A top State Department official on Thursday said that bombing oil pipelines controlled by Islamic State (or ISIS) in Syria is now a “viable option” under consideration by the U.S. military.
Julieta Valls Noyes, the US deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, was in London and her comments were first reported by the British press. Citing figures that estimate ISIS is generating nearly $2 million every day by selling crude oil reserves it now controls, Noyes said that the U.S. may expand targeting of oil-related infrastructure inside Syria to include “kinetic strikes against some of the pipelines” and other “physical action to stop the flow.”
“Bombing oil pipelines to get at ISIS’s financing would be foolhardy… and provide anti-American groups anywhere in the world with a rationale for bombing pipelines on which we and our allies depend. The result could be global economic havoc.” —Michael T. KlareAccording to the Independent, Noyes said that sale of fuel is one of the U.S. government’s “principal concerns” regarding ISIS’ ability to fund its ongoing military operations and that in addition to other methods to stem the group’s the sale of oil “air strikes are a viable option.”
Reacting to Noyes’ comments, Michael T. Klare, a professor at Hampshire College who has written extensively on energy resources and U.S. foreign policy, told Common Dreams that any attempt to bomb oil pipelines in Syria would be a serious mistake with potentially far-reaching implications.
“Bombing oil pipelines to get at ISIS’s financing would be a very foolhardy move,” Klare stated in an email. “First of all, it would be almost impossible to determine that the pipelines were carrying oil produced by oilfields under ISIS’s control, and second, there could be a considerable risk of civilian casualties from the resulting explosions. Bombing pipelines could also lead to massive oil spills and resulting environmental damage.”
In addition, he said, attacking pipelines in any manner “would provide anti-American groups anywhere in the world with a rationale for bombing pipelines on which we and our allies depend. The result could be global economic havoc.”
Since U.S.-led airstrikes inside Syria began last month, warplanes have already targeted refineries and other oil-related infrastucture held by ISIS. So far, however, targeting flowing pipelines has not been officially discussed.
The Telegraph reports:
According to Klare, however, if nations want to curtail ISIS’ oil revenues, he suggests that other strategies are available that don’t carry the same high-level risk associated with airstrikes. “The US should put diplomatic pressure on Turkey to crack down on black-market oil smugglers that operate in Turkish territory, and block any bank accounts used by ISIS to collect funds from such sales,” Klare suggested. “These efforts would do much more to impede ISIS’s funding while avoiding the risk of civilian casualties.”
In a recent TomDispatch essay discussing the targeting of oil infrastructure in Syria, Klare argued that the U.S. government—once on the receiving end of oil embargoes—has now initiated a new strategy of using “the oil weapon” by threatening sanctions, or in Syria’s case – targeted airstrikes, to impede the ability of enemies to operate. According to Klare: