The regime of Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad is buying millions of dollars in oil from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Maybe years of sanctions against Syria have backfired in that Assad doesn’t have too many other willing sellers. This business relationship between Assad and ISIS helps explain the protracted nature of the conflict.
That, and we’ve been too slow to recognize that Assad may be the lesser priority evil in the region. The thinking in fashionable circles in D.C. for the last couple years was to defeat Assad then defeat ISIS. It may be a better idea to let him defeat ISIS and then reassess.
Here’s a telling excerpt from an interview by NPR’s Renee Montagne with Treasury official Adam Szubin (h/t El Grillo):
…MONTAGNE: I think it will amaze listeners to hear that a great deal of the oil paying for the Islamic State’s war is going to the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, the very person he’s fighting. You’ve been quoted as saying the two are trying to slaughter each other, and they are still engaged in millions of dollars of trade. What is going on there? Are they functionally partners?
SZUBIN: I wouldn’t call them partners. Clearly they’re adversaries on the battlefield, but necessity makes some strange bedfellows. And in this instance, the Syrian regime is very hungry for gas and also for oil. And they don’t mind seemingly purchasing some of it from ISIL…