Trump’s Move to ‘Secure’ Syrian Oil is Fake News

Syria’s oil sector is decimated. Syrians do not even take seriously its revival as a foundation of post-conflict reconstruction!   No wonder Assad, Russia and Iran aren’t  having a hissyfit!

The Trump administration’s decision to move US forces out of the way of the Turkish military’s intervention against the Syrian Democratic Forces was met with bipartisan condemnation, with many decrying the “betrayal” of the US’s Syrian Kurdish allies. It appears that the administration sought to mute this criticism through a show of force to secure Syria’s oil fields.

If Syria’s oil production is insignificant, then why would the US military be directed towards controlling the oil fields? There is no apparent reason, other than a bad case of Oilcraft, coupled with a desire by this administration to save face in the aftermath of a perceived retreat from Syria. 

1 November 2019

That this would be either contemplated or welcomed as an affirmation of the US commitment to maintaining a military presence in Syria is testament to the power of the myth that whoever controls the oil has power. Syria’s oil sector is decimated. Syrians do not even take seriously its revival as a foundation of post-conflict reconstruction.

As Syria’s oil production is insignificant, the US move reflects a desire by this administration to save face in the aftermath of its perceived retreat from the country

Since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, many analysts have suggested that the conflict was “about oil” and a Western desire to control Syrian oil production. 

This understanding not only denied the agency of the protesters while diminishing their calls for political change, but it also misunderstood the realities of Syria’s oil sector. Syria has never been a significant oil producer by regional standards, reaching a production peak of around 380,000 barrels a day before the civil war erupted. 

In 2016, an International Monetary Fund working paper estimated that production had declined to just 40,000 barrels per day.

The global insignificance of Syrian oil production, the declining rates and revenues of the industry, and the absence of any new reserves was never enough evidence to convince naysayers that Syria’s tragedy wasn’t brought about by the geopolitics of oil. 

Delusional worldview

With US President Donald Trump’s recent declaration that US strategy was to “keep the oil” and that US forces had “secured the oil”, the theory that oil interests have driven Western intervention in Syria has resurfaced. 

The Trumpian logic that Syrian oil fields need to be secured for US interests – and that US interests can only be secured through access to oil fields – is a delusional worldview grounded in a misunderstanding of how oil production and markets actually work. Author Robert Vitalis calls this Oilcraft: a way of thinking about oil-as-power that does not correspond to how oil markets shape production and prices. 

Syria’s oil sector is decimated. Syrians do not even take seriously its revival as a foundation of post-conflict reconstruction

Access and price fluctuations in oil markets are not determined by who controls what at any given time. We simply do not live in a world in which all oil produced in the world is controlled by the military or commercial interests of the US and its allies.

Markets do not function according to who has “secured” access to oil. Producers produce, and consumers consume. These patterns exist independent of what oil fields the US military occupies. 

Syria’s feeble oil production has little impact on global oil markets. Prior to the conflict, the majority of Syrian oil production that was not consumed domestically was exported to Europe. In 2011, the EU placed sanctions on Syrian oil imports. European companies involved in the Syrian market, including Total and Shell, ceased operations in the country and withdrew personnel. 

The threat of sanctions from the US or EU discouraged new commercial investments and partnerships in the Syrian oil sector. The Syrian Petroleum Company (SPC), Syria’s public sector enterprise responsible for oil production, was also under sanctions and unable to conduct simple commercial transactions with external partners. 

Biting sanctions

With the conflict becoming increasingly violent and sanctions taking a toll on everyday economic life, domestic oil production was geared towards the internal market. Sanctions not only blocked the principal Syrian export market, but they also squeezed the SPC’s ability to produce and sell oil to international buyers. 

By 2013, many of Syria’s oil fields had been under threat or taken over by armed groups that did not have the capacity to produce oil. Some oil fields remained dormant and, in some areas, rudimentary techniques were used to extract oil.

The difficulties of transport and refinement meant that much of the oil trading and consumption was heavily localized, and there was a lot of evidence that various armed groups, including the Syrian army, used oil in barter deals with other groups. 

Oil became a minor, but not insignificant, prize in Syria’s war economy. Most of the armed groups were content not to contest for control of the oil fields, and instead focused their efforts on other forms of wealth extraction through taxation, kidnappings and the like. Control of oil fields was simply not worth it. 

Unlike in other conflict zones, where resources are fought over by different armed groups – such as the case with coltan extraction in the Democratic Republic of Congo – there was no comparable situation in Syria; war economies did not emerge in relation to oil extraction.  

The combination of dwindling reserves, infrastructural neglect, and sanctions that have been exacerbated by the conflict means that not even Syrian government planners are looking to the oil trade to finance reconstruction. The debates within Syria today about reconstruction do not revolve on how to restart oil production, or how oil revenues can finance post-conflict spending. 

