Trump’s plan to bomb Iraq’s oil fields to fight ISIS ‘troubling’

Story highlights

  • Bombing Iraq’s oil fields would hurt Iraq more than ISIS, says military experts
  • ISIS does control some oil fields, but they are located in Syria, not Iraq

“If I win, I would attack those oil sites that are controlled and owned — they are controlled by ISIS,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t send many troops because you won’t need ’em by the time I’m done.”

But that strategy might do more harm than good, according to two former U.S. military officers and CNN military analysts who looked at Trump’s suggestion. That’s because bombing Iraq’s oil fields would be a serious blow to Iraq and efforts to recover once ISIS is expelled from the country.

“You’re destroying the infrastructure of Iraq, you’re not really doing much to hurt ISIS,” retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona said. “At some future point those oil fields will have to help regenerate Iraq.”

The United States did strike oil fields in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s, which hurt Kuwait for years after the war.

While Trump suggested that he would then send in Exxon or another oil company to quickly rebuild the infrastructure once the conflict is over, Francona and Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, another CNN military analyst, said rebuilding infrastructure is easier said than done — especially when other surrounding infrastructure has been damaged in the process.

“We’ve made some huge mistakes in terms of just bombing things we think can just bring a nation to its knees,” Hertling said. “It’s not the people you’re going against and yet those are the ones you’re going against the most when you’re talking about indiscriminate carpet-bombing.”

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Trump also said that “there is no Iraq” because of longstanding Sunni vs. Shia divides in the country that have come to the fore amid ISIS’ advance.

Hertling said that’s just not true and that “there most definitely is an Iraq” despite political and ethnic divisions.

Hertling points out that he’s remained apolitical throughout his military career but said Trump’s comments are “just troubling.”

“You have to understand the issues a little bit better than just bombing things,” Hertling said. “This is very complex and there are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who believe they do have a country.”

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Both Francona and Hertling said there are many better ways to hurt ISIS than striking oil fields in Iraq — few of which ISIS actually controls.

A large part of ISIS’s revenue has come from oil sales, but the terrorist group is mostly pumping oil out of refineries in Syria, not Iraq.

And even in Syria, the U.S. military and coalition partners have showed restraint in not bombing oil fields in Syria, though the U.S. did strike mobile refineries in ISIS hands there — not as crippling in the long-term than a blanket bombing of oil fields.

While the Iraqi government is seriously reliant on the United States and other countries in its fight against ISIS and as it strives to keep its country together, Iraq’s top leaders would do more than just object to U.S. bombing of oil fields in its country — a central part of the country’s economy and infrastructure.

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