Thousands of barrels of oil per day are flowing from Syria into Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdistan region, in an opaque trade that has served for several years as a financial lifeline for the Kurdish-led government in northern Syria and its military wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The trade has evolved since it first began in 2014, and many details are still murky, but the exports are currently earning tens of millions of dollars per month, according to an Iraq Oil Report investigation based on interviews with oil officials in Syria, border officials in Iraq, oil and fuel traders, crude buyers in Iraqi Kurdistan, and foreign military officials.
"We have oil and sell it to whoever buys," said a top political leader in the Autonomous Administration of North and Eastern Syria, known colloquially as Rojava. "It is a free market, and everyone can trade whatever they have.... The oil revenue is managed by Autonomous Administration of North and Eastern Syria, and all of it is used to provide services and security for the area."
If you are not a registered user, you may purchase a subscription or sign up for a free trial.
All sources quoted or referenced spoke to Iraq Oil Report directly and exclusively, unless stated otherwise. Iraq Oil Report typically grants anonymity to sources that can't speak without risking their personal safety or job security. We only publish information from anonymous sources that we independently corroborate and are important to core elements of the story. We do not provide anonymity to sources whose purpose is to further personal or political agendas.Iraq Oil Report Commitment to Independence
Iraq Oil Report strives to provide thoroughly vetted reporting and fair-minded analysis that enables readers to understand the dynamic events of Iraq. To meet this goal, we always seek to gather first-hand information on the ground, verify facts from multiple angles, and solicit input from every stakeholder involved in a given story.
We view our independence as an integral piece of our competitive advantage. Whereas many media entities in Iraq are owned or heavily influenced by political parties, Iraq Oil Report is wholly owned by several of its employees. In a landscape that is often polarized and politicized, we are able to gather and corroborate information from an unusually wide array of sources because we can speak with all of them in good faith.
To fund this enterprise, Iraq Oil Report depends on revenue from both advertising and subscriptions. Some of our advertisers and subscribers ‐ including companies, governments, and NGOs ‐ are also subjects of our reporting. Consistent with journalistic best practices, Iraq Oil Report maintains a strict firewall that removes business considerations from editorial decision-making. When we are choosing which stories to report and how to write them, our readers always come first.