“The Engineer.” In Afghanistan and a few other Muslim countries, it is a term of respect afforded to men in positions of authority or specialty based on their past education. For anyone with an engineering background, and specifically with an oil background, well, old brother ISIS just might have a job for you. Recent reporting has indicated that the group was (and may still be) looking to hire oil-related engineers, scientists, and other professionals to maintain the oil facilities and other key infrastructure captured during their battles with Iraqi and Syrian military security forces, and the Kurdish Peshmerga, among others. And much to the chagrin of the U.S.’ and other countries’ intel services, there appears to be some interest from potential candidates, as well as a model for ISIS to follow.
According to an article from Buzzfeed News’ Mike Giglio, during its battles with Syrian government forces, al-Qaeda fought for and captured Deir Ezzor, an oil-rich eastern province. And when they did, they recruited a twenty-something-year-old man known only as “The Engineer” to help run the main oilfield. The Engineer holds a degree in petroleum engineering from a Damascus university, and was first discovered by al-Qaeda when he was a rebel fighter with Jabhat al-Nusra—the Syrian branch of the terrorist organization. He first helped capture the country’s largest oil field, al-Omar, and then he helped run it.
Eventually, ISIS came to town, realizing that they had two things to their advantage: the ability to stand outside of (and influence) the infighting amongst the rebel groups battling the Syrian regime, and the numbers, arms, and money to take and hold Syria’s main resource. They ran al-Nusra off, and the engineer fled to Turkey. But then, in a strange twist, ISIS sent word that they wanted to talk to the engineer. In fact, they wanted to hire him. They made offers of weapons, cars, and other trappings of power, but he refused, choosing to remain in Turkey (in hiding) and to remain steadfast in his belief and loyalty to what he calls the Syrian revolution.
Allegedly, ISIS has made offers of up to a $225,000 salary for the ideal candidate to help run its newfound oil fortune, but that is not the only industry that they are looking to stack with talent. Per a posting on zerohedge.com, the terror organization is also in search of qualified hackers, programmers, 3D max artists (umm…no clue), audio engineers, media tweeps (again, no clue), and Munshid (not entirely sure of the definition, the only possible one I can find comes from Wikipedia, which says it is “a Persian word, originally the name of a contractor, writer, or secretary).
It is evident that the group is putting some serious thought into bringing some structure to its plans for their so-called state, with stories of nationals from a host of countries—from India to Sudan—being recruited. Reports indicate that ISIS is looking to retain or replace those in positions such as director of emergency services, judges and lawyers, sanitation and sewer experts, and healthcare professionals. The U.S. and other countries in ISIS’ crosshairs have been working to counter their efforts, making arrests of individuals providing material support to the group and ensuring that the aerial bombing campaign and other military support to allies is front and center in the media, just in case potential candidates have forgotten what could await them should they sign up. Some have been more successful than others.
Whether or not ISIS’ attempts to recruit industry and infrastructure professionals have been successful remains to be seen. The gains that they have made as they push through Iraq, Syria, and now into Saudi Arabia, are significant, and if they are serious about projecting the image of a “legitimate” state, they will need to do more than just post videos of beheadings and black flags. As terrible a reality as it is, they have taken some major cities, complete with the responsibilities that come with it. If they want to be successful, ISIS will have to either entice the talent it needs to run the day-to-day operations, or convince (or coerce) the engineers, city planners, media specialists and others already in place to stay.
The U.S. and our allies can only hope that a combination of military effort and the blatant brutality that the group prides itself on is enough to convince anyone hoping to become ISIS’ next director of “Parks and Recreation” to withdraw their resume and stay home.
(Featured image courtesy of huffingtonpost.com)
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