Skip to main content

The truth about Turkey and Islamic State oil

While oil sales by the Islamic State across the Turkish border are a real problem, the Turkish government does not condone it.
A group of men smuggle diesel fuel from Syria to Turkey hoping to sell it at a higher price, across the Al-Assi River in Darkush town, Idlib countryside May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman (SYRIA - Tags: CONFLICT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTX1026I

The Sept. 20 release of 49 Turks held by the Islamic State (IS) for 101 days came as a great relief for Turkey. They were the diplomats and other consulate personnel (along with their families, including two infants) taken hostage in June when IS captured Mosul. Since then, the Turkish government had argued, reasonably enough, that its hands were tied in not joining the US-led coalition against IS. Now, however, with the end of the hostage crisis, Ankara might begin to think more actively about the threat just across its southern border.

Where exactly does Turkey stand on IS? This has become a matter of controversy in the country and in the West. The Turkish government has been criticized on three main points: that it has not done enough to close its borders to the flow of foreign fighters joining IS; that it has not done enough to curb radical groups at home that recruit for IS; and that IS makes money by selling oil via Turkey.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.