Civil War: Dispersed Control of Oil Resources
The violence stemming from IS constitutes a tangible threat to non-Muslims and Muslims adhering to other interpretations of Islam in Syria itself, in neighbouring territories such as Iraq (e.g. Yazidi and Christians) and further afield, including Western capitals, as has been communicated by the group’s leadership.
The expansionist and hyper-violent modes of behaviour displayed by IS have prompted detailed reviews of its ability to fund itself and raised concerns about the fate of Syria’s oil production. Most of Syria’s oil reserves are located in the east, near the border with Iraq and along the Euphrates River, with a number of smaller fields in the centre of the country. According to news reports in late 2013, the Syrian government has lost control of nearly all of the country’s major oilfields. Syrian Kurdistan (in yellow above) contains roughly 60% of Syria’s oil reserves. The remainder is controlled by IS.
As foreign jihadist fighters have moved into Syria, many civilians have fled across its borders. Indeed, Syria has overtaken war-torn Afghanistan as the world’s biggest source of refugees, putting economic strain on its refugee-receiving neighbours.
However, it is the non-refugee movements (militants, jihadists) into neighbouring countries that constitute a serious security threat. For Iraq, this concerns its oil and gas infrastructure, whereas Turkey’s main consideration is the important pipeline system linking eastern supply sources with European markets.