ISIS smuggling routes and Russian airstrikes

The Financial Times ran this primer to ISIS’ oil business almost two months ago. Four out of the five smuggling routes taking ISIS crude from Syria into Turkey entered the Hatay province, crossing its eastern or south-eastern border. In October-November 2015, Pieter van Ostaeyen’s maps designated the area adjacent to that section of the Turkish border as rebel-held, mostly “mixed rebel/Jihadi” controlled. Whatever their affiliation, they seemed to ensure safe transit for the oil tank trucks.

Bellingcat’s map published October 26 shows that quite a few Russian airstrikes were clustered immediately south of Hatay or along its southeastern border, albeit at a distance of about 15 miles into Syrian territory. The purpose of the map was to show that Russia was not bombing ISIS contrary to its claims and to pinpoint the true location of the airstrikes. However, assuming Bellingcat mapped the strikes correctly, they might have been aimed at the smuggling routes and, therefore, against ISIS, if indirectly.


  1. The problem is, as we’ve discussed on here before, even if Russia is bang to rights their past behaviour means nobody will believe them, let alone sympathise. The default assumption will be that they are lying. It’s a terrible situation to have gotten into, for so little gain.

    • It’s still worth trying to understand what’s going on. The big boys involved must have a pretty good picture anyway, e. g., from satellite data.

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