Guest Post: What Impact Does Oil Have On The Syrian Civil War?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Claude Salhani of OilPrice

What Impact Does Oil Have On The Syrian Civil War?

There is a popular belief in the Middle East that Washington’s foreign policy, particularly as it relates to this precarious region, is largely driven by America’s dependency on, and insatiable appetite for Arab oil.  One can make a good argument for that.

Had Syria been a major oil producing country chances are the US would have already dispatched military forces to impose a pax Americana and to put a stop to the horrific fighting that has been slowly, but without any doubt, ripping Syria apart and dismantling the infrastructures that make the Syrian state what it is today. Even if the war was to end today it would take years for Syria to return to its pre-war position from an economic and military perspective.

Some analysts believe that oil is what drove the United States to become militarily involved in Kuwait in 1990-91, in Iraq in 2003 and more recently in Libya.

Asides from some stealth behind the scenes support to a few of the many rebel groups engaged in the conflict that has been forthcoming in the form of weapons (mostly light weapons) and some intelligence delivered to a handful of the multitude of forces demanding the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the US-NATO-Saudi-Qatari alliance has refrained from moving to the next step; full scale military intervention.  Last week the Qataris made some attempts at the UN General Assembly in New York to drum up support for an Arab military intervention in Syria but that did not seem to take any traction with other Arab countries.

In the 18 months since the Syrian strife began in earnest human rights groups claim that some 30,000 people have been killed so far and some 350,000 Syrians have fled their country seeking refuge in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. If the current pace of refugees continues – and there is nothing to indicate it will abate anytime soon -- human rights groups and the UN relief agencies anticipate that number to jump to a staggering 700,000 people by the end of this year. In a country with a total population of some 20 million, those are frightful numbers. Those are frightful numbers by any means and with winter just around the corner the fate of the refugees becomes even more concerning.

While Syria may not be a major oil producer, it does however have some oil, though not abundantly, therefor placing the country in a non-strategic second-tier position, as far as the interests of the United States and its allies in the region are concerned. Nevertheless, it is Syria’s geographic location on the old caravan route between Turkey and Arabia, or as it used to be known in the days of old, between Constantinople and the Hijaz -- that still holds the same strategic importance today as it did in the days of the caravan trains.

The names on the maps may have changed, Constantinople becoming Istanbul and the Hijaz, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but very little else has changed in the end game except for the caravans giving way to trade routes and oil pipelines. And unless the geography of the region can change (unlikely), Syria remains very much the pathway to the Arab hinterland.

During the last several decades Lebanon and Turkey have been described as gateways to the Middle East. And indeed, they often are. However, it is important to remember that just as double security doors that one finds in many banks where customers enter the establishment through two sets of doors, where the first set needs to shut before the second set can be opened, Syria plays the same role in the region today. Lebanon and Turkey may be the “gateways” to the Levant and beyond, however in both instances the next overland point for any overland traveller or goods goes obligatory through Syria.  If people have to travel through Syrian territory to get to/from points beyond these traditional “gateways,” then so do goods and natural resource such as oil and natural gas pipelines.

Understand that and you can begin to understand part of the on-going conflict in the Middle East today.

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GetZeeGold's picture



They're retrofitted the tanks with pedals.......almost there. Throw some armour out the door....and we'll be able to move a lot faster.



lolmao500's picture

So that's why the US and Europe have delisted the MEK terrorists from causing trouble in Iran?? Also the riots caused by the inflation caused by the sanctions?

Because once the revolt/civil war breaks out in Iran, America will have to go make the peace to keep the price of oil low...

johnQpublic's picture

oil bet that oil has noilthing toil doil with oil this syrian thing

earleflorida's picture


it's a 'Hezbolla Thing' and the quasi-enlightening shroud of the Syrian Dessert's Majesty... via the now defunct, and eviscerated 'Baghdad Pact'  of 1955!

Ps. WWI __ ??? __ Why was it... the *Ottoman Empire gives up Israel on August 29,1918 to whom and why? [pre-wwi ottoman empire__**irag, israel, jordan, lebanon, partially saudi arabia, syria, and most of turkey] Try to think hard and deep,... about why the german's hated the french for the humiliation of the WWI Versailles Treaty shoved down their throats???

and lastly for your listening pleasure "Good-Timin'

cheerio ;-()>

sangell's picture

Yep, sometimes people just get fed up with an hereditary dictatorship when its soldiers shoot down anyone who objects to anything.

falak pema's picture

So apart from the humanitarian problem, the double doors stay stained with oil. 

Whats new in this power game of Pax Americana, except that Russia is now looming as challenger in the region?

GAzprom is no push over.

