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Turkey-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Oil Trade Research Paper


The annual revenue generated from sales of oil and oil products by the ISIS is estimated to be more than $500 million. With this magnitude of funding, the ISIS group’s financial capability has renewed its threat to global peace, especially in the Middle Eastern region. At present, series of ally forces have put down strategies to try and reduce the threat of ISIS by cutting their funding ventures.

However, there are current allegations pitting the Turks as engaged in oil trade with ISIS and influential names such as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have popped up as being involved in the illegal trade. In a swift reaction to these allegations, the current president of Turkey has promised to vacate office if these allegations are proven. Smugglers of oil on behalf of this terrorist group use different means to move the oil that has been used to finance ISIS. Some of the smuggled oil transported to Turkey’s export zones onto oil tankers in the region of Ceyhan destined for regional and international market. Therefore, this analytical treatise will explore the reports that have been highlighted to suggest that Turkey has been a party to ISIS oil smuggling syndicate.

Synopsis of the Oil Trade

Known as ad-Dawlat al-Islāmiyah fī al-ʿIrāq wa sh-Shām, the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) is an extremist group that is organized with military precision in organizing violent campaigns in a bid to take control of Syria and Iraq (Erika, Kwong, and Bernard par. 8). Despite having been in active operations for less than a decade, ISIS has become a serious global threat to security and human rights. At present, the group has active operational units in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Lebanon.

As estimated by the UN report on the operations of ISIS in the Middle East, the group runs on a budget of more than three billion dollars annually (Durden par. 8). Most of revenues are from oil field they have managed to capture from the government and private companies. This oil has to be sold in the international market to generate revenues that can support its activities.

Turkey-ISIS Oil Trade

Oil Transportation Route and Trend

Following successful seizure of control of more than 60% of oil assets in Syria and seven large oil production plants in Iraq, the ISIS group decided to create a complex oil trade network consist of middlemen from neighboring countries such as Turkey. The primary intention of creating this network was to establish a sensible market for the crude oil in the international markets. There are more than ten localities within the Turkey territory that act as the transit point for most of the oil being sold by ISIS. Among the notable regions established in the research include “Sanliura, Urfa, Hakkari, Siirt, Batman, Osmaniya, Gaziantep, Sirnak, Adana, Kahramarmaras, Adiyaman and Mardin” (Tara par. 7).

The research further established that this network is joined at the Adana shipping hub, Ceyhan. Interestingly, this terminal is owned and operated on a daily basis by a company registered in Turkey called the Botas International Limited. The company operates as a government entity since the government owns majority of share in it.

Upon probing tanker charter rates, by reviewing the frequency of crude oil export from the ports Turkey within the region of Adana, for a period between the year 2014 and 2015, the authors established that a sizable share of illegal oil smuggled by ISIS is carried by oil tankers exiting the Ceyhan port for international market (Tara par. 9). This evidence strongly suggests that oil smuggled by ISIS is transported into the international market from the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

For instance, the findings indicated that crude oil exports sky rocketed from the port of Ceyhan whenever ISIS forces are engaged in a combat within an area hosting oil extraction facilities. For instance, in the month of July, 2014, there was an unusual rise in oil exportation between the date of 10th and 21st from the port of Keyhan. The rise in oil exportation from this Turkish port occurred exactly at the time when the ISIS forces captured one of the largest oil producing regions in Syria called the Al-Omar (Durden par. 13). Another abnormal rise in oil exportation within the port of Keyhan occurred between the months of October and November in the year 2014.

During this period, there was an intense insurgency battle between ISIS forces and the Syrian over the ownership and full control of the Mahr and Jhar gas production fields in Syria. The trend was also observed in the month of December, 2014, following another battle between the Syrian army and ISIS forces for control of the Hayyan Gas Company situated within the region of East Homs in Syria (Durden par. 15).

From the above evidence, it is possible to conclude that there an active but shadow network consisting of crude oil traders and smugglers what sell the crude oil from ISIS held territories to international market through ports in Southeastern Turkey, especially oil originating from Northwestern Iraq and Northeastern Syria, which are regions currently controlled by the ISIS outfit. This network has an active supply chain called Route E90 and has been used to delivery crude oil from ISIS to the transit port of Ceyhan into the international market (Phillips par. 6).