Devastating impacts

Since the early 2000s, Syrian government planners have understood the need to move away from any reliance on oil revenues and the oil sector as a whole. The devastating impacts of the conflict and sanctions on the oil sector have only confirmed what many Syrians already knew – mainly, that the oil sector cannot save the economy. 

If Syria’s oil production is insignificant, then why would the US military be directed towards controlling the oil fields? There is no apparent reason, other than a bad case of Oilcraft, coupled with a desire by this administration to save face in the aftermath of a perceived retreat from Syria. 

The Trump administration’s decision to move US forces out of the way of the Turkish military’s intervention against the Syrian Democratic Forces was met with bipartisan condemnation, with many decrying the “betrayal” of the US’s Syrian Kurdish allies. It appears that the administration sought to mute this criticism through a show of force to secure Syria’s oil fields. 

That this would be either contemplated or welcomed as an affirmation of the US commitment to maintaining a military presence in Syria is testament to the power of the myth that whoever controls the oil has power. Syria’s oil sector is decimated. Syrians do not even take seriously its revival as a foundation of post-conflict reconstruction. 

Contrary to what Trump assumes through his public declarations about securing oil, we won’t be experiencing reduced prices at the pumps anytime soon. And if we do, it certainly won’t be because US troops are occupying Syrian land.

British Propaganda and Disinformation: An Imperial and Colonial Tradition

Wayne Madsen- snippit

For decades, a little-known section of the British Foreign Office – the Information Research Department (IRD) – carried out propaganda campaigns using the international media as its platform on behalf of MI-6. Years before Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir became targets for Western destabilization and “regime change.”

IRD and its associates at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and in the newsrooms and editorial offices of Fleet Street broadsheets, tabloids, wire services, and magazines, particularly “The Daily Telegraph,” “The Times,” “Financial Times,” Reuters, “The Guardian,” and “The Economist,” ran media smear campaigns against a number of leaders considered to be leftists, communists, or FTs (fellow travelers).

These leaders included Indonesia’s President Sukarno, North Korean leader (and grandfather of Pyongyang’s present leader) Kim Il-Sung, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Cyprus’s Archbishop Makarios, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Chile’s Salvador Allende, British Guiana’s Cheddi Jagan, Grenada’s Maurice Bishop, Jamaica’s Michael Manley, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Guinea’s Sekou Toure, Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara, Australia’s Gough Whitlam, New Zealand’s David Lange, Cambodia’s Norodom Sihanouk, Malta’s Dom Mintoff, Vanuatu’s Father Walter Lini, and Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah.

After the Cold War, this same propaganda operation took aim at Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Somalia’s Mohamad Farrah Aidid, and Haiti’s Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Today, it is Assad’s, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s, and Catalonian independence leader Carles Puigdemont’s turn to be in the Anglo-American state propaganda gunsights.

Even Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, long a darling of the Western media and such propaganda moguls as George Soros, is now being targeted for Western visa bans and sanctions over the situation with Muslim Rohingya insurgents in Rakhine State.

Through IRD-MI-6-Central Intelligence Agency joint propaganda operations, many British journalists received payments, knowingly or unknowingly, from the CIA via a front in London called Forum World Features (FWF), owned by John Hay Whitney, publisher of the “New York Herald Tribune” and a former US ambassador to London. It is not a stretch to believe that similar and even more formal relationships exist today between US and British intelligence and so-called British “journalists” reporting from such war zones as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, and the Gaza Strip, as well as from much-ballyhooed nerve agent attack locations as Salisbury, England.

No sooner had recent news reports started to emerge from Douma about a Syrian chlorine gas and sarin agent attack that killed between 40 to 70 civilians, British reporters in the Middle East and London began echoing verbatim statements from the Syrian “White Helmets” and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In actuality, the White Helmets – claimed by Western media to be civilian defense first-responders but are Islamist activists connected to jihadist radical groups funded by Saudi Arabia – are believed to have staged the chemical attack in Douma by entering the municipality’s hospital and dowsing patients with buckets of water, video cameras at the ready.

The White Helmets distributed their videos to the global news media, with the BBC and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News providing a British imprimatur to the propaganda campaign asserting that Assad carried out another “barrel bomb” chemical attack against “his own people.” And, as always, the MI-6 financed Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad news front claimed to be operated by a Syrian expatriate and British national named Rami Abdel Rahman from his clothing shop in Coventry, England, began providing second-sourcing for the White Helmet’s chemical attack claims.

In 2013, April 2017, and April 2018, the Western media echo chamber blared out all the same talking points: “Assad killing his own people,” “Syrian weapons of mass destruction,” and the “mass murder of women and children.” Western news networks featured videos of dead women and children, while paid propagandists, known as “contributors” to corporate news networks – all having links to the military-intelligence complex – demanded action be taken against Assad.