A suggestion by President Donald Trump to send U.S. Big Oil companies in Syria to manage its oil fields has sparked outrage among both energy and legal experts, Reuters reports.
Trump made the suggestion last week during a news conference called after the news broke that U.S. special forces had killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly … and spread out the wealth,” Trump said.
The remark comes a few days after the Wall Street Journal cited U.S. military officials as saying Trump might leave a 500-strong force in Syria to protect local oil fields. The report came after Trump tweeted that “We will NEVER let a reconstituted ISIS have those fields!”
Yet his intention to let Exxon or Chevron “go in there and do it properly” may be both illegal and immoral, according to experts.
“The idea that the United States would ‘keep the oil’ in the hands of ExxonMobil or some other U.S. company is immoral and possibly illegal,” one academic, political science and international studies professor Jeff Colgan told Reuters.
“International law seeks to protect against exactly this sort of exploitation,” said the director of the Emory Law School’s Center for International and Comparative Law, Laurie Blank.
Exxon and Chevron, for their part, have not commented on Trump’s potential plans for them. Related: The End Of Syria’s “Pipeline War”
Even if taking over Syrian oil fields was not problematic in any moral or legal way, however, it might not be practical, according to Ellen R. Wald, senior fellow at the Global Energy Center of the Atlantic Council. Syria is a small oil producer and it lacks an extensive infrastructure that could make the development of these fields lucrative.
Keeping a watchful eye on who does end up controlling them, however, makes sense.
“U.S. control over the disposition of the fields and the hard currency they offer would provide a significant influence over the shape of Syria’s future,” said Alex Cranberg, the chairman of Aspect Holdings, a company that used to have operations in Iraq’s Kurdistan.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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