The old US goals of toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad and splitting the country are still on the table, although Washington is unlikely to reach either of them, opines Syrian journalist Basma Qaddour, stressing that the US should stop hampering Syria’s recovery and withdraw from the region together with its proxies.
Syria’s economic recovery is hindered by the US Caesar Act, which penalises foreign firms for dealing with Syrian government entities, as well as by the US-backed Kurdish forces’ takeover of the Arab Republic’s rich oil and gas areas and agricultural lands in northeast, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov highlighted during a Russian delegation’s Monday visit to Damascus while discussing ways to ramp up the region’s revival.
“We stated that relative calm has been established in Syria and that we need to work on strengthening this trend”, said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the joint press-conference with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem. “This does not suit everyone, hence the attempts of a number of external players to fire up separatist sentiments in Syria and use unilateral and illegitimate measures to smother the country’s economy.”
Washington’s Goals in Syria Remain Unchanged
Over the past several years, the US has dealt a heavy blow to Syria’s economy by ruining its infrastructure and imposing tough sanctions on the Arab Republic, observes Basma Qaddour, a Syrian journalist and head of the news department at Syria Times.
“[The US] deprives the Syrian government of the revenues of oil through appointing the Kurdish ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ group as ‘guards’ of Syrian oil fields”, she emphasises. “The US openly steals 200,000 oil barrels from the Syrian oil fields on a daily basis. It has also stolen 400,000 tonnes of cotton and sets fire to thousands of hectares of wheat fields. It has stolen 5 million livestock. It is deliberately weakening the value of the Syrian pound.”
The aforementioned figures were also voiced by the Syrian delegation at the United Nations Security Council’s meeting on 16 June 2020. In late October 2019, the Russian Defence Ministry released a detailed report on US oil-smuggling activities in Syria, presenting satellite intelligence data, and dubbing Washington’s actions as nothing short of “international state banditry”.
For its part, the Pentagon confirmed that it had denied the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian allies access to the country’s oil fields. “We want to make sure the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] does have access to the resources in order to guard the prisons, in order to arm their own troops, in order to assist us with the defeat Daesh* mission,” US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper told journalists on 28 October 2019.
Qaddour notes that in an apparent attempt to “legitimise” what appears to be the outright theft of the Syrian nation’s oil, the American firm Delta Crescent Energy LLC inked a deal with the Kurds in the northeast. The agreement was denounced as null and void by Damascus.
“This is a deal between two thieves”, the Syrian journalist highlights. “The first one steals Syrian oil, while the second one buys it from the first one.”
As Politico revealed in early August, Delta Crescent Energy’s partners include “former US ambassador to Denmark James Cain; James Reese, a former officer in the Army’s elite Delta Force; and John P. Dorrier Jr., a former executive at GulfSands Petroleum, a UK-based oil company with offices and drilling experience in Syria.”
Commenting on motives behind Washington’s apparent attempts to ruin the Arab Republic’s economy, Qaddour opines that the major US goals under the Obama and Trump administrations have remained unchanged: it “still wants to topple President Bashar al-Assad, who is the legitimately elected president, to fragment Syria and destroy it” in order to upend cooperation between Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, which would play into the hands of America’s principal allies in the region: Israel and Saudi Arabia.