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article imageOp-Ed: Russia claims US will sell oil monthly worth millions from Syria

By Ken Hanly     Nov 3, 2019 in Politics
Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for Russia's Foreign Ministry accused the United States of "criminal activity" associated with President Trump's plan to deploy US troops to guard the oil fields in eastern Syria
Zakharova's accusations
The Russian news agency Tass reports Zakharova's exact claims: "Bypassing their own sanctions, the Americans are smuggling oil from Syria worth over $30 mln per month and are not going to leave these areas in the near future. Today’s international community cannot help but ask questions at a time when a civilized country that systematically declares its commitment to some democratic values and international law, is pumping oil out of the northeast of Syria, a sovereign state, and masks its criminal activity by some pretexts of a struggle against the Islamic State.."
Zakharova estimates that the US stood to make tens of millions of dollars every month from the oil extracted in the region.
Mark Esper confirms troops to guard eastern oil fields
The US Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed last month that US troops supported by armored vehicles would be deployed to guard the oil fields. The official narrative is that the mission is designed to prevent the oil resources falling back into the hands of Islamic State militants and providing them with funds. However, Trump and other in his administration have made claims to income from the operation of the fields.
Trump and others want to sell the Syrian oil
Trump has gone as far as to suggest that he might get companies such as Exxon-Mobil or some other US energy company to work the fields. A recent Bloomberg article notes: "President Donald Trump says he’s secured “the Oil” in Syria, while Senator Lindsey Graham is floating the idea of tapping that bounty to help fund military operations in the war-torn nation." The article also reports: "Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said increasing production of the oil fields will help Syrian Democratic Forces. “We can also use some of the revenues from future oil sales to pay for our military commitment in Syria.”"
The aim of guarding the fields is also to deprive the Assad regime of oil
Recently, Graham said the US control over the Syrian oil fields would deny Assad and Iran a monetary windfall. It would only be with Syrian government permission that Iran could make money through some agreement. The oil is within Syria. It is not evident why the Syrian government should not develop and sell it. Of course the US has imposed sanctions on Syria as well as Iran. The US has followed a policy of Syrian regime change that has failed. Syria is to be punished for that failure.
Syrian oil production is down and deposits are limited
Though Syrian oil deposits are significant they do not compare in size with those of Saudi Arabia or Iraq. The several years of fighting in Syria that has involved extensive bombing has left the industry in poor shape to say the least. Assad and his ally Russia hope to see a full re-unification of the country in the end.
The Kurds have depended upon the US to help keep Assad from taking over Kurdish controlled areas and also to fend off the Turks. However, the US withdrew from the border areas with Turkey where Turkey wants a safe zone. As a result, the Kurds even allowed the Assad regime to take control of a Kurdish-controlled section along the Turkish border. The Kurds may possibly make a deal with Assad although it may be difficult to do this while the US controls areas such as that of the oil fields. It is hardly surprising that both Russia and Assad are much angered by the new US policy and its rationale.
According to Bloomberg, last year Syria was able to extract about 24,000 barrels a day. This would have been worth about $1.5 million at current prices. However, this year due to the war and sanctions production has fallen about 90 percent.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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