By Hasan Kanbolat
September 15, 2014
US President Barack Obama announced that the US will systematically undermine the capabilities of the Islamic State (IS), reduce the territory they control and eventually defeat it. Organizations with hybrid Salafi ideologies have been active in Iraq since 2003 and in Syria since 2011. The IS is not a new organization that has come to being in a few months. Unlike al-Qaida, the IS has not launched any attacks in Western countries. So what is the reason for Western countries' eagerness to conduct a military operation against the IS? Why does the US need the support of its allies in this military operation rather than simply conducting it on its own?
The first and foremost reason for the Western military operation against the IS is that the IS has begun to control the production, marketing and pricing of oil in Iraq and Syria. The IS has started threatening the interests of international oil companies, disrupting the balances in the region. The IS sells oil to oil smugglers from Turkey and Jordan at a price of $25 per barrel and $10,000-$12,000 per tanker. After the IS captured the city of Mosul on June 10, 2014, oil prices have been sharply declining -- also due to global economic growth and excessive oil supply. Despite the turmoil in the Middle East, the Brent crude oil price has decreased from $109.80 on June 10 to $99.81 (per barrel) today. The price of oil has dropped below $100 for the first time since June 2013. The Brent oil price was around $117 before the IS began controlling oil production and marketing.
The second reason for a military operation against the IS is that it has started to threaten Saudi Arabia. The IS has made it clear that its next target is Riyadh. IS activists in Saudi Arabia protest the current administration in Riyadh, writing "The Islamic State is eternal and spreading" on walls around the country. That the IS has made the Saudi administration a direct target is a source of uneasiness both for international oil corporations and the US.
The third reason is that by acquiring the surface and underground economic resources of Iraq, the IS is disrupting the regional balance of power. For this reason, the US hit various IS targets in Baghdad and Arbil. These airstrikes prevented the IS from capturing the rich oil resources of Kirkuk. The codes required for the operation of Iraq's largest power plant in Mosul, built by Turkey's Çalık company, have not been given to the IS.
The IS had previously seized the Mosul and Fallujah power plants. With help from the US, the Arbil administration retook control of the Mosul dam. By shelling IS targets near the Haditha dam located in the west of Iraq, which is of critical importance for the country, the US air force helped the Iraqi army protect the dam. Thus, the IS was prevented from capturing the Haditha dam on the Euphrates near Al Anbar.
The fourth reason is that the IS has emerged as a representative of Sunni Arabs and nationalism. The IS has threatened Turkey, saying it should release water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It is fighting the Kurds for territory in Syria and Iraq.
The fifth reason is that the West wants to define the economic, political and geographical borders of the IS. Any threat to Christians will be prevented. The opposition of the IS vis-a-vis Kurdish expansion into controversial zones will be curbed (so the IS will oppose the expansionism of Kurds -- this will be prevented). The spread of the IS toward Saudi Arabia will be averted.
The sixth reason is to prevent those from the US and EU who joined the IS with a "one-way ticket" from returning to their home countries. The fight against these young people will take places instead in Turkey and Jordan instead of Iraq and Syria.