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Oil 'behind foreign intervention'

The more oil a country produces, the more likely a foreign power will intervene in its internal conflicts, according to new research from the Universities of Warwick, Portsmouth & Essex.

Dr Vincenzo Bove, from the University of Warwick, said the Islamic State (IS or Isis) situation in northern Iraq and Syria acted as an example of the findings.

He said: "Before the Isis forces approached the oil-rich Kurdish north of Iraq, Isis was barely mentioned in the news. But once Isis got near oil fields, the siege of Kobani in Syria became a headline and the US sent drones to strike Isis targets.

"We don't claim that our findings can be applied to every decision made on whether to intervene in another country's war, but the results clearly demonstrate supply of and demand for oil motivates a significant number of decisions taken to intervene in civil wars in the post-World War II period.

"The 'thirst for oil' is often put forward as a near self-evident explanation behind the intervention in Libya and the absence of intervention in Syria. Many claims are often simplistic but, after a rigorous and systematic analysis, we found that the role of economic incentives emerges as a key factor in intervention."

The research also found that a third party country was more likely to intervene if they were a major power, the rebels were strong and well-armed there were close ethnic ties between the two countries and/or the civil war took place during the Cold War, a period of global competition between superpowers.

Note to Editors:

Vincenzo Bove is available for interviews. He can be contacted at

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