Lines In The Sand - The 5 Key Maps Of The Middle East Crisis

Tyler Durden's picture

Reams of paper have already been spilled about the past, present, and potential future of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East but in order to attempt to simplify things a little, we offer 5 maps that answer: What ISIL already have..., What they want..., What they will gain control of if they win..., and where all the allies.. and enemies are...


The updated map of the situation in Iraq... (what they have...)


As WaPo reports, the remarkable success of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in capturing huge swaths of land in Iraq and Syria is even more surprising when you consider the scale of the lands captured: Iraq and Syria are big countries, and ISIS controls a lot of them.

This map helps to put ISIS' reach into perspective for U.S. readers. As you can see, it pretty much stretches from Illinois to Virginia.

There's another remarkable factor here. ISIS troop numbers are not huge: According to The Guardian, just 800 militants managed to force 30,000 Iraqi soldiers to flee in Mosul. In total, there are believed to be between 7,000 and 10,000 fighters.


Here is the oil and gas pipelines around Iraq's oil hub in Kirkuk (via Platts) which ISIL will gain control of (if allowed)


"This entire system is disintegrating like a house of cards that starts to collapse," Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said.

As WSJ reports, the group—known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham—isn't a threat only to Iraq and Syria. It seeks to impose its vision of a single radical Islamist state stretching from the Mediterranean coast of Syria through modern Iraq, the region of the Islamic Caliphates established in the seventh and eighth centuries.

Governments and borders are under siege elsewhere, as well. For more than a year, Shiite militias from Lebanon have moved into Syria and operated as a virtual arm of the Syrian government. Meanwhile, so many Syrian refugees have gone in the opposite direction—fleeing into Lebanon—that Lebanon now houses more school-age Syrian children than Lebanese children.

And in Iraq, the Kurdish population has carved out a homeland in the north of the country that—with the help of Turkey and against the wishes of the Iraqi government—exports its own oil, runs its own customs and immigration operations and fields its own military, known as the Peshmerga.

The mess puts Mr. Obama in a box. A few weeks ago he laid out in a policy speech his rationale for staying out of the mire of such sectarian conflicts, since they seem far removed from concrete U.S. interests. Yet, he now seems to acknowledge the U.S. must do something.

The danger for the president is the U.S. are being drawn back into the fray, but with very few options, never mind good ones.

Especially when one considers the Sunni-Shiite splits across each and every nation in the region that the US is trying to befriend...

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Cattender's picture

it's Fine don't worry... buy stock and pay $4 a Gallon for your BARGAIN Gas while you still can!

THX 1178's picture

in the grand scheme of things is this the black swan.

surf0766's picture

As a wise man once said , it will spread across the middle east, into europe and across the globe.

CClarity's picture

Nostradamus.   Same as it ever was.

AlaricBalth's picture

In 2011, the US defense budget represented 4.7% of total gross domestic product; 2014's projected percentage will be 2.7%. In real dollars, US defense spending will decline from $705.6 in 2011 billion to $496 billion, a budget cut of approximately 30%.

These defense cuts will have a very real detrimental impact on contractors and ancillary industries. The status quo has been disturbed and these companies are not going to take these defense budget cuts without a fight. Hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake, perhaps trillions over time.

It would not surprise to find that some of these malicious entities are investing dollars in fomenting the winds of war in various places around the globe.

Financing destabilization is a cheap price to pay when you are trying to push the narrative that the world is getting more dangerous and we should be relying upon increased defense budgets to guarantee the safety and security of the American people.

machineh's picture

In real dollars, US defense spending will decline from $705.6 in 2011 billion to $496 billion, a budget cut of approximately 30%.

Utter bullshit. Post a link. (Of course, you can't.)

AlaricBalth's picture

The Obama Administration’s FY 2011 budget request includes a total of $712 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD).

President Barack Obama released his fiscal year 2015 budget on Tuesday, calling for $495.6 billion for the nation’s military — just $4 billion less than fiscal 2014 enacted levels, and still below the $496 billion cap set by Congress under the Bipartisan Budget Act.

strannick's picture

The US will get involved to thwart Russian gas exports (recent Russia-Iran deal).

The US has been trying from every angle to demolish the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, by fostering civil war in Syria, Ukraine, and now again back in Iraq.

