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The End-Game For Libya’s Oil Crescent

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Iraq Arrests ISIS Oil Chief Near Syrian Border

ISIS march

Iraqi security forces have arrested Islamic State’s top oil chief while he was trying to cross the border into Syria, Tehran-based Fars News Agency reported on Friday, quoting military sources.

The Iraqi forces ambushed the convoy with which the top ISIS terrorist—identified as Abdel-Ghani Zargham ‘Abdel-Sama—was traveling through the town of Masada in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh. The oil chief of the Islamic State surrendered after Iraqi security forces surrounded him, according to the military sources.

At the peak of the ISIS grip over Iraq and Syria, the terrorists were heavily relying on oil smuggling to reap revenues. But as the coalition fighting the terrorists began to expel Islamic State militants from large areas in Iraq and Syria, their oil income also started to dwindle.

Over the past two years, the U.S.-led coalition that is fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria has managed to cut the militants’ oil revenues to less than US$4 million monthly from a peak of US$50 million, statistics by the coalition provided to USA TODAY in October 2017 showed.

Meanwhile, Iraq said in October that it hoped to restore production at oil fields in the Nineveh area around Mosul over the “next few months”, after rehabilitating the sites that Islamic State militants had set on fire to try to hamper the U.S.-backed offensive on Mosul. Iraq’s oil ministry has ordered the state-held North Oil Company to draft “an urgent plan” for rehabilitating the oil fields in Nineveh.

The two biggest fields in Nineveh—Qayyara and Najma—were pumping up to 30,000 bpd of sour heavy crude oil before they were seized by ISIS terrorists in the middle of 2014. In August 2016, the army recaptured the Qayyara oil-producing regions south of Mosul from forces loyal to the Islamic State, cutting access to ISIS’ main source of revenue in the region.

Two months later, Iraq’s army and U.S.-led coalition allies launched the offensive to free Mosul from ISIS. The battle for Mosul lasted longer than expected, but in July 2017, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory and said that Mosul was liberated.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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