- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A former CIA director said the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State has been reluctant to attack oil wells controlled by the extremist group partly because of environmental concerns.

“We didn’t go after oil wells — actually hitting oil wells that ISIS controls because we didn’t want to do environmental damage, and we didn’t want to destroy that infrastructure,” said former spy chief Michael Morell, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

Speaking Tuesday night on the “Charlie Rose” program, Mr. Morell cautioned that he doesn’t “sit in the room any more” where the top-secret decisions are made by President Obama’s national security advisers.

But he said prior to the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, “there seemed to have been a judgment that … we don’t want to destroy these oil tankers because that’s infrastructure that’s going to be necessary to support the people when ISIS isn’t there any more, and it’s going to create environmental damage.”

Mr. Morell left the CIA in 2013, last serving as the agency’s acting director.

The U.S. stepped up its attacks on the Islamic State’s industrial base after the Paris terrorist spree, bombing more than 100 tanker trucks on Nov. 16 that were used to transport oil that provides the Islamist group with as much as half of its funding.

Mr. Obama has come under renewed criticism since the Paris attacks for lacking an effective strategy to defeat the Islamic State. He pledged Tuesday with French President Francois Hollande to step up airstrikes against the terror group, and both leaders urged other coalition members to contribute more resources to the military campaign.

A Pentagon spokesman said previously that the coalition wanted to “cripple” the Islamic State’s oil distribution capabilities but didn’t want to destroy the region’s oil producing infrastructure completely because it will be needed by the inhabitants after the Islamic State is defeated.

The Islamic State is believed to generate nearly a half-billion dollars annually from oil revenue. The Pentagon showed videos earlier this month of coalition attacks on oil fields controlled by the Islamic State, including strikes against oil and gas plants and an oil field in the Deir Ezzour province in eastern Syria.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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