This means that there are ISIS sympathizers or Turkish businessmen who are actively involved in shipping oil from ISIS through the ports in Turkey to international markets. This trend strongly suggests that the Turkish entities or even some dirty government agencies might be actively involved in the illegal trade that is fueling the terrorism activities perpetrated by the ISIS outfit (Durden par. 9). Besides, it is rational to conclude that the ISIS crude oil smuggling network within Turkey operates with the blessing of a section of the Turkey government support because the trade is complex and cannot be carried out without raising any alarm.

There are several intelligence reports within public reach suggesting that Turkey is a key player in the crude oil smuggling syndicate controlled by the ISIS outfit. For instance, the Iraqi state intelligence revealed that “ISIS sells the crude to smugglers who in turn sell to middlemen in Turkey” (Tara par. 12). This revelation catalyzed global discourse on the well organized ISIS crude oil export infrastructure within the state of Turkey and the likelihood of the current regime being part of the business.

The debate on the involvement of Turkey in the smuggling of ISIS crude oil has resulted in research to establish the source of oil extraction equipment, refinery, and transportation route used by ISIS (Erika, Kwong, and Bernard par. 8). According to a report published in the Associated Press in the year 2015, it was noted with concern that the crude oil smuggling network is very complicated and become increasingly sophisticated for a terrorist group to manage it without support from external entities. Apparently, the report seems to suggest that there are regional forces and other international actors facilitating and managing the ISIS oil smuggling network. From this well organized crude smuggling syndicate, the press report noted that “ISIS is believed to be extracting about 30,000 barrels per day from Syria, smuggled to middlemen in neighboring Turkey” (Presse par. 10).

For instance, in Mosul alone, more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil are mined each day and channeled into the smuggling network to reach the international market. This trend is repeated in other 253 wells that are currently under the control of ISIS. Unfortunately, the press report concluded that out of 253 wells that are currently controlled by ISIS, “161 of them were operational, benefitting from production equipment originating in neighboring countries including Turkey” (Presse par. 17).

From the revelation that most of equipment used in mining crude oil by ISIS originates from Turkey, it is order to conclude that the Turkish government or business outfits have catalyzed the operation of the smuggling network in the form of inputs in terms of equipment. It is ironical for businessmen from Turkey to sell sophisticated oil mining equipment to a terrorist group, irrespective of any justification statement that might be pushed to support this decision.

Besides, this type of business cannot be operated in a magnitude that can support 161 oil wells in ISIS controlled regions without knowledge or approval by the Turkish government. The smooth and flowing trade between ISIS and Turkish businessmen on equipment is an indication that the illegal oil smuggling can be reduced if the Turkish government implements stronger laws barring businesses from trading with ISIS (Humud, Pirog, and Rosen par. 6).

Besides, it is in order to conclude that the current Turkish regime is aware of the existing trade network for oil rigs and other equipment that are exported from Turkey to ISIS controlled regions for the purpose of oil extraction. Besides, the magnitude of current trade in oil mining equipment seems to indicate that even some government agencies within Turkey are part of the trade with ISIS.

There are several satellite image reports that have provided evidence to suggest that Turkey is a transit point for smuggled crude oil from ISIS controlled territories in Iraq and Syria. For instance, in a report published by the Cumhuriyet press, it was established that crude oil from oil fields held by ISIS are transported into Turkey through multiple road networks. The report indicated that crude oil from the Rappa region in Syria under control of the ISIS outfit is moved to Turkey through the northwest route. For instance, a satellite image, captured on 13th, November, 2015, “of the motorway at Azzaz Shows 240 trucks waiting on the Turkish side of border, and 46 trucks on Syrian side of border” (Tara par.9).

