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U.S.-Led Coalition Airstrikes Hit ISIS' Oil Refineries


Let's talk now about the third round of U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria against the group known as ISIS. This time the target was oil - the U.S.-led coalition hit oil refineries according to the Pentagon. NPR's Deborah Amos is in southern Turkey near the Syrian border. She's on the line. Hi Deb.


INSKEEP: Why hit oil refineries?

AMOS: ISIS has built a remarkably lucrative oil refinery and smuggling business. Oil analysts say that ISIS rakes in anywhere between one and $3 million a day, which enables them to pay their fighters more than anyone else in the field - $600 a month. This isn't the first time these strikes were after the revenue stream. The first round hit the financial center in a town called Raqqa, which is where ISIS has a headquarters in Northeastern Syria.

INSKEEP: You know, I had pictured crude oil being smuggled out of Syria, but refineries is what you're talking about here.

AMOS: They need gasoline and so do the people who live under their control. So this will cut into those revenues. This is what the Pentagon and the president has been talking, cutting off their finances.

INSKEEP: Now let's talk about who is conducting these airstrikes. Of course the U.S. military is in the leader but we're told once again that coalition partners, Arab countries - Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., that they were participating here. How is that affecting the way that this is received across the region?

AMOS: Well we've had the first reports of some blowback in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi's released photographs of the pilots and there were death threats on social media. That's not a surprise, but what is striking is they released those photographs. And what you saw was two of the pilots are sons of senior princes. Now a Saudi analyst told me this morning that the royal family wants to show they're ready to put their own sons on the frontline. The Americans would never do that - release pictures of pilots but the Saudi's did. There is a woman flying for the U.A.E. and that picture has been all over social media.

INSKEEP: Very interesting though, because if you're saying they're releasing pictures of their pilots, the governments at least of these countries are willing to say that they're proud of what they're doing. But do all of these countries support the strategy that the U.S. is directing here?

AMOS: There is some political contradictions. Certainly Qatar has spoke about this yesterday in this U.N. meeting. Being uncomfortable with targeting ISIS, but not also targeting Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, targeting his regime. Remember that Qatar, Saudi Arabia have been backing rebels in a three-year fight against the regime. Now the Saudi's did ask for written assurances from the Americans that Bashar al-Assad would not benefit. I think many of these countries are hoping for a de facto no-fly zone. When it began the American said to the Syrians we are notifying you of these strikes and we will accept no interference. So there is a de facto no-fly zone. However, today we saw the first Syrian Air Force bombing of a town in rebel held areas and Syrian media - government controlled media, has been saying all along, we too are a part of this coalition. So the Syrian government is playing on these contradictions within the American coalition.

INSKEEP: I want to dwell for a moment on that Saudi demand that U.S. intentions be placed in writing. That suggests that there's not total trust between these two longtime allies?

AMOS: There is not. And that is why you saw Arab countries being reluctant when the president was first talking about forming this coalition. They signed on publicly, they have taken a role in these strikes, but they have their own interests in this. Yes, they want to target ISIS, but they also are concerned about the regime in Damascus.

INSKEEP: Deb, thanks as always.

AMOS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Deborah Amos. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deborah Amos covers the Middle East for NPR News. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.
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