by Tim Korso
Amid an ongoing withdrawal of US troops, Defence Secretary Mark Esper announced that some will not be transferred to Iraq, as was expected, but will instead stay to “guard” Syrian oil fields from being seized by the remnants of Daesh*.
US President Donald Trump is mulling the possibility of “keeping” the oil as he talked about Syria’s oilfields, which were recently secured by US troops. He further indicated that American business may be employed to do that.
“I always said if you’re going in, keep the oil […] maybe get one of our big oil companies in to do it properly”, POTUS said.
The president made the statement during a meeting at Oval Cabinet on 21 October.
Trump previously put significant emphasis on “securing” Syrian crude during an 18 October interview, noting that the US has “taken control of the oil in the Middle East, the oil that […] everybody was worried about”. At the time he did not elaborate on his statements.
At the same time, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham noted that the US might go further than just “securing” Syrian oil fields, but could also upgrade them and help Kurdish militants, currently in control of the most oil-rich areas in the country, to gain revenue.
“President Trump is thinking outside the box. I was so impressed with his thinking about the oil. Not only are we going to deny the oil fields falling into Iranian hands, I believe we’re on the verge of a joint venture between us and the Syrian Democratic Forces […]to modernize the oil fields and make sure they get the revenue, not the Iranians, not Assad”, Graham said on 21 October.
Washington announced its intent to withdraw around 1,000 US troops from the northern Syrian territories just days ahead of a Turkish offensive against Kurdish forces controlling the region. At the same time, Trump stated on 21 October that a “small number” of troops would remain, with one group “guarding” the oil fields, and two others deployed to the Syrian borders with Jordan and Israel, following reported requests from the respective states.