The Islamic State’s scorched earth play

March 6, 2015

Islamic State militants turned to scorched earth on Thursday, lighting fire to oil wells north of Tikrit in an effort to elude advancing Iraqi and Kurdish forces. This Reuters map of contested Iraqi and Syrian land looks like paint splatters of Iraqi Security Forces, Islamic State and Kurdish-controlled territory. Not coincidentally, large pockets of this land also contain much of Iraq’s (and Syria’s) oil infrastructure, with oil fields and pipelines under the the control of each of the battling groups. 

The price of oil was relatively flat this week, and has rebounded 5.8 percent for the year after dropping nearly 50 percent in 2014. But the turmoil yesterday in Iraq’s oil fields shows the complexity of mastering a market that spans the globe. The next tremor is always around the corner; all geological geopolitics are local.

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