Nov 13, 2017

Tracking the declines in ISIS oil production

The Al-Omar oil field in Rmeilan, in northeast Syria, was captured from ISIS control by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on October 22, 2017. Photo: Hussein Malla / AP

Oil has been a key revenue source for ISIS, yet new data shows that production has steadily declined in areas under the group's control.

Historically, it has been difficult to get an accurate measure of ISIS's oil production. Past estimates extrapolated from chance observations at a small number of production sites — typically wherever journalists have had a source or intelligence documents have been seized. But that is like counting employees at a few McDonalds locations to draw conclusions about the number of workers across the fast food industry.

To arrive at a more precise figure, my colleagues and I developed a tool, as reported in a recent paper, that uses satellite imagery to evaluate in real time all 42 of the oil production sites once controlled by ISIS. The results show that production levels were approximately 56,000 barrels per day from July to December 2014. Production dropped to an average of 35,000 barrels per day throughout 2015, before declining further to approximately 16,000 barrels per day in 2016.

Why it matters: Our study shows that ISIS has been highly ineffective in managing its oil fields, limiting its revenue from these valuable assets and forcing it to fall back on taxation and extortion for funding. This data can also help to shape plans for rebuilding areas liberated from ISIS control by setting priorities for needed repairs and providing revenue projections for local economies.

Go deeper

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and South Korea ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 23 mins ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."

Situational awareness

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway
  2. Greyhound bars immigration sweeps
  3. U.S. military officially stops offensive operations in Afghanistan
  4. America's future looks a lot like Nevada
  5. Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins