Syria representatives accused Donald Trump of stealing the country’s oil after American officials confirmed that a U.S. company has been allowed to operate there in fields under the control of a Pentagon-backed militia.
Syrian representative Bashar al-Jaafari told the U.N. Security Council that “the U.S. occupation forces, in full view of the United Nations and the international community, took a new step to plunder Syria’s natural resources, including Syrian oil and gas” through the recent establishment of a company called “Crescent Delta Energy.”
This firm, “with the sponsorship and support of the US Administration, has entered into a contract with the so-called ‘Syrian Democratic Forces/SDF’ militia, an agent of the US occupation forces in northeastern Syria, with the aim of stealing Syrian oil and depriving the Syrian state and Syrian people of the basic revenues necessary to improve the humanitarian situation, provide for livelihood needs and reconstruction,” he added.
The Syrian diplomat noted that Trump had made his intentions known earlier, such as in a late October press conference at which the president said he sought “to make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies” to take hold of oil in Syria. Trump has publicly professed “I love oil!” and that he was staying militarily involved Syria “only for the oil,” even as his officials insisted the Pentagon’s main focus was battling the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).
“Removing Daesh fighters, weapons, and explosive material remains a top priority as Daesh continues to plot attacks against innocent civilians and our partners throughout Iraq and northeast Syria,” the U.S.-led coalition said in a press release on Thursday.
But that same day, Trump again stated his view on the Syria mission: “As you know, in Syria we’re down to almost nothing, except we kept the oil. But we’ll work out some kind of a deal with the Kurds on that. But we left, but we kept the oil.”
News of an oil deal being struck between the U.S. and the SDF, a mostly Kurdish force tasked with fighting ISIS on the ground, first emerged late last month as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified before the Senate. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he had spoken with SDF commander General Mazloum Abdi, whose forces “signed a deal with an American oil company to modernize the oil fields in northeastern Syria.”
Asked if the U.S. was supportive of that arrangement, the U.S. top diplomat said: “We are.”
“The deal took a little longer than we had hoped, and now we’re in implementation, it could be very powerful,” Pompeo said.
The following day, Al-Monitor cited anonymous sources revealing the name of the firm in question as “Delta Crescent Energy, LLC,” which had the full support of the White House in its Syria dealings.
The subject came up again during a press briefing last Wednesday with James Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria and special envoy for the campaign against ISIS. He declined to discuss the details of private business contracts as a matter of policy, but said the U.S. does have “a responsibility to consider whether licenses should be issued to allow American companies to conduct economic activities that otherwise might be sanctioned.”
“That is something that we have done, including in this case,” he said, denying that the U.S. was “involved in the commercial decisions of our local partners in northeast Syria.”
“We have not done anything other than license related to this firm,” he added. “Syrian oil is for the Syrian people, and we remain committed to the unity and territorial integrity of Syria. The United States government doesn’t own, control, or manage oil resources in Syria. You have heard the President’s position on the guarding of the oil fields. We don’t go beyond that.”
“Treasury does not generally comment on or provide details on license applications or specific licenses that have been issued as the information contained within these licensing applications and determinations may be protected by the Privacy Act, the Trade Secrets Act, or other regulations governing OFAC’s licensing authorities,” a Treasury Department spokesperson stated.
The U.S. has long faced accusations that its interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere were linked to the acquisition of control over energy resources. Comments sent by Syria’s U.N. mission to Newsweek also included an accusation that the “US Administration had allowed US oil companies, whose work was supervised by former US Vice President Dick Cheney, to extract Syrian oil from the occupied Syrian Golan in a flagrant violation of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, allied with Russia and Iran now controls most of the country and has promised to retake it fully through diplomacy or force. In his latest speech, the Syrian leader accused Israel, Turkey, and the U.S. of all trying to “implement one plan aimed at tearing Syria apart and plundering its wealth.”
“The United States and its allies are united in continuing to apply pressure on Assad and his enablers until there is peaceful, political solution to the conflict. Assad and his foreign patrons know the clock is ticking for action,” the State Department said in a press release Thursday. “In the meantime, the United States will continue to impose costs on anyone, anywhere who obstructs a peaceful political solution to the Syrian conflict.”