Iraq Struggles With ISIS Oil Fires

Fires Continue to Provide Smoke Screen, Distraction to Mosul Offensive

In the months leading up to the telegraphed Iraqi invasion of the major ISIS city of Mosul, ISIS had ample time to set up myriad defenses. Among these was setting fire to oil wells, aiming to provide a cloud of smoke that would hinder US airstrikes.

The fires did that and then some, and Iraq deployed a number of engineers and firefighters to the area back in August to try to get a handle on all these fires. There isn’t much progress to be had on this front, with the fires largely still raging.

19 wells have been set on fire, and three of them have been sealed 100 days later. Getting the rest is expected to take several months, and cost millions in lost revenue. Meanwhile, the smoke is complicating the air war, and also sickening people on the ground.

Getting a handle on the oil fires is a very complicated process, and while Iraqi officials tried to predict a quick and simple solution, as always, only to see the effort continue to want for real progress months later.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of

  • Charlie

    Modern planes with SAR radar gear and various IR detection systems would not be so badly hampered by smoke. This isn’t John Wayne and the Flying Leathernecks.

    Loss of revenue to whom? I presume the writer isn’t talking about ISIS. Iraq just signed onto the OPEC production limitation and cutback deal, and these wells would not have been in Irag’s production totals for a couple of years now. So, assuming Iraq intends to honor their OPEC deal, then if they did start producing from these wells they’d probably have to cut back somewhere else.

    In general, when political appointees of a puppet government make bombastic claims about what they are going to do, they should simply be ignored. Well, in a good government, they’d be flogged. But, in this case, all a sensible person can do is to pay them no attention.

    And generally, the whole piece reads like an Iraqi propaganda piece where some in-bed reporter was given access to Iraqi officals and engineers and generally taken out for a dog and pony show. Doesn’t mean it isn’t true, but it is likely prone to exaggeration.