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.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.