Tal Afar. Haditha. Even Mosul: Unless you’re one of Americans who served in the Iraq War, odds are you don’t recognize the names of most of the cities ISIS has seized thus far in Iraq. And the areas of ISIS control on maps don’t appear that intimidating. After all, Baghdad has not fallen; this is mostly Iraqi hinterland, right?
Not so, according to a new report in the Financial Times. The group has seized the vital trade routes for the country and in fact much of the entire region. Fully 75 percent of Iraq’s imports arrive overland, much of it from Turkey through routes now controlled by ISIS. Trade between Turkey, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq could be seriously interrupted. If so, food prices will rise in Bagdad, and the economy will take a beating.
Historically, the areas now under ISIS’s thumb have been the dominant regions in the country. These trade routes and the geography underlying them could be part of the reason why.
Far from owning a hinterland, ISIS is in the catbird seat. This is bad news for a feeble Iraqi government.