This image shows the trucks travelling towards the Iskenderun and Dortyol ports in Turkey from the direction of Syria. Another satellite image of “Deir Ez-Zor shows hundreds of tankers carrying oil to towards Qamishli” (Presse par. 13). The image was captured on 18th, October, 2015. The region of Deir Ez-Zor is in Syria while the region of Qamishli is in Turkey. Upon entry into Turkey, the smuggled crude oil from oil wells controlled by ISIS is transported by road to the Turkish Tupras oil refinery before being dispatched into the international market. Another satellite image suggested that crude oil is also moved from Iraq to Cizre region in Turkey by more than 1, 104 trucks.

This image was captured on 14th, November, 2015 (Tara par. 8). Apparently, the satellite images are evidence to suggest that there is sizable movement of crude oil mined in ISIS controlled regions in Syria and Iraq into Turkey through road transport networks. The transport network spans to more than 300 kilometers on either side of the boarders. Interestingly, the satellite images give an average quantity of crude oil entering Turkey from Iraq and Syria at more than 20,000 barrels per day, considering the involvement of more than one thousand trucks (Presse par. 14).

This magnitude of business indicates that the smuggling network into Turkey is well organized and has been operational for a long time. Besides, it suggests that the network has been smoothly operational due to logistical support from the Turkish territorial boarders.

Apart from well organized and high magnitude smuggling networks, there are small scale smugglers who move ISIS crude oil from Syria and Iraq into Turkey. In the Financial Times report published in the year 2015, it was indicated “that small scale smugglers use jerry cans to load up to 60 liters of oil from Syria into midsize boats to transport the smuggled cargo into across the river” (Tara par. 17).

The smugglers are well organized into cells and sometimes operate continuously for 24 hours, depending on the demand and prevailing security climate by the Turkish army (Phillips par. 6). The small scale smugglers consist of businessmen and ethnic Turks who are attracted by the easy money and available cargo to transport across the rivers. Once the cargo crosses the river ban into Turkey, there are small trucks or tractors that haul the supply into home-made refineries or local markets. This trade has been successful in small border towns in Syria and Turkey. For instance, the border town of Besalan on both sides of Syria and Turkey is currently sustained by the crude oil business between the Turks and ISIS (Phillips par. 8).

Specifically, within the town of Besalan, small rubber tubes are buried on either side of the border and are used for siphoning crude oil from Syria into Turkey. The siphoning points are controlled by different rebel groups in Turkey. As indicated in the Financial Times publication, the “popular crossing point for smugglers carrying jerry cans of fuel on their backs has been from Kharbet al-Jawz in rebel-held Syria to Guvecci in Turkey” (Tara par. 17).

The findings of the Congressional Research Service of the US also linked Turkey to the ISIS crude oil smuggling syndicate. The report noted that ISIS has no capacity or facilities it can use to successfully export the crude oil from the wells it controls. Besides, the free market is not ready to buy oil from ISIS directly due to their linkage to terrorism. This means that ISIS has to find a third party to carry out this trade on its behalf. As a result, ISIS has to “transport oil by truck to the Turkish border where oil brokers and traders purchase the oil with cash at a steeply discounted price, as low as $18/barrel” (Humud, Pirog, and Rosen par. 9).

The traders then process this oil and add it to clean crude before shipping to the international market to avoid suspicion. This finding of the congressional report was confirmed by the Financial Action Task Force initiated by the government of Turkey and the US. The task force also revealed that ISIS has developed a successful network that depends on the Turks to sell its oil in the international markets. The task force was categorical that ISIS has recruited unethical businessmen from Turkey to facilitate the transportation of crude oil from Syria and Iraq into shipping ports for refining and eventual exportation to the international markets.

The task force concluded that the success of the network has been the sophisticated nature of the oil smuggling triangle and the cheap price of the ISIS oil as compared to other oil producers. The report by the task force recommended sealing of the porous borders of Turkey to ensure that illegal oil smuggling is stopped (Durden par. 15). The task force also recommended tougher measures by the Turkey government to ensure that traders who thrive in illegal sales of smuggled oil are punished. In addition, the report recommended strengthening of the intelligence and border patrol units in Turkey to reduce the intensity of the oil smuggling by ISIS into Turkey (Tara par. 8).

