Donald Trump has laid out his plan for dealing with the Islamic State, whose self-proclaimed caliphate is straddling large parts of Syria and Iraq:
I say, cut ‘em off where they're getting wealth. Cut them off at the oil. … I say this, I didn't want to go there in the first place. But now we take the oil. We should have kept the oil. Now we go in, we knock the hell out of them. Take the oil. We thereby take their wealth.
Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Iraq as a whole pumps a little over 3 million barrels of oil per day, and Syria was pumping just under 400,000 barrels prior to the Arab Spring. The two together have about 3.5 million in capacity. For comparison, the U.S. currently pumps about 9.4 million, Saudi Arabia about 10.5 million, and OPEC as a whole pumps about 31.5 million per day.
The price of oil is around $50 per barrel. So, if we took over every functioning oil well in Syria and Iraq, we would gross around $175 million every day. Once you subtract the costs of securing and transporting the oil, I’m guessing we’d would net $1 billion every week. That’s $52 billion a year in pure profit.
And it will cover about five days worth of federal spending.
This still leaves out a lot of details, though.
For instance, how are we supposed to get the oil out of there? Syria has a pipeline running west to Homs; Iraq has one going north through Kurdish territory to Turkey, another south to Basra. The Bashar al-Assad regime still controls Homs, so that’s out. As for Iraq, both the Shiite government and the Kurds view the oil as, well, theirs, so they’re not likely to acquiesce. Even if we could get them (and maybe Turkey) to play along, we’d have hundreds of miles of pipeline to protect from militants, upping the military cost.
I suppose we could truck it out, instead. But, again, to where? Through Iraq to the Persian Gulf? Through Kurdish territory to Turkey? Through Anbar to Jordan or Saudi Arabia? Or are we going to fly it out, at even greater expense?
Now, I guesstimated all this based on the price of oil being $50 a barrel, but the price of oil changes. A year ago, it was around $90. If the price goes up, Trump’s plan becomes more profitable. And, with the U.S. sending troops to to forcibly take other countries’ oil, the price will absolutely go up. And, as it does, stock markets will plunge, and the global economy will nose-dive.
FILE - In this file photo taken Thursday, June 19, 2014, Islamic State group militants stand with a captured Iraqi army Humvee at a checkpoint outside Beiji refinery, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo, File)
But, hey, we’ll be making more profit. And what some people call the “global economy” is what hard-nosed real estate developers refer to as “competitors”; it serves those losers right for not thinking of the “take their oil” plan first, am I right?
And there’s yet another moving part to consider. When people advocate putting “boots on the ground” to confront Islamic State – like Mark Levin, who’s called for a 60-day sweep through the caliphate to wipe them out – they almost never mention the Shiite militias in Iraq. These militias are backed by Iran, and have a history of killing (and nearly kidnapping) U.S. troops.
We can’t plunk thousands of troops in Iraq and then declare we’re only there to fight Islamic State, so anyone else who hates us should take a rain check. However many troops you need to destroy Islamic State and/or take their oil, you probably need to double it to make sure you have enough to fend off the Shiite militias. Trump and Levin make no mention of this fact whatsoever.
“Take their oil” is not part of Trump’s foreign policy; it is effectively his entire foreign policy. Once he confirms every trope that the U.S. is an imperialist military regime seeking to plunder other nations for their resources, Trump won’t be able to achieve anything else of substance in international relations.
Again, the paltry revenue we would get for all this trouble depends on taking over every last oil well. We could lower our footprint – and, I suppose, our calamity – by taking fewer wells, but that means even less money. Islamic State is getting $1, maybe $3 million a day in oil revenue. Perhaps that’s more in line with what we could expect to “net.”
Trump has been criticized for failing to provide specifics on what he would do as president. Now we’ve got them.
Anyone who can’t figure out what a terrible idea this is has no business being president.
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