Syrian News: Has the US put 'robbery' on Syrian oil?

Syrian News

US President Donald Trump has said that the country will benefit from millions of dollars every month by earning oil due to the continued presence of American soldiers in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has responded to this by accusing the US of 'stealing oil' and Russia, a prominent supporter of Assad, has called it an 'international robbery'.

So who is controlling the current oil production of Syria and who is benefiting from it?
Syrian News
Credit: Middle East online

Big powers competing to control oil

The US announced the withdrawal of its army from northern Syria in October, but then said that it would retain 500 of its troops there to protect oil from Kurdish-led forces.

Right now the Kurdish-led forces are getting the benefit of oil production here.

US Defense Minister Mark Asper said that US troops are deployed not only against Islamic State fighters but also Russian and Syrian government forces.

On the other hand, the Russian army is eyeing it in an attempt to control the oil products of Syria.

The two countries signed the Energy Cooperation Agreement in 2018, in which Russia was given exclusive rights to rebuild Syria's oil and gas sector.

President Trump said in the same context that the oil that his soldiers are protecting is likely to benefit.
Syrian News
Credit: NPR

How much oil is produced in Syria?

Although oil reserves in Syria are small compared to other countries in the Middle East, the oil and gas sector has contributed significantly to the country's revenue earnings.

In 2018, Syria had an estimated 2.5 billion barrels of oil reserves, compared to Saudi Arabia's 297 billion barrels, Iran's 155 billion barrels and Iraq's 147 billion barrels.

These oil reserves are located near the Iraqi border in Der al-Zor in eastern Syria and in Haska in the northeast.

But since the beginning of the conflicts in 2011, oil production has declined.

According to the British Petroleum Statistical Review 2019 on World Energy, in 2008 Syria produced 406,000 barrels of oil daily.

In 2011, its production decreased by 353 thousand barrels while in 2018 it was reduced to just 24 thousand barrels. That is, its production has decreased by about 90%.
Syrian News
Credit: The National

No control over our own oil production

As the civil war progressed, the control of the Syrian government with these oil wells located in our country, ended first in the hands of opposition groups and later the so-called Islamic State (IS).

By the end of 2014, the Islamic State took over most of the oil wells in eastern Syria, including Al Omar, the largest oil field in Az-Zor province.

According to the US Ministry of Defense, the sale of oil, with earnings of $ 40 million per month in 2015, became a major source of income for the extremist group.

However, in 2017, IS lost control of these oilfields after losing its last stronghold to the US-backed Syria Democratic Force (SDF) led by the Kurds.

The US carried out several airstrikes towards ending the control of IS, which caused considerable damage to those oil fields of Syria.

When IS fighters felt that they would lose control of these oil fields at the hands of the Kurdish army, they also destroyed many oil infrastructure.
Syrian News

Kurdish army still getting oil benefits?

In 2017, the Kurds-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took control of northeastern Syria and the surrounding areas of the Euphrates from the Islamic State.

From then on, he started partially producing oil, fixing some of the losses.

Jonathan Hoffman, an assistant to the US defense minister, recently said that "the revenue from oil is going to the Kurds, not to America."

According to Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, "Syrian Democratic Forces and allied tribes control over 70 percent of oil resources in Syria's eastern region and many gas products."

However, he says that "production in these oil wells is decreasing compared to before the Civil War, which is an important source of SDF earnings."

The Kurds have already lost control in northern Syria due to the Turkish invasion, most of the oil fields east of the Euphrates are under the control of the SDF.

President Assad's government is desperate to regain control of its oil fields, without which they will need to import large amounts of oil.

However, due to US and European sanctions, Syria is finding it difficult to do so.

Iran has been a major Syrian oil supplier but has also been hit by a US embargo, as well as the US has also called for a ban on any other company having trade relations with Syria.