Controlling gas export -or thwarting Russia's control- is the only thing in the region the US gives a shit about.

Isis atrocities are in the same vein as Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Syrian poisonous gas, Iran nuclear facilities. This stuff never gets old, and the TV watchers of the world will ever sponge it up.

''America ruins the world to rule it''

zhandax's picture

I would replace 'gives a shit about' with 'has a vested interest in'.  Remember that gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey the Saudis were pushing?  Look at a map and follow the rivers.  Takes some of the confusion out of the new F350'a storming out of the desert, doesn't it?

jeff montanye's picture

there is certainly some of this oil/gas/pipeline stuff involved. but the people who invented the iraq war were first and last israel firster zionists: robert kagan, husband of victoria nuland of both the bush and obama administrations who helped foment the coup in ukraine and william kristol, chief of staff for dan quayle and william bennett and long time advisor to john mccain.  these are the folks who did it: them and perle, feith, wolfowitz, woolsey, abrams, bolton. rumsfeld, zoellick. all members, signatories and participants in the bush administration. it couldn't be clearer.

and don't think i'm picking on republicans.  like vicky nuland it is bipartisan.  who did good old al save the planet gore pick for his v.p. and one to succeed him if he, say, got "sick"? oh that's right, joe lieberman.  trust me they got us coming and going.

zhandax's picture

I suspect this is what drives those you mention and it could care less whether red or blue.  But the opportunity to laminate a side business deal onto the central premise is just icing on the cake, no?

sgt_doom's picture

Is this the point we begin to look for "Samobryn"?

NOTaREALmerican's picture

Pretty damn old one if it is. 

Eyeroller's picture

A black swan that left markets in the green on a FRIDAY with all the potential for escalation on the weekend!

No one is the least bit concerned about Teflon Barry doing anything to upset the Muzzies.

This is why today's news of tanks flowing into Ukraine was also greeted with a big market yawn.

It wouldl take an ISIS attack on US soil to make the VIX return to any semblance of normal levels.

max2205's picture

Me thinks the PTB want $200 oil.....distraction!

I Write Code's picture

Obama: 70% mashie, 30% niblick

Charles The Hammer Martel's picture

I really dont feel like remembering the reason why sunnis and shi'as are the way they are, would be nice if the Tylers gave us an article on the history of that just for a recap. thanks.

surf0766's picture



Are you on food stamps too.



NoDecaf's picture

What's G-O-O-G-L-E? It would be nice if you could just tell us.

waterwitch's picture

Thanks. I liked this one:

The succession of Mohamed kinda reminds me about the 'hanging chad' issues in one of our presidential elections and its outcome.  Still rancors many.

TheReplacement's picture

Sunnis are the ones who spend too much time in the sun.  Shia are related to those chia pet things.


waterwitch's picture

The comments by Atheist Max are particularly well written and thought out.

nmewn's picture

To someone who "believes" as Atheist Max does, I suppose

"The Islamic Caliphate is coming together.
Everyone get ready.
Religion is about to become a mortal threat to the world. Again.

ALL FAITH is a disgrace to human dignity.
And all religion is a hoax of self-centered assertions
of the superiority of ONE’S OWN GOD over someone else’s .

A world of 30,000 religions…and they are all wrong.
But there will be war over them anyway."

Yes, of course, because godless communists could never-EVER-torture, imprison and slaughter millions...

"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." Karl Marx

Whoopsie ;-)

There is a very large difference in the state taking a neutral posture towards ANY religion and using the only thing it has ever had at its disposal (law & force, its monopoly on "legal force") to impose itself and atheism as the state-sanctioned belief system.

Quicksilver's picture

I wouldn't bother, it's just religion. Let's just say they interpreted "a displeasing cut" differently, so one side grow beards, and the others shave. what's important is their cultural differences and loyalties.

optioneer's picture

One likes their toast butter side up, I believe.

Took Red Pill's picture

+1 for bringing Dr. Seuss into it.

newbie vampire's picture

"I really dont feel like remembering the reason why sunnis and shi'as are the way they are,"

If I am not mistaken, it involves POWER.  More or less WHO should inherit the Mantle of Power as Wolf Leader of the pack after the death of the Prophet Mohammed.  And they have had this continuing argument since then.

