Trump With a Plan to Divorce Syria’s Kurds but Not Her Oil

Trump: "I don’t want to leave troops" in Syria except to "secure the oil"

Part of the small residual U.S. force that the Trump administration is keeping in Syria serves no real military purpose:

“Al-Tanf has no obvious military purpose,” added Sam Heller of the International Crisis Group. “The real justification is, to my knowledge, denying the Syrian government and its Iranian ally access to the neighboring al-Tanf/al-Walid border crossing with Iraq. That blocks a key trade route that would better integrate Syria with its regional surroundings and help government-held Syria get on a more stable economic footing, which some in DC believe would diminish U.S. leverage to force a political resolution to the war.”

The Tanf base represents a determination to retain a mostly symbolic military presence inside Syria if only to keep a small part of the country out of the Syrian government’s control. Keeping U.S. forces there accomplishes nothing for U.S. security, it is flagrantly illegal, and it puts these soldiers at risk for no good reason. Iran hawks desperately cling to this base because it is their last foothold in Syria from which to pursue their obsession with Iran.

In the latest twist, Trump has touted maintaining a military presence in Syria for the sake of “keeping the oil”:

President Trump said that he is planning to keep a small number of troops in northeast Syria to protect the oil fields there and suggested that an American company might help the Syrian Kurds develop the oil for export.

“I always said if you’re going in, keep the oil,” Mr. Trump said at a cabinet meeting Monday. “We’ll work something out with the Kurds so that they have some money, so that they have some cash flow. Maybe we’ll get one of our big oil companies to go in and do it properly.”

One of the only consistent features of Trump’s foreign policy views is his belief that other countries’ natural resources should be ours to seize and exploit as we please. Trump’s worldview is a bizarre mash-up of crude colonialism and racketeering in which allies are expected to pay protection money and open-ended military intervention is fine as long as it gets you paid. We have previously heard him express a desire to seize oil resources in Libya, Iraq, and Venezuela, and so it was inevitable that he would want to do the same thing with Syria.

Besides the obvious practical difficulties of controlling Syria’s oil fields with only a few hundred soldiers, there is the small matter of the sheer illegality of what Trump is proposing to do. Not only do our forces have no legal justification for being there and no authorization from Congress, but our government also has no right to sell this oil:

“Oil, like it or not, is owned by the Syrian state,” Mr. McGurk said Monday in an appearance at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank. “Maybe there are new lawyers, but it was just illegal for an American company to go and seize and exploit these assets.”

Mr. McGurk said that the only way to export the oil legally, the State Department concluded at the time, was to have an arrangement in which the money was put in escrow for use by the Syrians after the civil war was over, an arrangement that would have involved Russia and the Assad government.

That creates serious problems if there were an attempt to sell the oil from this area:

“It’s not really possible for us to exploit those oil resources unless we want to be oil smugglers,” McGurk said. He said that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a long-time oil industry executive, had looked into helping the SDF sell Syrian oil, but could not find a legal path for American involvement without Assad’s permission.

Trump’s confused Syria policy is where his fascination with plunder and his obsession with Iran combine in a truly toxic mix:

Accordingly, it’s conspicuous that al-Tanf is what remains of the U.S. in Syria.

“It is everything wrong with Trump’s war in Syria,” said [Aaron] Stein. “The fact that it will be the last American enclave in Syria is more evidence of how Iran myopia has poisoned U.S. objectives in the region.”

There are U.S. troops that are still being kept in Syria for the worst and dumbest of reasons, and Trump is the one responsible for it.

Source: The American Conservative

  1. Séamus Ó Néill says

    Are there no decent human beings left in America. Does this constant genocide of countless millions of fellow human beings not pull, even slightly, at your heartstrings. Is this constant warmongering what you really want, can you not trade like a normal civilised country without resorting to sanctions and the theft of everyone else’s natural resources?You have angered and incensed populations worldwide and they now look on Americans and everything associated with America with loathing and disgust…Is that what you want ?, to be the world pariah. Is there nothing positive or good you could do in this world or do you prefer to plough stubbornly headlong towards imminent bankruptcy and certain ignominy.

  2. CHUCKMAN says

    This is not really about oil.

    This concept of leaving some special forces in Syria and perhaps interfering with Syria’s access to oil represents nothing other than a desperate consolation prize for Netanyahu and the Israel lobby in the US.

    Trump essentially has no foreign policy. He takes whatever steps he thinks will secure his reelection. That’s all the Syria withdrawal was about. He needed a “withdrawal” to try resecuring the support of that portion of 2016 voters who have been alienated from him.

    Now, of course, the withdrawal deeply conflicts with Netanyahu’s wishes. Trump undoubtedly thought he done enough for Israel in the form of giveaways that he wouldn’t hear any noise over his Syria withdrawal.

    But he was wrong. There has been some noise. Netanyahu’s capacity for asking for more appears limitless.

    America’s entire effort in Syria from the beginning has had nothing to do with oil.

    It has always been about destabilizing, or destroying, a government that does not toe the American foreign policy line, which of course, involves bowing to Israel as dominant regional power and American quasi-colony.

    Israel has had a tremendous interest in seeing Syria incapacitated because it wanted not only to secure and legitimize its theft in the Golan, but even perhaps grab another little slice of Syria , a “buffer zone”, from the chaos of the long war.

    So, Israel is working away on Trump to get what it can out of the general defeat, and that includes any annoyance and irritation that can be achieved in northeastern Syria.

    But the notion of a couple of hundred special forces hanging on to control of Syria’s oil for any period of time seems very far fetched.

    There’s no way that Putin, after all his immense efforts, is going to watch the reunited Syria reduced to a form of incapacity. One way or another, this “plan” will fail, even though it may provide difficulties in the meantime.

  3. JustPassingThrough says

    ha ha this guy really needs a reality check.

  4. Mary E says

    Well, as we all knew from the get go, the US went into Syria to get its oil and in the process, destroyed the country. Fortunately, Assad has good relations with Russia and when asked for military assistance it was forthcoming almost immediately.
    So now the US military is leaving 200 soldiers to guard Syria’s oil!? Whaaat?
    Someone had better get a grip and very quickly because that oil can’t be touched legally by any country other than Syria. Just let go of other’s property, US…and get busy finding something else to do with your very expensive military equipment.. rather than invade and destroy other countries and their natural resources!

  5. DarkEyes says

    “Youkeep your land but I keep the oil rights” says US.

  6. DarkEyes says

    The “Property-Change” is clear and open knowledge now including the acknowledgement. Do US have no honor left at all?

    It is the oil (and eventually other minerals) all over the planet the US thinks she is the lawful owner of it all. It is just crazy the brutal and arrogant “Property-Change” wars.

    US, be ashamed of yourself.
    This is not what the American people want. They want peace, trade and freedom.
    High time to get rid of the UN.

    1. Mary E says

      Unfortunately for the American people, what the military and politicians do in their name are total lies! There is a small group in the world that is bound and determined to rule the planet by hook or by crook! If only young people would not join the military, there would be no military to do all the dirty work of these cruel and evil people running the show. Just Say NO!!

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