(by Peter Hannaford and Robert Zaposochny, American Spectator) – Americans are outraged over the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff. We all want President Obama to defeat these savages. For any plan to be credible, it must acknowledge four important facts.
(1) Without oil, ISIS has no economy:
In 2012, crude oil was 84 percent of Iraq’s exports. Only 33 percent of Iraq’s GDP is generated from the private sector and many of those workers get much of their business from government contracts.
Currently, ISIS controls seven oil fields in Northern Iraq that produce 30,000 barrels per day (bpd). This is small compared to overall Iraq production in August, which was reported to be 3.1 million bpd, of which 2.44 million bpd was exported.
Most of country’s oil is in the south. The only place in northern Iraq with appreciable oil reserves is near Kirkuk, producing one million bpd. Any strategy against ISIS must involve keeping these terrorists away from Kirkuk and also destroying the few fields now under ISIS control. ISIS also controls refineries in Syria that produce 50,000 barrels per day. These should be targeted for destruction also.
ISIS sells the oil it has on the black market. By destroying their Iraq fields, we could cripple their cash flow. (Ransoms paid for hostages, as some European governments apparently have done, are not a sure source of steady revenue.)
(2) Iraq is a republic if the Iraqis choose to keep it:
The rise of ISIS occurred in part because the Sunni population lost faith in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The new Iraqi government must provide plans for Sunnis and Kurds to have more of a say in its operations. Among other things, after ISIS is defeated, the government should redouble its efforts to repair and secure the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline.
Secretary of State George Shultz wrote in his memoirs that he was trying to convince the Iraqi government to reopen the Mosul-Haifa pipeline during the Iran-Iraq War. This pipeline was closed after the creation of Israel. In 1984, it was estimated that this pipeline could be operational within six months.
Less Iraqi oil exported through the Straight of Hormuz is in the interests of both Iraq and the United States. Both pipelines could give the Sunnis and Kurds a sense that they have some leverage over the Iraqi government.
The Kurds understand that it would be unwise to declare independence because their leading neighbor, Turkey, might attack them in order to prevent its own Kurdish population from revolting.
In order for the Sunnis and Kurds to be part of a re-energized Iraqi government, they need assurances that the Shi’a in Baghdad will share the oil revenues, as originally promised by the Maliki government. If these are not forthcoming, they should be allowed to export oil directly from northern Iraq.
Beyond sharing the oil wealth, Iraq In the long run will only remain united if the government uses some of its resources to modernize the economy, upgrade the country’s infrastructure and provide a stable base on which businesses and trade can grow.
(3) There is nothing further Iran will do to help us:
When the Kurds were being attacked by ISIS, Hezbollah, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran, provided some manpower and weapons to help fight back. In Syria, Hezbollah is training Assad’s army in guerrilla warfare. As our coalition pushes ISIS out of Iraq, we will see the anomaly of ISIS fighting Assad’s army, Hezbollah, and the Free Syrian Army rebels all at once. War makes strange bedfellows.
(4) America can end wars faster when its people are united:
One way to focus on the goal of degrading and destroying ISIS is to prevent radicalized Americans from joining it and apprehending any who have already joined it from re-entering the U.S. with the intention of causing harm here. It is estimated that approximately 100 U.S. citizens have joined ISIS (as have several hundred Europeans). We must strengthen our entry procedures as part of a program to prevent any of these fighters from entering the United States with U.S. or European Union passports.
Another threat could come from homegrown terrorists recruited by ISIS through social media. Any credible terror-prevention plan will require working with moderate American Muslim leaders and organizations to blunt the effects of this ISIS effort.
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. Robert Zaposochny is an analyst specializing in the decline and end of the Cold War.
Published Sept. 10, 2014 at Spectator .org. Reprinted here on Sept. 11, 2014, for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The American Spectator.
1. Describe the problem Peter Hannaford and Robert Zaposochny lay out in this commentary.
2. What steps do thhe say must be undertaken for the U.S. to succeed?
3. Do you think they do a good job of persuading us that the U.S. must take these steps? Explain your answer.