With the liberation last week of al-Qayyara and surrounding areas to the south of Mosul, the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) has lost its last and most important oil-rich area in Iraq, officials tell Diyaruna.
ISIL has financed many of its activities by smuggling crude oil from wells in the region, including al-Qayyara, one of the oldest and most important in Iraq.
At one point, al-Qayyara refinery produced roughly 16,000 barrels per day, and the Iraqi government had planned to drill more wells in the vicinity.
On Thursday (August 25th), Iraqi forces pushed ISIL from al-Qayyara, concluding a successful three-day operation to expel the group's fighters from residential neighbourhoods, power plants and other infrastructure.
The victory "broke ISIL's back", Muzhir Mohammed Saleh, an economic adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, told Diyaruna.
"The terrorist entity ISIL was based mainly on the gains generated by the operations of theft and smuggling of oil," he explained. "These revenues receded with the decline of the terrorists’ influence and their loss of many areas, particularly those rich in oil, in addition to mineral and natural resources."
"With the liberation of al-Qayyara, the group lost the last area where it depended on its oil resources to provide for its urgent need for money," he said, adding that the loss of this vital resource will deal the group a final blow.
The restoration of al-Qayyara, along with its wells and refinery, to Iraqi hands means ISIL will not be able to survive for long, he said.
The group's demise "is now imminent", he added.
Targeting ISIL tankers
Prior to the operation to liberate al-Qayyara, coalition airstrikes have in recent months destroyed many ISIL tanker trucks smuggling oil out of al-Qayyara.
"Those strikes have contributed greatly to weakening the ability of terrorists to steal crude oil from al-Qayyara," said Ninawa provincial council member Abdul Rahman al-Wakaa.
"The terrorists used to extract oil from about 100 wells and smuggle it to Syrian territory aboard hundreds of tankers every day," he told Diyaruna, adding that ISIL also used "burners", which are small units used to refine crude oil.
"These activities decreased a lot in the recent period due to aerial bombardment, but they did not stop completely," he said.
"Now that al-Qayyara and its oil facilities, as well as the gas power plant, are under the control of our troops, ISIL no longer has anything," al-Wakaa said.
ISIL in financial trouble
Restoring Iraqi control over energy projects in al-Qayyara "will play a major role in resolving the fight against terrorism", economist Basem Jamil Antoine told Diyaruna.
"ISIL had lost all the oil wells and only had al-Qayyara oil field, from which it was stealing between 50,000 and 60,000 barrels on average every day since the beginning of its occupation" two years ago, he said.
"Stolen quantities gradually decreased as a result of the repeated aerial targeting of tankers used to smuggle oil," he added.
"Liberating that oil field and its refinery will put ISIL in great financial difficulty and in a tight blockade, as it can no longer pay the salaries of its fighters, provide for their needs and pay fighting expenses," Antoine said.