My thinking is, STAY OUT OF IT.  No good will come from being an idiot in the middle of a wolf pack.

Da Yooper's picture

I will say this

I AM SICK of the middle east

sick of our military dieing for nothing

sick of wasting money on that area for nothing

sick of trying to so call "help these people " who really dont want our help.

who bennifits

bankers & military industrial complex

screw that

let them kill each other & let GOD sort them out

NOTaREALmerican's picture

The smart-n-savvy people have created an extremely functional political system where the dumbasses aren't asked their opinion and - in exchange - the dumbasses get perpetual entertainment and (near food) and the smart-n-savvy get wealthy.

Been working for, oh, few hundred years now.  

SF beatnik's picture

Were they here today, the Ancient Athenians / Spartans would choose to sterilize the entire area with neutron bombs and then steal the oil, unhindered.


Those among us who would leave the Middle East to the Rusians, Chinese, and Europeans should consider that our nation's prosperity and its long term security are much tied to access to the world's remaining cheap oil and gas.



conscious being's picture

You smell like another one of those affinity frauds. No SF Beatnik would shill for the PNAC/Exon program would they?.?



SF beatnik's picture


Just expressing what I believe is a fundamental, unacknowleged truth. 


For my sake, I prefer that we in the USA bring the troops home,  endure impoverishment, and do with much less military spending. Let the rest of the world fight it out, as they certainly will. 


But I don't see this happening. It is deeply engrained national habit to meddle, to push for advantage, and to resort to force whenever doing so looks easy. It's what nations do.


People in the USA enjoy a level of prosperity that is attributable as much to global pillage and plunder as it is to "Yankee ingenuity". don't you think?  One might consider this when one pushes for less military spending and adventurism.


I think one of the original beatniks, W. S. Burroughs, would sense some plausibility in what I've said.


Time for Titus's picture

"cheap oil and gas" ?


One trillion and counting is a pretty high price.

ebworthen's picture

It would appear the goal of U.S. actions since all this started is to destabilize the entire region, and foment war between the Sunni and Sh'ia factions, to create chaos.

Freddie's picture

Reagan did that with Iran and Iraq war.  I am not picking on Reagan because he was better than the last NWO four.

machineh's picture

Yeah, Reagan gave us federal sentencing guidelines (95% conviction rate) and the AML (anti-money laundering, a standard 'kitchen sink' charge now in every federal prosecution).

But other than creating a 2-million-plus Gulag, he was a real nice guy.

As his sweet wife said, 'Just say no (OR ELSE).'

cynicalskeptic's picture

"...just 800 militants managed to force 30,000 Iraqi soldiers to flee in Mosul. In total, there are believed to be between 7,000 and 10,000 fighters."


and HOW MANY US troops did we have in Iraq?   

Big difference if the population WANTS you there and supports you.... which clearly they did NOT in the case of the US and its puppets....

Urban Redneck's picture

So 1,700 Iraqi soldiers and police surrendered to 800 "insurgents" and got themselves slaughtered.

There's a simple lesson in that: NEVER SURRENDER YOUR FIREARM. NEVER

TBT or not TBT's picture

500k people fled Mosul, supposedly. Obviously they just wanted to get some fresh desert air.  Nothing to do the psycho jihadists invasion.   

newbie vampire's picture

"and HOW MANY US troops did we have in Iraq?"

  The US has been fighting with both arms tied behind its back as if they were making a film in Hollywood. 

It has been doing that since the Korean war.  Which results in unnecessary casualties and loss of lives among US servicemen because "world opinion" would not allow the US to use the maximum force of its superior weapons and technology.

It makes better sense to STAY OUT because both sides in any conflict will NOT thank you but will blame you for whatever reason suits them.


sgt_doom's picture

Now why oh why does the Americanski Corporate McMedia universally and uniformly refer to these soldiers, invaders or whatnot as militants ?

WTF is up with that?  What the eff is a militant exactly?

Does that mean they are Sunnis, ISIS, indescribable wankers?


TheReplacement's picture



Maliki or some other high up Shia=Archduke Ferdinand


NOTaREALmerican's picture

Did the Britsh draw the first line in the sand?  Or was it somebody else?

knukles's picture

Pretty much, yes.
Vested self-interests no doubt played a modicum of a role