By the virtue that the congressional and task force reports made recommendations on how to stop the smuggled ISIS crude oil from getting into the Turkey market, it means that these committees have established that Turkey has been part of the ISIS oil smuggling syndicate.

In addition, there is interesting evidence suggesting active participation of Turkey in the global crude oil smuggling net by ISIS as indicate in the Guardian report published in the year 2015. In the report, the findings suggest that the ISIS leader called Abu Sayyaf has been the face behind the well organized syndicate. The media report points fingers at the ISIS leader for his ability to bring businessmen from Turkey to a negotiation table over the vase oil well under his control.

Specifically, the report indicated that the ISIS leader had agents around the Syria-Turkey border to facilitate smooth operations. The report highlighted the confession of a member of the ISIS who stated that, “I know of a lot of cooperation… I don’t see how Turkey can attack the organization too hard. There are shared interests” (Erika, Kwong, and Bernard par. 13).

According to the publication by the Israeli based press called the Al-Araby-al-Jadeed, there is a complex network involved in the smuggling of ISIS oil into Turkey before the oil is exported to the international markets. The report highlighted a long chain of command in the flow of the oil cargo from Iraq and Syria into Turkey and beyond (Tara par. 12). In a recorded confession by a senior colonel within the ranks of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, the evidence of Turkey’s involvement is overwhelming. The colonel stated that;

After the oil is extracted and loaded, the oil tankers leave Nineveh province and head north to the city of Zakho, 88 kilometers north of Mosul. After ISIS oil trucks arrive in Zakho – normally 70 to 100 of them at a time – they are met by oil smuggling mafias. The person in charge of the oil shipment sells the oil to the highest bidder. Once in Turkey, the lorries continue to the town of Silopi, where the oil is delivered to a person who goes by the aliases of Dr Farid, Hajji Farid and Uncle Farid (Phillips par. 8) as attached in appendix 2.

This confession indicates existence of a complex and well organized network between the ISIS group and private individuals within Turkey to facilitate transportation and shipment of the ISIS oil into the international markets. The syndicate network is a continuous spiral that does not have a head or a tail, despite carrying out trade of very high magnitude. It is impractical for the government of Turkey to claim lack of knowledge or intelligence information about existence of such a network.

Though the government of Turkey might not be directly involved in the transiting the crude oil from ISIS strongholds into the global market, the evidence of the Israeli press suggests that most of the oil trade carried out by ISIS has to pass through Turkey (Tara par. 4).

Apart from intelligence reports from the US and Iraq, Russia has also contributed to the debate about the involvement of Turkey in the oil trade. In a key note address to the G20 summit in the year 2015 in Antalya, the Russian president presented more evidence to suggest that Turkey is the transit point for ISIS oil into the international market. According to Vladimir Putin, “I’ve shown photos taken from space and from aircraft which clearly demonstrate the scale of the illegal trade in oil and petroleum products,” (Erika, Kwong, and Bernard par. 8) as attached in appendix 1. In the same day of releasing this evidence, the combined force from Moscow and Washington destroyed more than a thousand ISIS oil trucks heading to Turkey.

Despite the fact that Turkey government has amended its transport and custom policy in the previous year to regulate “transiting of raw Petrol and Fuel via Turkey by road or railways” (Presse par. 6), Russia provided evidence that the amendment did not stop the smuggling oil from ISIS controlled wells into Turkey. During the summit, President Puttin presented satellite images suggesting that ISIS was using the Reyhanli border gate to transport crude oil into Turkey. The images showed many oil tankers crossing into Turkey from Syria via the Reyhanli gate (Erika, Kwong, and Bernard par. 12).

The secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council of Iran called Mohsen Rezaei supported the claim by President Puttin. The secretary noted that most of the oil smuggled from ISIS ended up in Turkey. To support this argument, the secretary noted “that the government of Iran has photographs of oil tankers transporting crude oil from ISIS into Turkey” (Presse par. 9). The secretary even offered to help the Turkey government with more information by stating that, “if Turkish government does not have information of the oil trade in the country, we are willing to give it to them” (Presse par. 12).

