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Arabs Protest Against Kurdish Rule In Oil-Rich Syrian Region

Arab residents of the oil-rich Deir Ezzor area in Syria have been protesting for weeks against the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces that control the region east of the Euphrates river, with protests becoming violent in recent days and angry protesters disrupting convoys of truckloads of oil from the nearby fields.   

The protests, which started at the end of April, call for the end of the Kurdish rule in the area—which the Arabs say is an “occupation”—and the Kurdish forces and militias to stop selling the oil from the area and stop robbing the Arab population of its oil.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the United States expelled Islamic State from the Deir Ezzor area at the end of 2017, and have been in control of the oil-rich province since then.

The Arab residents in the area, however, want the Kurdish forces to stop selling the oil pumped from Deir Ezzor to the Syrian government, among other things. Arabs in eastern Syria also want end of discrimination in leadership positions and the end of compulsory conscription of young men from the area.

According to tribal leaders and residents who spoke to Reuters, the Arab resentment toward the Kurdish forces has grown in recent weeks.

Risks of a more violent confrontation are growing and SDF’s response to the Arab demands could determine if the situation will escalate, analysts tell Reuters.

Related: Saudi Arabia Hikes Oil Prices For Asian Buyers As Supply Crunch Hits

In August 2018, the second-largest oil field in Syria, the Tanak field in the Deir Ezzor region, resumed operations nearly a year after U.S.-backed predominantly Kurdish forces recaptured the field from ISIS.

The Tanak field, which hosts around 150 wells and the capacity to produce up to 40,000 bpd, was captured from the Islamist militants by the SDF in November of 2017, following fierce clashes with ISIS on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river.

Less than a month before recapturing the Tanak oil field, SDF had wrested control over the al-Omar oil field in eastern Syria from the Islamic State. Al-Omar is Syria’s largest oil field, producing around 30,000 bpd before the civil war. After 2011, however, Al-Omar had fallen into the hands of Islamic State, which was at one point making US$5.1 million in monthly oil sale revenues on the black market.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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