Sunni/Shia rivalry is now a divide and rule strategy used by US interests in Irak/Syria to isolate Iran axis. But it has the inconvenience of putting the region into Sunni Al-qaeda fundamentalist hands. Watch out, if THAT goes viral, from Afgh/PAk to Nigeria in one big ideological fire on which US brutal short-terming is now pouring hot, bubbling oil; to protect its Israeli and Saud Allies; to the point where even Hijaz is now feeling fundamentalist heat at Riyad!

From Al-Shams, soleil levant,  to Hijaz...a trail of dry powder ignition, as a continental conflagration could result that could reverse current alliances.

Who said that the USA has a clever strategy to protect the oil patch. With friends like that! 

Defusing Iran and encouraging a secular revival there, through peaceful coercion, would pay off dividends bigtime rather than exacerbating the factional divide.


A Man without Qualities's picture

Going on the basic principal that every single grand strategic plan the West has carried out in the region since about 1956 has blown up in our faces, I suspect the idea of supporting the Salafi Jihad against Shiaism will turn out to be a really bad idea.

My guess, Saudi turned the other way with Libya and has promised to keep pumping at the max (even though it damages reserves), so we turn the other way while it gets on with finishing the Battle of Karbala.


meizu's picture

I think fear of jihadists is why saudi king is paying all the jihadists to go to die in syria.  He has to keep them focused on syria, so they dont turn their guns on him.

US and its allies are slowly loosing control.  Protests in Jordan is starting to heat up.

lolmao500's picture

If you want to shit your pants, read this :

New Scientific Study Predicts 85,000 Casualties, “Devastating Consequences” for Iran Attack

TheGardener's picture

"but very little else has changed in the end game except for the caravans giving way to trade routes and"

I remember as a kid reading Mark Twain on his travels to the Middle East and him commenting in a similar way about the wooden plows he saw and reckoned to be in use for some two thousand years. I enjoyed reading Mark Twain but who is this naive kid who wrote this piece ?

P.S. The Levant is now in every European city and not
just the outskirts...

orangegeek's picture

All this news about oil as oil continues to fall.


The two largest economies in the world, the US and Europe are both in the tank.


So where is this demand for oil comiing again?

Vince Clortho's picture

Are you seriously this shortsighted, or just trolling?

TheGardener's picture

"So where is this demand for oil comiing again?"

Gold bugs with gas guzzling SUV. It only takes a 5 Dollar shovel to dig some stuff back out of the ground..:-)

yt75's picture

Regarding oil, did you know that the usual tune "first oil shock=arab embargo" is a complete myth, the simple reality being "first oil shock=US 1971 production peak" ?


the embargo lasted 3 months, was ridiculous in terms of barrels put out of the market, and wasn't even effective at all from Saudi Arabia to the US


If you consider the first oil shock for what it was : the price of the barrel moving through a steep transition to a new plateau, it is about :
- the period is OPEC countries getting out of the "seven sisters" era and wanting a bigger share of each barrel revenue extracted from their soil
- The US production peak in 1971 (with shortages and price rise starting from there, much before the embargo), the US being by far the first producer of the time let's not forget, and in a growing market.
- Bretton Woods dropped and the dollar devaluated also after US peak so the barrel increasing even more in $
- The so called "embargo" further to Yom Kippur war, also influencing price rise even if towards a few countries (holland, US, portugal), from a few countries (not Iran, not Venezuela, Not KSA effectively for the US), with very limited impact in terms on number of barrels "retained", lasted 3 months
- However chosen as the label or name for the first oil shock

Not forgetting that :
- for the western "majors" a higher barrel price is always better (even in a distribution role)
- US peak meant for the majors that a higher barrel price was required to start and invest in more expensive plays : Alaska, GOM, North Sea
- This also corresponds to the majors keeping a higher market share outside of OPEC and in particular less dependency on foreign oil for the US
- And the fact is that US diplomacy PUSHED FOR the barrel price rise (through Akins, Kissinger, in particular)

Urban Redneck's picture


Syria is obsolete.

Turkey just has to make nice with Kurdistan.

Then there's South Stream.

Moscow's ability to project (and defend Gazprom) from Tartus is made more critical.

meizu's picture

Turkey has already lost control of its southern region to kurdish rebels.  Turkey's intervention in syria now has more to do with it trying to prevent kurdish rebels from entering turkey.

jonjon831983's picture

Yes, these are gateways... I'm in the camp that the importance goes beyond just oil, it is also to disrupt and maintain a status quo controlled chaos in the region and by extension create a buffer between major powers.