The German deputy speaker, Claudia Roth, also added his voice to the allegation that Turkey is involved in the ISIS oil trade. The deputy speaker note that there is need for NATO to push Turkey to stop the oil smuggling from Iraq and Syria that is exported through its ports into the international markets. The deputy speak was categorical that Turkey’s “dealings with the ISIS are unacceptable. Also that the ISIS has been able to sell its oil via Turkey is extraordinary” (Presse par. 16).

This statement was made after the western intelligence reports alleged that “Turkey is turning a blind eye to a flourishing trade that strengthens ISIS” (Tara par. 13). In a recent interview with the CNN, the Secretary of State, John Kerry, urged Turkey to be more proactive and involved to end the smuggling of ISIS oil within it is boarders.

In a recent military action organized by the Turkey military, following numerous reports and allegations of its involvement in the trade with ISIS, more than twenty million gallons of oil were seized close to the border with Syria. The military erected border patrols and checkpoints in the eastern Hatay Province. The preliminary reports by the Turkey military indicated that the oil seized was headed to Turkey from the oil wells of Holms, which is controlled by ISIS (Phillips par. 5). According to the report by the UN in the year 2015;

The southern corridor of Turkey has become a gateway for oil products and illicit trading in violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution 2170 requiring Members States to cut the finances of ISIS, Nusra front and other Qaeda splinter groups (Erika, Kwong, and Bernard par. 18).

Apparently, the above reports confirm active participation Turkey in the ISIS oil trade through small and large scale smugglers across the 700 kilometers transport network across Syrian-Turkey-Iraq borders. The syndicate is well organized and controlled by different smuggling units. The oil is smuggled from the ISIS controlled mining well into Turkey through its porous borders for further processing and shipment into the international markets.

Apart from the evidence suggesting the smuggling syndicate consists of businessmen and ethnic Turk warlords, there are also overwhelming evidences suggesting the involvement of the Turkey’s government officials. The Turkish Grand National Assembly has been accused several time of being party to the ISIS-Turley oil trade. For instance, following the killing of the ISIS leader by the US forces in the year 2015, “computer records recovered from the scene of his death confirmed that the main customer of ISIS oil was actually Turkey” (Tara par. 6).

The report published in the Guardian Newspaper in the year 2015 even suggested that the government of Turkey had a special force to protect the oil trade. The Turkish government involvement was also capture in the Al-Akhabar newspaper in the year 2015 alleging that, “ISIL regularly sells crude it obtains from Iraqi and Syrian oil wells to Turkey through some Qatari middlemen. In some transactions, oil is bartered for weapons” (Erika, Kwong, and Bernard par. 13).

An MP in the Turkey parliament has also made allegations to suggest that the first family is involved in the ISIS-Turkey oil trade. The MP, Aykut Erdogdu was recorded alleging that “partner companies of Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, and his brother-in-law, Ziya Ilgen, were involved in the ISIS oil trade” (Presse par. 8). These persons named by the MP are members of the family of the current president of Turkey. During a live parliament debate, another opposition MP called Ali Ediboglu made an allegation suggesting that most of the ISIS oil is sold within the borders of Turkey. According to the MP;

$800 million worth of oil that ISIS obtained from regions it occupied this year is being sold in Turkey. They have laid pipes from villages near the Turkish border at Hatay. Similar pipes exist also at the Turkish border regions of Kilis, Urfa and Gaziantep. They transfer the oil to Turkey and sell it at a discount for cash. They refine the oil in areas close to the Turkish border and then sell it via Turkey. This is worth $800 million (Erika, Kwong, and Bernard par. 17).

Apart from allegations by MPs from Turkey, other members of the opposition have been vocal in condemning the current regime for the alleged involvement in the ISIS-Turkey oil trade. The descent voices have criticized the Turkish government of turning a blind eye on the smuggling of oil by ISIS into Turkey. For instance, Hursit Gunes, who is a key figure in the Turkey opposition, has accused the regime of gaining from the oil smuggling syndicated.

