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Trump's Plan To Send U.S. Oil Majors To Syria Sparks Outrage

A suggestion by President Donald Trump to send U.S. Big Oil companies in Syria to manage its oil fields has sparked outrage among both energy and legal experts, Reuters reports.

Trump made the suggestion last week during a news conference called after the news broke that U.S. special forces had killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly ... and spread out the wealth,” Trump said.

The remark comes a few days after the Wall Street Journal cited U.S. military officials as saying Trump might leave a 500-strong force in Syria to protect local oil fields. The report came after Trump tweeted that “We will NEVER let a reconstituted ISIS have those fields!”

Yet his intention to let Exxon or Chevron “go in there and do it properly” may be both illegal and immoral, according to experts.

“The idea that the United States would ‘keep the oil’ in the hands of ExxonMobil or some other U.S. company is immoral and possibly illegal,” one academic, political science and international studies professor Jeff Colgan told Reuters.

“International law seeks to protect against exactly this sort of exploitation,” said the director of the Emory Law School’s Center for International and Comparative Law, Laurie Blank.

Exxon and Chevron, for their part, have not commented on Trump’s potential plans for them. Related: The End Of Syria’s “Pipeline War”

Even if taking over Syrian oil fields was not problematic in any moral or legal way, however, it might not be practical, according to Ellen R. Wald, senior fellow at the Global Energy Center of the Atlantic Council. Syria is a small oil producer and it lacks an extensive infrastructure that could make the development of these fields lucrative.

Keeping a watchful eye on who does end up controlling them, however, makes sense.

“U.S. control over the disposition of the fields and the hard currency they offer would provide a significant influence over the shape of Syria’s future,” said Alex Cranberg, the chairman of Aspect Holdings, a company that used to have operations in Iraq’s Kurdistan.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry. More

Comments

  • Mamdouh Salameh - 28th Oct 2019 at 11:17am:
    President Trump doesn’t get it. Syrian oil resources belong to Syria. It is not up to the United States’ to decide who should keep the oil or to hand it American oil companies to develop.

    The United States is an occupying force. Its mere presence in Syria uninvited not only violates the sovereignty of an independent country but also violates international law.

    President Trump’s policy in Syria has been muddled from the start and he himself is muddled as well not being able to stick to a policy from one day to the other. The United States has lost any influence on the situation in Syria, saw Turkey defies it and moves against its allies, the Syrian Kurds, gained the contempt of the Syrian Kurds for its betrayal of them, saw Russia emerging as the dominant power in Syria and also saw Bashar Al-assad triumph in the 9-year civil war.

    The United States is using the excuse of protecting the oilfields to justify its continued presence in Syria with the aim of stirring more trouble and preventing an end of the civil war and also starving Syria of its own oil resources.

    The Syrian Army is more than capable of protecting the oil against ISIS and other terrorists without President Trump’s help. Moreover, the civil war in Syria will be over the minute the United States exits Syria.

    His control of Syria’s oil speaks volumes of the ugly face of capitalism and his discredited “America First” policy.

    Furthermore, most of the oilfields are under control of the ex-allies of the United States, the Syrian Kurds, who will repay President Trump’s betrayal of them by surrendering the oilfields to the Syrian government in exchange for protection.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
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