ISIS gains control of key infrastructure in Iraq

Shiite Iraqi Kurds, known as 'Shabak', displaced by fierce fighting between Kurdish peshmerga forces and jihadist militants from the Islamic State (IS) wait on the road between Kirkuk and Arbil after fleeing the area of Bartala near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, on August 8, 2014. Jihadists seized Iraq's largest dam north of their hub of Mosul, giving them control over the supply of water and electricity for a vast area, officials said. 

ISIS militants in Iraq have managed to gain control of a key piece of infrastructure in the country, the Mosul Dam. It’s not the first time the group has taken over a supply of water, electricity, or oil.

It’s likely they will attempt to extort Iraqis in the area, who rely on the dam for water and power. ISIS has shown a “great ability to be self-supporting and self-financing and a great ability to carry out extortion schemes,” says Tim Arango, the Baghdad Bureau Chief for the New York Times.

The worry is that ISIS could open the Mosul Dam and flood the area, as they did with the Fallujah Dam earlier this year. Arango says it will probably be difficult to retake the dam, since the structure itself is very fragile. It’s unclear if ISIS has the “capability to maintain it.”

 “A very small crack in that dam could just start the water flowing.”

Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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