By Whitney Webb
Global Research, April 17, 2018
MintPress News 16 April 2018
After the U.S. launched “limited” airstrikes on Friday April 14, 2018, against Syria, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced that the U.S. will maintain its illegal presence in Syria until U.S. goals in the area are fulfilled, opening the door for the U.S. occupation to continue indefinitely.
While the U.S. military presence in Syria has been ongoing since 2015 – justified as a means of countering Daesh (ISIS) — U.S. troops have since turned into an occupying force with their failure to pull out following Daesh’s defeat in northeastern Syria. Currently, the U.S. occupies nearly a third of Syrian territory — around 30 percent — including much of the area east of the Euphrates River, encompassing large swaths of the Deir Ezzor, Al-Hasakah and Raqqa regions.
Though the U.S. currently has between 2,000 to 4,000 troops stationed in Syria, it announced the training of a 30,000-person-strong “border force” composed of U.S.-allied Kurds and Arabs in the area, which would be used to prevent northeastern Syria from coming under the control of Syria’s legitimate government. Though it backtracked somewhat after backlash from Turkey, the U.S. has continued to train “local forces” in the area. Russian military sources have asserted that former members of Daesh — who were allowed to leave cities attacked by the U.S. and their proxies, as was the case in battle for Raqqa — are to be included among the force’s ranks.
This, along with the U.S. government’s insistence on maintaining the occupation until Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power, shows that the U.S. government has no intention of permitting the reunification of Syria and will continue to occupy the region over the long term.
The illegal U.S. occupation of Syria has been widely noted in independent and corporate media, but little media attention has focused on identifying the wider implications of this occupation and the U.S.’ main objectives in keeping northeastern Syria from coming under the control of the legitimate, democratically elected Syrian government. As is often the case in U.S. occupations, both historical and present, it is an effort born out of two goals: resource acquisition for U.S. corporations and the destabilization of a government targeted for U.S.-backed regime change.
Control of fossil fuel deposits and flow
Northeastern Syria is an important region owing to its rich natural resources, particularly fossil fuels in the form of natural gas and oil. Indeed, this area contains 95 percent of all Syrian oil and gas potential — including al-Omar, the country’s largest oil field. Prior to the war, these resources produced some 387,000 barrels of oil per day and 7.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, and were of great economic importance to the Syrian government. However, more significantly, nearly all the existing Syrian oil reserves – estimated at around 2.5 billion barrels – are located in the area currently occupied by the U.S. government.
In addition to Syria’s largest oil field, the U.S. and its proxies in northeast Syria also control the Conoco gas plant, the country’s largest. The plant, which can produce nearly 50 million cubic feet of gas per day, was originally built by U.S. oil and gas giant ConocoPhillips, which operated the plant until 2005, after which Bush-era sanctions made it difficult to operate in Syria. Other foreign oil companies, like Shell, also left Syria as a result of the sanctions.
With the U.S. now occupying the area, the oil and gas produced in this region are already benefiting U.S. energy corporations to which Trump and his administration have numerous ties. According to Yeni Şafak, the U.S. along with the Saudis, Egypt, and Kurdish officials held meetings where decisions were made to extract, process and market the fossil fuels harvested in the region, with the Kurds being given a handsome share of the profits. As of 2015, the Kurds were said to be earning in excess of $10 million every month.
Syria’s Kurdistan exports its oil to Iraq’s Kurdistan, with which it conveniently shares a border, and it is then refined and sold to Turkey. Though no corporations are publicly involved, the deal between Syrian and Iraqi Kurds was brokered by unnamed “oil experts” and “oil investors.” The Kurds in Syria and Iraq did not even sign the agreement in person. They were subsequently “informed” of the agreement by the United States and instructed to supervise the operation.
A source in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) told NOW News that “with regard to southern Kurdistan, it was a company and not the KRG that signed the deal, and it is [the company] that directly hands over the sums in cash every month.” Given that over 80 foreign companies are involved in the KRG’s oil trade, most of them U.S.-based, we can safely assume that many of the same players have also been involved in developing the oil trade of Syria’s Kurdistan.
Major corporate interests
The Trump administration’s numerous connections to the U.S. oil industry make this alliance clear. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired in March, was previously the top executive at ExxonMobil, an oil company that unilaterally brokered an oil deal with Iraqi Kurds behind the back of the Iraqi government and has expressed interest in developing Syrian oil interests in the portion of the country currently occupied by the U.S. . .