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Syrian Oil in American Custody

Updated on October 29, 2019

Several hundreds of American troops formerly along the Turkish border are now arriving in and around the vital Syrian oil fields at Deir ez-Zor, near the Iraqi border, and have them in their possession. The Russians have called the American seizure "banditry" because they belong to the Assad regime of Syria and were producing some income to the regime. At one time, ISIS, also used them for income.Trump's action does have some valid reasons:

  • Prevent the Syrian regime from receiving revenue from them
  • Prevent ISIS groups from either destroying them or using them again for income
  • Prevent Iran or Russia from from taking control
  • Give the U.S. some kind of leverage in Syria

However, Trump's policy also could produce more war and violence. With American troops holding the oil fields has a hostage of sorts, Syrian forces and Russian forces could arrive for a face-off, after all, they are Syria's. This would just be a real confrontation in the making and likely scenario to come. Would Trump sacrifice American troops over them?

But worse, Trump stated that the US should use the oil generated there for their own revenue. This would amount to theft in the eyes of much of the world. Trump also stated that he would like Mobil-Exxon to develop and modernize the oil producing area. While it sounds good, few would agree that the region would accept this especially since a former Secretary of State in the Trump administration had been CEO of Exxon! The optics would look horrible.

Syrian oil is low quality and amounts are modest. The last known output was just 385,000 barrels of low quality oil in 2010. It is much lower today. Since then, production has dropped nearly 90%. In comparison, it's output is equal to what the state of Illinois produces! While Syria's oil is negligible on the world oil market, but did produce 25% of the Assad's regime income.

American production could share the profits with the Kurds and\or SDF, who fought with Americans. However, the cost would be in the millions of dollars with a good probability of more conflict from Russia and Syrian forces.

Most of the 500 American soldiers remaining in Syria are in the south and the oil fields. The attraction to Trump to seize valuable assets during war has been voiced many times by himself. Perhaps, Trump's military advisers presented this option knowing that it would appeal to him in order to keep American forces in Syria. Most of his experts called his abandonment of the Kurds a "betrayal". Removing all American presence in Syria was also opposed. So, his military leaders presented this "oil option" that really appealed to Trump. They played to his ego to keep an American foothold in Syria.

In the end, Russia has stated that America has no business now to be in Syria. Any leverage the US has by having them there is limited and provides a lightening rod for more American casualties as time goes on. At some point, will Trump also lose interest in them and just pull out? What if the oil production output is nil?

The oil fields are just one more abyss for American troops in Syria to fall down into.


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