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Why ISIS Just Grabbed the Resource More Essential Than Oil

by | published June 4th, 2015

When we think of the resources under threat when it comes to the conflict in Iraq, crude oil is usually the first that comes to mind.

But ISIS just brought another resource back into play… one that has been a cause of dispute for centuries.


Oil may be the driver of the Iraqi central budget and economy, but there is something else even more essential to the people who live there.

And ISIS is now raising the stakes in Iraq by asserting its control over this vital resource.

ISIS Now Controls a Vital Dam

This resource more essential than oil is one of the basic building blocks of life. As you might have guessed, it’s water.

I have been writing about this situation for years. As I discussed in my recent book The Great Game: The Coming Face Off for Global Supremacy (you can still get a free copy here), there are regions of the world where nations would go to war in a matter of hours should the supply of water be cut off. And this part of the Middle East is poised on a razor’s edge.

Known as the “Cradle of Civilization,” the region’s salvation is the confluence of two mighty rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. In this otherwise arid desert, these have been lifelines for thousands of years.

ISIS controls the dam on the Euphrates north of the city of Ramadi. And this morning, it began using it for military purposes. There are 26 gates on the dam, controlling survival for a wide area south in the direction of Baghdad, Iraq’s capital. ISIS has closed all but two or three of these and even then opens them for only a few hours a day.

Increased Pressure on Baghdad

My sources in the region have concluded that the motivations for these actions are threefold. First, the intentional relocation of the waters will benefit the city of Fallujah already under ISIS control. By redirecting what water is allowed through which dam gates, volume can be provided to some areas (such as Fallujah), but not others, based on downstream flow.

Second, ISIS has already begun to “water starve” areas remaining loyal to the central government.

This objective puts additional pressure on the capital’s Shiite-controlled administration. Preventing water from moving south has an immediate (and very negative) psychological impact on both the population and the officials.

Remember, as I have previously mentioned here in the Oil & Energy Investor, ISIS does not intend to capture Baghdad. Rather, the goal is to immobilize the decision-making apparatus in the city, further weakening its ability to govern elsewhere and making the expansion of the insurrectionist “caliphate” the group is creating near the Iraqi-Syrian border more secure.

Additional areas to the west and southeast could always be employed as buffer zones over which ISIS would exert control – either directly or through surrogate rulers – thereby providing a more defensible periphery.

Oil Disarray Would Lead to Iraq’s Fall

Trying to extend formal control over Baghdad is not in the cards. However, by paralyzing the government, ISIS does wield direct control over both oil production and export.

The large international oil majors operating huge fields in the far south are working on restrictive agreements that pay a fixed fee on each barrel extracted beyond contract minimums. The companies do not control policy, payment, or exports. The government does. Lack of official oversight is tantamount to throwing the entire nation’s oil picture into disarray, which would increase sectarian infighting and put additional pressure on the central budget and provision of services, while prompting an increasing splintering of the country.

In short, this will accomplish what ISIS wants without forcing it to take over a single oil operation in the most productive (and Shiite-dominated) land around Basra in the south.

New Crossing Points for ISIS Attacks

However, it is the third rationale for the move on the Euphrates dam that has the Iraqi military leadership most concerned. By cutting down the water flow, ISIS is significantly reducing the river’s water level. This will provide numerous areas where the water is sufficiently shallow to allow forces direct (and hit-and-run) attack venues.

In short, by this afternoon there are too many crossing points for the effective defense of Iraqi positions. As the army becomes less able to stand its ground, Baghdad will need to rely more heavily on Shiite militias under the command of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

That guarantees two things: greater control of Iraqi defense from Tehran (a prospect keeping Washington planners up at night) and a further accentuation of Sunni-Shiite mistrust.

These are just what ISIS wants to expand its influence and perpetuate its drive for power. I’ll be watching closely how these events play out over the coming weeks and let you know of any ways to potentially profit from these geopolitical maneuvers.

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  1. Greg
    June 4th, 2015 at 17:09 | #1

    First we liberate the Shiites from Saddam, then the followers of Saddar Junior turn against us and start killing our soldiers. We put in a government train their army, arm them and give them air support. As soon as they are faced with a little fight on their hands they throw down their arms and runaway at least twice . These are the biggest idiots and cowards that have ever walked the face of the earth. Even though I despise IS tactics they deserve what they’re taking and the shiites deserve what they will get. Now let’s make some money!

  2. Jeanette Walling
    June 4th, 2015 at 19:59 | #2

    Why can’t governments join together & rid the world of these terrorists? What is it that makes them to be able to bully, plunder, murder & take over these countries – including coming into the good ole USA? It seems as though everyone has become complacent & lazy about freedoms we need to defend. Wake up America & the entire globe – while you still can!

  3. citizen
    June 4th, 2015 at 22:30 | #3

    Another victory for Obama.

  4. Cindy young
    June 7th, 2015 at 20:44 | #4

    Why don’t we do something to stop them,? what they do there will have an effect on us sooner or later, right?

  5. Loy Lum
    June 9th, 2015 at 11:45 | #5

    ISiS, like Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Ladin, Taliban & al Qaeda, are & were responding to the US failure to draw up a national energy budget to live within our means. So quit demonizing them & get the President & Congress to draw up an energy budget, for the 1st time!

  6. Joy Burnworth
    June 9th, 2015 at 20:52 | #6

    Hello,

    Thank you for the information; however, we are ISIS. Tanks, guns, and millions of dollars of equipment are not just left behind. What do you take us thinking people for? Terrorist expert, Craig Hulet has information on his website regarding our U.S. military coming forward with evidence we trained ISIS in Jordan for the sole purpose of keeping the wars going. On behalf of the Saudi’s we have been fighting in this area to keep resources flowing and sovereign nation states from having any power over their natural resouces. Assad of Syria is standing up to our huge businesses just like Saddam Hussien. We were going to take Assad out of power and Russia stepped in and said they would defend Syria. So we finance, arm and train a group of despatate people and turn them loose on innocent people all so our voracious corporations can take and take. We are told “we must stop these thugs” and yet they ARE US!! We as a nation are no longer sovereign but are run by companies, very large ones. All for greed, we are killing, marauding and stealing. I will not give these criminals, multinational corporations, one bloody red cent.
    Americans are waking up!
    Joy

  7. Rosalie Scheel
    June 10th, 2015 at 15:04 | #7

    Invest my IRA in some thing other than Mutual \Funds?

  8. Cindie Ament
    June 14th, 2015 at 10:59 | #8

    @Jeanette Walling We can’t save a people that don’t want to fight for themselves. Even if the world did go all out war with ISIS and destroyed them, who would take their place. History shows that part of the world needs a dictator or else they self-destruct. As long as they can’t compromise among themselves, we cannot help them. We should be using that money to secure our own homeland, educate and employ our own people.If it gets bad enough the people will raise up and make their own history.

  9. Bob
    June 16th, 2015 at 12:42 | #9

    @Loy Lum
    Do you really think it was about OIL?…look a little bit deeper “Opium”…the crops were all but wiped out until military came. Now the streets have more heroin than ever, Ebola? Again “Opium” &”logistics”…but I may be wrong, just a wild guess & overactive imagination…Oxycontin, unleashed & presented as not a addictive pain med to doctors. Changed the formulation after mass over Rx’s for years and subsequent rampant abuse …Set up for? You guess?…”Heroin”…lol,Yea…its a sick theroy Ω

  10. carl inWis
    June 30th, 2015 at 16:50 | #10

    @citizen
    Sorry, Jeanette = the nations do not make policy, the outlaw corporations have all the political clout to control most decisions.

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