Hursit expressed his opinion that the monetary gains received by a section of the Turkish government “from smuggling could be stopped if the Turkish government and the neighbor countries had decided that they shouldn’t get a coin” (Phillips par. 14). In a rejoinder, David Cohen, the US Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, has alleged that there is actively involvement of the Turkish government officials and agencies in the ISIS-Turkey oil trade.

Cohen alleged that, “according to our information, as of last month, ISIL was selling oil at substantially discounted prices to a variety of middlemen, including some from Turkey, who then transported the oil to be resold. It also appears that some of the oil emanating from territory where ISIL operates has been sold to Kurds in Iraq, and then resold into Turkey” (Presse par. 14).

In line with the desire of the members of the G20, the US president has also been categorical in pointing accusing finger at the current Turkish regime of not doing enough to stop the smuggling of oil from Iraq and Syria into Turkey. For instance, the New York Times has quoted the US president expressing his frustrations about the role of the Turkish regime in dealing with the oil smuggling syndicate.

As captured in the New York Times daily, President Obama has urged the Turkey government to be more steadfast and focused for the oil smuggling chain to be broken. Sharing the same sentiments, a senior member of the Heritage Foundation, James Phillips, has expressed his opinion that the currently lukewarm approach adopted by the Turkish government towards fighting the ISIS-Turkey oil trade is because of vested interests by the regime.

James Phillips is of the opinion that “Turkey has not fully cracked down on ISIS’s sales network because it benefits from a lower price for oil, and that there might even be Turks and government officials who benefit from the trade” (Phillips par. 9). Fehim Tastein, a journalist in Turkey has claimed that Turkish government only dismantled several illegal oil pipelines crossing the border from Syria and Iraq because his articles providing evidence on the same were published by international media. These evidences confirm that even the Turkey government officials might be involved in the oil smuggling network between ISIS and Turkey. Apparently, the evidence even touches on the senior government officials such as the president and his family.

Since the explosion of the ISIS oil trade in the year 2014, the Russian government has been categorical in accusing the family of President Erdogan, who is the head of the current Turkish government regime, of being involved in the petroleum trade with ISIS and its agents. According to the Defense Secretary from Kremlin, the first family in Turkey is deeply involved in the oil trade and would do anything to protect their interests.

This position is also held by the current Deputy Defense Secretary from Kremlin who alleged during the G20 summit that the President Erdogan’s family had interest in the ISIS oil through privately owned oil companies within Turkey. The Deputy Secretary noted that President Erdogan’s family had the largest share of ISIS oil finding its way into the Turkey market and beyond (Henderson par. 6).

To support this claim, the Deputy Secretary from Kremlin presented satellite images of oil tankers enroot to Turley from ISIS held oil fields in Holms and Iraq. The transportation routes highlighted by the satellite images were headed to three oil refinery locations within Turkey. The Russian Deputy Secretary indicated that, “according to available information, the highest level of the political leadership of the country, President Erdogan and his family, are involved in this criminal business” (Henderson par. 18). This allegation is confirmed in the Times Magazine which quoted an opposition MP in Turkey claiming that “there is a very high probability that Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s energy minister and Erdogan’s son-in-law, was linked to the supply of oil by the terrorists” (Humud, Pirog, and Rosen par. 12).

The accused, Berat Albayrak, was then a highflying CEO of the Calik Holding Company then Powertrans that transport legal oil from the region of Kirdistan, Iraq. Despite these allegations, the accused was appointed by President Erdogan into the Energy Ministry in the year 2015 and has held the position since then (Tara par. 18). It is important to note that Berat Albayrak is the son-in-law of the current president.

Although there is no hard evidence that might link the first family to the ISIS-Turkey oil trade, the court of public opinion in the international community seems to suggest that most of the oil from ISIS finds its way into Turkey. Besides, the possible involvement of the president’s son-in-law in the ISIS-Turkey oil trade has been discussed in the lower and upper chambers of the Turkish parliament.

In addition, evidence has emerged to suggest that President Erdogan has a son called Bilal who owns an oil transportation company called the BMZ group (Humud, Pirog, and Rosen par. 8). The Russian intelligence suggested that the BMZ group was very active in the transportation of the ISIS oil, especially from the border to refineries within Turkey. Although President Erdogan has denied any involvement in the ISIS oil, a recent poll in Turkey has suggested that at least 30% of the Turks believe that his family is part of the ISIS-Turkey oil trade (Tara par 15).

