in Iraq,” says Lt. Gen Sergey Rudskoy.
Russia’s claim has been disputed, especially by Iraqi Kurds who maintain the oil tankers contained Kurdish oil. “Turkey closed border with Iraq during the past few days due to war with Kurdish militants, causing the long lines of oil tankers,” explains Kifah Mahmoud, an adviser to President Barzani of Kurdistan.
“It must be noted that oil from both Iraq and Syria come through this [Zakho] checkpoint,” suggests Rudskoy, hinting that Russia doubts its own claim. Indeed, Zakho is located firmly within Kurdish territory and it seems unbelievable that such a huge convoy of ISIS oil could slip past Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces.
However, Russia added that the oil tankers seemed to be coming from Deiz-ez-Zour, a town in Syrian known to be an ISIS stronghold. It appeared as if the convoy was traversing what locals know as the “eastern route” – a path that is commonly used by ISIS to smuggle oil from Syria to Turkey.
The caliphate’s oil smuggling program is running far less smoothly in the wake of a Special Forces raid against Abu Sayyaf (a former oil chief) that revealed vital information to ISIS enemies. Coalition airstrikes have demolished much of the terrorist organization’s logistical ability to produce oil and the resulting shortage has caused a spike in the price of oil within ISIS territories.
“The northern and western routes which we previously revealed continue to be used. In order to avoid losses to Russian aviation, the terrorists move [the oil convoys] mainly at night. Moreover, their tanker trucks are disguised as ordinary lorries, and move in small columns of several dozen vehicles at a time,” says Rudskoy.
Russia’s accusation against Turkey comes in the middle of feud between the two countries that began when a Russian plane was shot down by a Turkish missile. President Recep Tayyip of Turkey has vowed to resign if Russia can somehow prove his country to be involved in the ISIS oil smuggling operation.