Though it's as yet uncertain whether the Pentagon is actually going to execute the plan, Trump is mulling keeping a small US troop contingency in Syria in order to "secure the oil".
The president said at a cabinet meeting Monday: “I always said if you’re going in, keep the oil,” the WSJ reported. “We’ll work something out with the Kurds so that they have some money, so that they have some cash flow. Maybe we’ll get one of our big oil companies to go in and do it properly.”
In response, former special presidential anti-ISIL envoy Brett McGurk, who served under both the Obama and Trump administrations, stated the obvious: “Oil, like it or not, is owned by the Syrian state,” he said Monday. “Maybe there are new lawyers, but it was just illegal for an American company to go and seize and exploit these assets."
Obviously the US doesn't "need" Syrian oil, but would utilize seized oil and gas fields as part of its continued campaign of economic strangulation against Damascus and Tehran.
Syria's smashed war economy has suffered further over the fact that it has for years been cut off from its own domestic energy supplies — first by ISIS occupation of its key oil and gas fields east of the Euphrates, and then by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
But the question remains: how much oil is actually at stake in Syria?
The below analysis is provided by "Ehsani" — a Middle East expert, Syrian-American banker and financial analyst who visits the region frequently and writes for the influential geopolitical analysis blog, Syria Comment.
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Total reserves are estimated at 2.5 Billion barrels and at least 75% of these reserves are in the fields surrounding Deir Al Zor.
Current revenue from oil sales goes to the [US-backed] SDF, currently estimated at $10 million a month. These revenues are expected to rise should U.S. help in modernizing current fields. SDF can then sell the oil to Damascus and/or Kurdistan in Iraq which will in turn sell to Turkey.
Turkey's current oil consumption is about 1 million barrels a day. Syria's reserves are 2.5 billion barrels and daily production can be quickly increased to approximately 300K barrels a day.
The SDF can therefore look to supply at least one-fifth of Turkey’s needs via Iraq.
Assad: “Erdogan is a thief ... he has robbed the factories, wheat and oil, and today he is robbing the land” pic.twitter.com/IUYw8IiLFu— EHSANI2 (@EHSANI22) October 22, 2019
Turkey will also look to obtain direct access to Syria's Rumeilan oil field in the northeast should it complete its seizing of the North-East zone. Between them, Ankara and the SDF (with protection of U.S military) can soon control up to 90 percent of Syria's 2.5 billion oil reserves.
Syria's 2.5 billion barrels in oil reserves are rather “negligible” compared to say Saudi Arabia, with oil reserves at around 268 billion barrels (over 100 times that of Syria). Note that the SDF is currently selling Syria’s oil at around $30 per barrel.