The below analysis is provided by “Ehsani” — a Middle East expert, Syrian-American banker and financial analyst who visits the region frequently and writes for the influential geopolitical analysis blog, Syria Comment.
Much has been debated since President Trump tweeted that “The U.S has secured the oil” in Syria. Is this feasible? Does it make any sense? The below will explain how and why the answer is a resounding NO.
Al-Omar and Conoco fields are already secured by Kurdish-led SDF and U.S forces. Some of the oil from these fields was being sold through third parties to Syria’s government by giving it in crude form and taking back half the quantity as refined product (the government owns the refineries).
Syria’s government now has access to oil fields inside the 32km zone (established by the Turkish military incursion and subsequent withdrawal of Kurdish forces). Such fields can produce up to 100K barrels a day and will already go a long way in terms of meeting the country’s immediate demand. So the importance of accessing oil in SDF/U.S hands is not as pressing any longer.
SDF/U.S forces can of course decide to sell the oil to Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) but Syria’s government now has control over the border area connecting Syria to KRG territory through both Yaaroubia and Al-Mallkiya.
The Syrian government also now has control over supply of electricity. This was made possible by taking control of the Tishreen and Furat dams. Operating those fields needs electric power supply and the state is now the provider.
5-#Syria ‘a Govt also now has control over supply of electricity. This was made possible but taking control of the Tishreen and Furat dams. Operating those fields needs electric power supply and the State is now the provider pic.twitter.com/8eeSVTBVLA
— EHSANI2 (@EHSANI22) October 23, 2019
Securing and operating these fields also entails paying salaries to those operating the fields. International companies would be very reluctant to get involved without legal backing to operate the fields.
“Securing the oil” therefore can only mean preventing the Syrian state from accessing al-Omar/Conoco only (not oil in the north). It’s unlikely anything can be sold or transported.
And let’s not forget “securing” this oil would need ready air cover, and all for what?
The argument about oil was flimflam, but generals Graham and Keane just wanted Trump to walk back his policy of getting out of Syria. “While the emphasis on oil in Syria was intended to convince Trump that the U.S. military is valuable, securing the oil fields was not the purpose https://t.co/DJ3OaR5VRG
— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis) October 26, 2019
SDF composition included Arab fighters and tribes who accepted Kurds in leadership since they had American support and key cities in north. Many of those Arabs are already switching and joining the Syrian Army. “Securing” oil for benefit of the Kurds is likely to antagonize the Arab fighters and tribes in the region.
Preventing rise of ISIS is likely to entail securing support of the region’s Arabs and tribes more than that of the Kurds. This Kurd/Arab issue is yet another reason why President Trump’s idea of “securing” the oil for the benefit of the Kurds just doesn’t make sense nearly on every level.