US troops guarding al Omar oilfield near Deir Ezzour, Syria’s largest oil installation in the northeastern province came under attack for the first time since President Donald J Trump announced that the United States was “keeping Syria’s oil” following his administration’s controversial decision to pull out most US troops from Syria in October; a decision that was viewed by many as a green light for the Turkish military offensive against Syrian Kurds in the northeastern parts of the country despite wide international outrage and condemnation.
No faction or force has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s four-pronged attack which targeted and destroyed some oil-plundering tanker trucks and at least one US military vehicle at the oilfield, and no official announcement of casualties among American soldiers or their proxy oil transporters has been confirmed. The significance of the attack lies in the fact that it took place soon after Syrian President Bashar al Assad had made it clear that there will be a popular resistance to the presence of US or any uninvited foreign troops in Syria, and his reiteration that “every single inch of Syrian territories shall be liberated”. Trump’s October 6 withdrawal move from Syria has shocked US Kurdish allies who felt abandoned and left in the open to face the advancing Turkish army and its overwhelming military power and drew wide international outcry as well as severe bipartisan criticisms within the USA itself.
Soon, Trump – already under mounting pressure stemming from impeachment procedures and corruption charges and suspicious communications with Russia and the Ukraine – attempted to make amends with his critics by declaring the Syrian oil feat and pressurizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to curtail his military offensive against Syrian Kurds, with a “carrot and stick” approach. The latest attack on US oil-guardians in Syria is bound to put Trump under more pressure, given the unabated political campaign both against his characteristics as well as his problematic foreign policies. Trump’s image was severely tarnished last week after leaked footage showed leaders of Britain, France and Canada mocking him at a dinner hosted by the Queen on the margin of NATO summit in London. Trump was so outraged as the video went viral on social media that he cancelled a planned press conference and left London unceremoniously, it was reported.
How secure for Trump is Syria’s “secured’ oil”?
Thursday’s attack on US troops at al Omar oilfield and tankers smuggling Syrian oil into Iraq and Turkey followed an air raid earlier last week by Syrian and possibly Russian jets which destroyed a convoy of oil tanker trucks in the northeastern parts of Syria, put into question Trump’s claims that he had “secured” Syria’s oil. “We’ve secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of US troops will remain in the area where they have the oil,” Trump said during an Oct. 23 press conference. “And we’re going to be protecting it, and we’ll be deciding what we’re going to do with it in the future.”
Once again, Trump falters on his promises to the Americans and their allies in the region. US troops at the oilfield that came targeted from four directions are reported to have used all available firepower at their disposal to foil the attack but to no avail. Many Syrian and regional observers believe that Thursday’s daring attack was a clear message to Trump, his allies and proxy oil plunderers, and most likely just “the tip of the iceberg” of what lies ahead for US troops in Syria. The trap of “oil for blood” equation many American have warned against falling into in Syria, seems to have become a painful reality for the snookered Trump administration, with problems creeping in from every nook and cranny; Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Kurdish allies, Turkey and NATO to name a few.
A mini oil war looms in the Syrian offing
Syria’s oil production has plummeted by approximately 90% as a result of the nine-year conflict aggravated by a stringent chain of US-led sanctions against the country. Before the conflict that broke out in March 2011, the country used to produce 385.000 barrels of oil per day. The figure went as low as 14.000 BPD at the worst stage in the war. Although the oil and gas sector has made a humble recovery in recent months following the recovery by the Syrian army and its allies of vast sways of land that had been for years out of government control, much is needed for this vital factor to become fully functional.
The Syrian government has resorted to some drastic austerity measures in recent years and has been importing much of its oil and gas from Iran, Iraq and Algeria to make up for its plundered wealth. The war-torn nation and its badly damaged economy badly need oil and gas resources to maintain the minimum required economic as well as social stability and growth, and can’t afford to leave this essential wealth at the mercy of the Americans or any other foreign power forever. By hook or by crook, through diplomatic means and deals, or armed resistance to make good on its promise to protect its land and natural resources against foreign occupiers and plunderers alike. Thursday’s offensive on US troops and tanker trucks in northeastern Syria could trigger and signal a mini oil war or resistance movement to the American presence and looting the country’s oil in the days ahead.