Divide and keep a leash.  A sort of invisible hand of slavery.

earleflorida's picture

Noteworthy:  The Syrians pg. 117-27 [part two] from the 1957 James Morris `excellent' book... 'Islam Inflamed" 

Excerpt 1a)      Geographically the two countries, Lebanon and Sryria are one, and when the French held `mandates' for both, they were bound by the closest administrative and fiscal links. Since they achieved independence, though, their relations have been strained. [what's new?]

Excerpt 1b)       Syria is a country of constant political intrigue, and it is nearly always in the middle of a crises.

Excerpt 1c)        No Arab country has toyed more carelessly with communism; outside South America, no state in the world is more vulnerable to militarist ambition (eg. Fascism, Marxism, or Nasserism)

** 2)                 Important:   It has, of course, elements of historical continuity- ie., it was for a thousand years (and to no minor degree still is today[2012]) the starting place for the Haj pilgrimage convoys to Mecca. Damascus itself is a holy city to the Muslims, and its links with the sacred centers of Arabia are living and intimate.

***3)               Bashar al-Assad is a Alawite [the closest religious affiliation you can get to being a Shiite?]. Iraq is now a majority/population- ie., a controlled government by Shiite's. Iran has a majority controlled government/population... also predominated by Shiite's.

Ps. fantastic read "Islam Inflamed", just for historical accuracy reference (this particular book [short read] gives you a real flavor and psychological grasp of the time) alone.

Article/Post___Great Read and Timely,...


thankyou tyler  

Arthur Borges's picture

Yes, and Syria is also part of Eretz Israel.

supermaxedout's picture

Just spoke to a witness (my Turkish neighbour coming back from his vacation back home). He told me interesting details:

a) the refugeee from Syria within Turkey are very much disliked by the locals. No. 1 reason, these refugees are (compared to the locals) religiuos extremists. The women of the refugees are fully covered with their black sacks in strict wahabite style like in Saudi. Imagine such people arrived now in big numbers in an area which is compared to other muslim countries a center of freedom. In the villages on the Turkish side of the border in the area close to the mediterrean sea Chistians, Muslims and Jews live peaceful together since generations. There are growing broad protest movements against the presence of these refugees.

b) There refugees do not live in camps but were moved to not occupied "vacation houses" along the coast but the bulk into permanent occupied houses. The residents of these houses are forced by government decree to make room for the refugees.

Besides other points this causes a lot of bad blood especially because the Turks do sympathize with the refugees because the Turks believe, that the refugees are the problem and not Assad who had in Syria fostered a multi ethnic, multi religuos culture. Comparable to the situation on the Turkish side of the border.

The shootings over the border is blamed by the locals also upon the rebels and not on Assad, because Assad can not win anything by shooting into Turkey.

So my conclusion is, that     a) the public opinion in Turkey is against the rebells in Syria and b) that the artillery shooting from the Turkish army back into Syria is aimed on the rebels and not assads army.

If this is true it would mean dynamite. If this continues there will be either soon civil war in Turkey too or Turkey is leaving Nato and the Americans have to leave Turkey.  Both options do not promise anything good for the region. The third option, that Turkey gives in to the demands of the Americans and starts a war with Assad seems not be an option. It would be an open war while Turks oppose war with the befriended Syrian population. The Turks understand very well that such a war would be forced upon them by US and UK.  As long the US can not establish again a military dictatoship in Turkey the war option seems to me the most unrealistic.


supermaxedout's picture

Missed an important word:

Besides other points this causes a lot of bad blood especially because the Turks do not sympathize

earleflorida's picture

great post supermaxedout :-))

Element's picture



"If this continues there will be either soon civil war in Turkey too or Turkey is leaving Nato and the Americans have to leave Turkey."


I don't see it, you're making leaps that don't seem to connect.

Turkey is unlikely to leave NATO any time soon, as both the benefits and the growing regional threats, are far too great for the Turkish Military to go along with any political move of that sort. And the downside is small compared to the risks of abandoning NATO integration.

The US is also very unlikely to abandon Turkey, as it's been a crucial strategic foothold since after WWII, and vacating it would invite Russian influence into the region (i.e. Turkey will not want the US military to leave).  Plus the US and Europe are also reliant on Turkey as part of the ballistic missile defence network, so Turkey's role and strategic defence value remains high and intact.

I can't see a reason so far for a civil war to brew within Turkey on a scale that would overthrow the Govt in Ankara.  Govts can adjust policies and this one most probably will soon.  The far greater danger is a NATO Head of Govt in Ankara stating his political intent to overthrow the Govt of Damascus.  That was very ill-advised, and will create decade of animosity across their mutual border because Ankara is most likely not going to get that, and either needs to rethink this soon, or change its Govt soon.