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Global Energy Advisory June 3rd 2016

Politics, Geopolitics & Conflict

After Turkey’s infamous downing of a Russia jet at the height of the Syrian conflict, Russia flooded the news networks with ‘evidence’ of Turkish complicity in ISIS’ illegal oil smuggling. It went further to provide evidence of Erdogan’s personal complicity—or at least that of his family. We were all regaled by the satellite images, which we take as evidence point blank, without really examining them. While Erdogan is a loose cannon on the fast path to dictatorship, and while plenty would like to believe he is directly propping up ISIS oil revenues, viewing the group as a pathway (however dangerous) to a revival of the Ottoman Empire days, Russia is great at propaganda, and it’s worth considering what is really happening here. What you may or may not know is that the Turkish-Syrian border has long been a favored oil-smuggling route—well before the advent of ISIS. Illegal pipelines are here; illegal tankers go back and forth, and have done so as long as we have been tracking smuggling here on the ground.

When Assad lost power earlier in the conflict, the long-running illegal smuggling changed hands (numerous times) ending up in ISIS’ control to some extent, and under control of ‘independent’ smugglers and the Syrian Kurds to some extent as well. At the same time, there was a marked uptick in smuggled volumes as the conflict intensified (and this is always the case).…

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