Another opposition figure called Gursel Tekin, who is the current CHP Vice President, expressed his frustration with the first family in regard to the ISIS oil trade with Turkey. Tekin asserted that;

President Erdogan claims that according to international transportation conventions there is no legal infraction concerning Bilal’s illicit activities and his son is doing an ordinary business with the registered Japanese companies, but in fact Bilal Erdogan is up to his neck in complicity with terrorism. As long as his father holds office he will be immune from any judicial prosecution (Tara par. 8). This allegation suggests that Erdogan’s son is involved in the ISIS oil trade through his BMZ group.

The opposition figure further alleged that ISIS oil from Deir Ez-Zor in Syria is moved to Batman within the Turkey borders. From Batman, the oil is again moved to Iksenderun Port in Turkey from where it is partially refined before being loaded onto the Armada Fair and Turkter 82, which are BMZ tankers, for the international markets (Tara par. 7). The allegations towards the BMZ group have also been made by Omran al-Zoubi, the current Minister for Information in the Assad regime. According to Omran;

All of the oil was delivered to a company that belongs to the son of Erdogan. This is why Turkey became anxious when Russia began delivering airstrikes against the IS infrastructure and destroyed more than 500 trucks with oil already. This really got on Erdogan and his company’s nerves. They’re importing not only oil, but wheat and historic artifacts as well from ISIS (Phillips par. 8).

These allegations are mind boggling and have changed the focus of the ISIS-Turkey oil trade discourse from the Turkish regime involvement to the first family interests in the network.

Just like all other evidence across the globe indicating active involvement of Turkey in the ISIS oil trade, the official position of the US indicate that some of the current regime officials and ethnic Turks are actively involved in the oil syndicate. For instance, the US Treasury Undersecretary has noted that most of the oil cargos from ISIS territories are “sold to the Kurds in Iraq before being resold to the Turks” (Presse par. 14). However, the US government does not agree with the evidence suggesting active involvement of the first family in the ISIS-Turkey oil trade (Presse par. 17). According to Josh Earnest, the spokesman of the White House;

The irony of the Russians raising this concern is that there’s plenty of evidence to indicate that the largest consumer of ISIL oil is actually Bashar Assad and his regime, a regime that only remains in place because it is being propped up by the Russians (Tara par. 11).

However, Earnest has acknowledged the fact that Turkey is involved in the ISIS oil syndicate. The involvement is through businessmen interested in making large profit margins because the ISIS oil is the cheapest in the region.


Although there is no single evidence that is directly linking Turkey’s participation in the ISIS oil smuggling syndicate, there is overwhelming indication that the Turkish government has ignored the existence of the trade through failure to seal her borders. The porous borders facilitated oil exports by the ISIS through the Turkish ports. The allegations indicating the involvement of Turkey in the ISIS oil trade have been raised by Syria, Russia, the US, European Union, and several opposition leaders in the lower and upper Turkish parliament. The evidence from the research confirms the involvement of Turkey in the ISIS oil trade.

Works Cited

Durden, Tyler. Meet the Man Who Funds ISIS: Bilal Erdogan, the Son of Turkey’s President. 2015. Web.

Erika, Solomon, Robin Kwong and Steven Bernard. . 2016. Web.

Henderson, Emma. R. 2015. Web.

Humud, Carla, Robert Pirog and Liana Rosen. . 2015. Web.

Phillips, David. Turkey-ISIS Oil Trade. 2015. Web.

Presse, Agence. . 2015. Web.

Tara, John. 2015. Web.

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"Turkey-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Oil Trade." IvyPanda, 5 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/turkey-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-syria-oil-trade/.

1. IvyPanda. "Turkey-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Oil Trade." September 5, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/turkey-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-syria-oil-trade/.


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IvyPanda. 2020. "Turkey-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Oil Trade." September 5, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/turkey-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-syria-oil-trade/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Turkey-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Oil Trade'. 5 September.

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