10 November 2019   Leave a comment

After weeks of protests, Bolivian President Evo Morales announced that he would resign from his position. Morales is the first indigenous President of Bolivia and he has won three elections in the past, the first time in 2006. He ran for a fourth term despite the fact that the Bolivian constitution prohibited a fourth term. The Organization of American States investigated the election and found that there were widespread irregularities in the election, and it recommended that Morales step down. But the protests led the Bolivian military to intervene and the military made it clear that it would not tolerate another term for Morales. Morales’s resignation leaves Bolivia in somewhat of a twilight zone as new elections have to be scheduled.

On 7 November there was a US Defense Department Press Briefing by Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Rath Hoffman and Navy Rear Admiral William D. Byrne Jr. It was a fascinating briefing and the press asked several very good questions about the decision of the US to place troops to secure the Syrian oil fields. Ostensibly, the mission is to prevent ISIS from gaining control of those oil fields and the oil revenues that they could gain from selling the oil. It is hard to imagine ISIS having the capability to take control of the oil fields since the organization is very fragmented now and has no weaponry such as tanks that could hold territory. The US holds that all the revenues from the oil fields will go to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), perhaps as a way to help the Kurds after they were betrayed by the US decision to leave northeastern Syria last month. The Kurds, however, have no legal right to the oil revenues. But the most interesting question was how the US would handle an attempt by the Syrian government to take control of the oil fields–after all, the oil is on Syrian sovereign territory and US troops are not in Syria at the request of the Syrian government.

Q: If I may follow up? So if – do – do the – the U.S. troops have the – the authorization to shoot if a representative of the Syrian government comes to the oil fields – oil fields and says I am here to take property of these oil fields?

REAR ADM. BYRNE: On the other forces in the area, I think we’re all aware of who the players are in the field here. And to the rules of engagement in particular, I’m not going to get into specifics but – but I’ll make a couple of quick points on that.

First is deconfliction; and there are existing – existing deconfliction channels in place in theater amongst U.S. forces and all of the players – that’s airspace deconfliction, deconfliction on the ground. So we want to prevent incidents from happening by getting out in front of it.

The second is de-escalation; and when – when met with an unsure situation, an uncertain situation, the first thing we try and do – to do is de-escalate the situation. So we step through pre-planned responses to de-escalate. We identify who that potential threat might be, we make our presence known by sight and sound, and then we communicate with them to figure out who are you, why are you here, and what are your intentions, in order to de-escalate the situation.

And – and finally, our commanders always retain the right and the obligation of self-defense when faced with a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: The legal basis of controlling the oil fields, the government of Syria is still, based on international law in the U.N., is still recognized legitimate government. Are government forces allowed to go back and retake national resources that belong to … 

MR. HOFFMAN: I will – I will – I will make it – I’ll … 

(CROSSTALK)

MR. HOFFMAN: … I’ll put it very simply. Everyone in the region knows where American forces are. We’re very clear with anyone in the region in working to deconflict where our forces are. If anyone – we work to ensure that – that no one approaches or has – shows hostile intent to our forces, and if they do, our commanders maintain the right of self-defense. 

The position of the US in Syria is untenable. US troops are an occupation force and have no legal right to hold Syrian territory. If Syria decides to regain control of the oil fields, and they may have the support of Russian troops in the country, then the US will be placed in a very uncomfortable position. The right of “self-defense” in such a situation is essentially the right to withdraw troops if they are threatened.

Posted November 10, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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