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article imageTrump's claim to Syrian oil complicates US mission in Syria

By Ken Hanly     Nov 1, 2019 in Politics
President Trump in a recent speech in Chicago said that the US was staying in Syria to control the oil. However, he also said that the US was "keeping the oil" and claimed it was worth $45 million per month.
Trump's position
A recent article reports Trump's position: "Trump has offered varying descriptions of the military's role in eastern Syria. On Oct. 25 he said, "We've secured the oil, and, therefore, a small number of U.S. troops will remain in the area where they have the oil." Three days later, he went further, declaring the oil to be America's."We're keeping the oil — remember that," he said in Chicago. "I've always said that: 'Keep the oil.' We want to keep the oil. Forty-five million dollars a month? Keep the oil."
Trump has twice before claimed he would remove US troops from Syria. He did remove troops from the so-called "safe" buffer zone along the border with Turkey and redeployed some to Iraq without the permission of the Iraqi government that has demanded that they just be considered in transit and move on.
US officials have not said how Trump is going to execute his plans or explained the rationale and legal basis for taking the oil.
Trump himself has suggested he can make a deal with an oil company such as Exxon-Mobil: "US President Donald Trump said yesterday that he is interested in making a deal with Exxon-Mobil or some other energy company to tap Syrian oil reserves in areas not controlled by the Syrian government."
US military goals in Syria have never been that clear and with ISIS mostly defeated no doubt Trump's position set out a new reason for the US to be there. However the mission has now become legally and morally dubious and appears its length is now open-ended.
Doubts about Trump's project
Russia as an ally of Syria was very critical of the Trump position calling it "state banditry". However, even US legal experts said that there was no real legal basis for the US to just seize Syrian oil. Any sale of the oil is problematic as well. No US or other oil companies have shown interest in extracting the Syrian oil no doubt because they realize the ownership of the oil would be disputed.
If any companies do in the end decide to extract the oil under the protection of US military occupation, the occupation could last until the oil runs out.
White House officials have not explained what Trump means by keeping the oil but said privately they had been given no order to take ownership of any Syrian resources including oil wells and stored crude. However Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday he interprets Trump as meaning he will deny Islamic extremists access to the oil.
Details of the new deployment
A recent article describes details of the revised deployment in Syria: "Some 500 US ground troops are currently involved, along with M2A2 Bradley vehicles. Tanks are also reportedly going to be deployed to the area, though it’s not clear any have actually arrived yet.Estimates are that 700 to 900 US troops are going to remain in Syria under this plan, which is a minor decline from the 1,000 troops believed to be present when the US moved out of the north to facilitate the Turkish invasion. "
More about US Syria relations, oil in Syria, Donald trump
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