3 August 2020   Leave a comment

The US has worked to secure an oil contract with a US oil company for Syrian oil. The US occupied the oil fields last year even as it pulled most US troops out of Syria in accordance with the wishes of Turkish President Erdogan. According to Time magazine:

“As the Trump administration pulls American troops away from Syria’s northern border, the President has repeatedly insisted that the region’s oil has been ‘secured,’ even going so far as to suggest the United States is now responsible for the fate of the oil.

“’We’ve secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of U.S. troops will remain in the area where they have the oil,’ Trump said during an Oct. 23 press conference. ‘And we’re going to be protecting it, and we’ll be deciding what we’re going to do with it in the future.’”

In hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, US Secretary of State Pompeo stated that the US has been working on this proposal for some time and its purpose is to provide funding for Syrian Kurds who have been experiencing a serious humanitarian crisis because of attacks by the Syrian government which is supported by Russia. Politico outlines the US efforts:

“The State Department is leading the effort under James Jeffrey, United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL, and his deputy, Joel Rayburn, the former Trump administration official said.

“However, they have sought to keep the deal quiet for fear that Russia, which backs Assad’s regime and deploys military and paramilitary forces across the region, might retaliate, both the State Department official and Syrian source said.

“A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the contract but noted that the U.S. government considers requests ‘on a case-by-case basis to authorize U.S. persons’ involvement in activities that would normally be prohibited.’”

The US oil company was only created in 2019 and is comprised by government and military officials with strong contacts with the current US government:

“The company, Delta Crescent Energy LLC, was incorporated in Delaware in February 2019, according to its business license. Its partners include former U.S. ambassador to Denmark James Cain; James Reese, a former officer in the Army’s elite Delta Force; and John P. Dorrier Jr., a former executive at GulfSands Petroleum, a U.K.-based oil company with offices and drilling experience in Syria.

“It has been in talks with the Kurds for more than a year but only received a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for the work in April, according to a State Department official and a Syrian source familiar with the discussions. The arrangement is to refine and use some of the oil locally but also export some through northern Iraq and Turkey, they said.

“The Treasury Department has multiple sanctions against Syria’s oil market. In a March 2019 the Trump administration issued the orders targeting companies that deliver or finance petroleum shipments of Syrian oil on behalf of the country’s government. The effort is designed to punish the Assad regime for atrocities committed amid the country’s civil war.

“However, the Pentagon and State Department have long been working to enable the Syrian Kurds to harness the crude oil in the region, a former Trump administration official told POLITICO. The idea is that revenue from the oil could help the Kurds deal with the dire humanitarian situation in the war-torn country, including overflowing refugee camps from years of civil war, the person said.”

It is not clear that the agreement is a done deal–there are myriad legal and technical issues that remain unanswered. Needless to say, the Syrian government is adamantly opposed to the deal:

“Damascus ‘condemns in the strongest terms the agreement signed between al-Qasd militia (SDF) and an American oil company to steal Syria’s oil under the sponsorship and support of the American administration’, the Syrian statement said. ‘This agreement is null and void and has no legal basis.’

“Syria produced around 380,000 barrels of oil per day before civil war erupted following a crackdown on protests in 2011, with Iran and Russia backing President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the United States supporting the opposition.”

Turkey is also opposed to the deal since it would provide the Kurds with a steady stream of revenue which would strengthen the Kurdish position toward greater autonomy or even a nation-state of its own. Russia has yet to comment on the deal, but Syria awarded two oil contracts to Russian oil companies last October.

Posted August 3, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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