The US push to claim Syrian oil fields is “banditry,” the Russian Defense Ministry has said. A US military convoy was heading towards oil fields at Syria’s Deir el-Zour, where Washington already maintains a small force.
On 25 October 2019 , the U.S. Defense Department said that it planned to increase up its presence in eastern Syria – amidst a wider troop drawdown following Turkey’s attack on the Syrian Democratic Forces – in order to protect oil fields from being retaken by Islamic State. They state that one of the most significant gains by the US and their partners in the fight against ISIS was gaining control of oil fields in Eastern Syria .
“The U.S. is committed to reinforcing our position, in coordination with our SDF partners, in northeast Syria with additional military assets to prevent those oil fields from falling back to into the hands of ISIS or other destabilizing actors,” the official said, on grounds of anonymity.
Footage broadcast online, Friday, November 1, seems to show U.S. patrols being deployed to oil wells in northeast Syria. Video posted by Kurdistan 24 shows armored vehicles bearing U.S. flags stationed at oil wells in Al Qahtaniyah. On Thursday, October 31, U.S. armored vehicles were seen near the Syria-Turkey border in a part of northeastern Syria where they had not been observed since early October, when Washington announced the withdrawal of American forces, according to witness video footage.
US armoured vehicles were seen near Saida oil station in Syria’s north-eastern al-Hasakah Governorate as part of the US plan to reinforce its positions around Syria’s oil fields.
3 November 2019
US Forces Seen Outside Oil Facility in Northeast Syria
The US has said it intends to remain in parts of eastern Syria to ensure the oil resources of the region do not fall into the hands of the Islamic State group. Intense clashes continue between Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkish-backed militants in the northeastern Syrian town of Tal Tamr, despite a U.S. push for cease-fire, local officials said, Friday, November 1. Kurdish officials told VOA that firefights in the villages of Anek al-Hawa, Tal Muhammad, Khirbet Jammu and Mahmudiya continued as Syrian militia, supported by Turkey, attempted to enter Tal Tamr from seven kilometers outside town
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the US has no right to seize oil fields currently controlled by Kurdish forces in the eastern Syrian area of Deir el-Zour.
The condemnation came amid reports that a US military convoy of a dozen vehicles was moving south towards the site.
An unnamed US military official confirmed to AFP news agency that the Pentagon began reinforcing its presence in Deir el-Zour, which boasts rich oil fields
“This, what Washington is doing now — capturing and maintaining control through the use of arms over oil fields in eastern Syria — that is, to put it simply, international, state-sponsored banditry,” said Russian General Igor Konashenkov.
The tension comes as Kurdish-led forces were forced to retreat from parts of the northeast border, as laid out by a cease-fire deal struck bilaterally between Russia and Turkey.
Turkey launched its offensive two weeks ago after US President Donald Trump abruptly ordered all US troops in northeastern Syria to leave. Trump’s move paved the way for Turkey to launch a cross-border operation against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Under pressure from the US and Russia, Ankara agreed to a temporary cease-fire to allow Kurdish fighters to pull out of the planned buffer zone along the Turkish border.
Danger of ‘Islamic State’
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday the Pentagon was considering sending additional troops and armored vehicles further south to Deir el-Zour. The area is currently protected by Kurdish forces, but the US also has some 200 troops at the site. Esper said that sending in reinforcements, which comes after Trump’s orders to leave northern Syria, is aimed at preventing the “Islamic State” (IS) group from taking control of the fields.
Russia’s Konashenkov said neither international nor US law provided justification for US troops to “defend hydrocarbon deposits of Syria from Syria itself and her people.”
“Absolutely all hydrocarbon deposits and other minerals located on the territory of Syria do not belong to the IS terrorists, and even less to the ‘American defenders from IS terrorists,’ but exclusively to the Syrian Arab Republic,” he added.
Russia accuses Pentagon of smuggling oil
Konashenkov also presented satellite recordings provided by the Russian military, which he said showed US troops and mercenaries securing oil smuggling operations in Syria.
The Russian officer said that “under protection by US troops and employees of US private military companies, fuel tankers from oil fields in eastern Syria are smuggled into other countries.”
The US did not immediately comment on the allegations.
On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the Syria conflict in a phone call. Lavrov said it was important to refrain from “steps undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria, according to a statement from the Russian side.
Syria authorities are not happy with Turkey’s involvement in Syria and the Kurds
Turkish and Russian troops are expected to start joint patrols in the so-called “safe zone” in northeast Syria. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned Turkey, and rebels in Idlib, that all-out war would be the only option if political solutions fail. Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra reports live from Sanliurfa on the Turkey-Syria border.