US aims to damage ISIL energy supplies, says special envoy

US aims to damage ISIL energy supplies, says special envoy

Merve Erdil - ISTANBUL
US aims to damage ISIL energy supplies, says special envoy

Hürriyet Photo / Muhsin Akgün

The U.S. has adjusted its policy in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), turning its focus on targets, including energy infrastructure facilities, that are more difficult to replace, U.S. Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein has said. 

“What we want to do is not to simply go out and feel good about ourselves by attacking a bunch of oil fields. Because that can look good in pictures but only do minimal damage that is easy to repair in a relatively quick time frame. What we want is to take time, understand the infrastructure, understand the key critical assets, and attack those,” Hochstein told daily Hürriyet on the sidelines of the Atlantic Council Energy and Economic Summit in Istanbul. 

He said the U.S.’s shift in strategy could be seen in its air campaigns over the last few weeks. 

“Even before the Paris attacks, you could see a change in how we addressed the issue from the air campaign. We have targeted specific oil fields, gas fields, processing plants, infrastructure that is more difficult to replace,” Hochstein said, adding that Washington was looking at how to hamper ISIL’s ability to both generate revenue and to use its energy control to dominate areas under its rule. 

“I think that is what [U.S. President Barack Obama] meant when he said we still have the tools to escalate our ability to control, and to damage their ability to use energy as a revenue generator,” he said. 

Hochstein said their aim was to disrupt ISIL’s operations and to hit its revenues as much as possible, which would only be possible if the group loses “the territory where the assets and the natural resources are.”

Meanwhile, commenting on how the U.S. views the independent exporting of oil by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Hochstein said the KRG and Baghdad were still working on an agreement about the sharing of revenues from oil exports and it would “make sense if those resources and revenues were shared so that all of Iraq wins.”

The envoy also said Turkey was at a “critical crossroads,” both for its own supply and its ability to support Europe’s goal of energy security, adding that there was no reason why Iraqi Kurdish gas could not flow through Turkey into Europe. 

“That would be good for all parties. From the producers to Turkey as the transit country, to Europe as a consumer,” Hochstein said. He added that the volume of the flow allowed Turkey to diversify its own gas supplies, allowing it to limit its exposure to Russia and Iran, which he said “use energy as a political tool and as a weapon.”