"Now we're getting out... let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand," President Trump said during a major, unannounced speech from the White House declaring America's "big success" in Syria.
As we predicted, he confirmed the US is "getting out" but it's not quite the reality, because he also confirmed a "small number" of American troops will stay in Syria to protect oil in the region.
"We have secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of U.S. Troops will remain in the area where they have the oil," Trump said. "And we're going to be protecting it, and we'll be deciding what we're going to do with it in the future."
But of course, this oil belongs to the Syrian state and its people, as even former top White House Syria and Iraq envoy Brett McGurk, stated bluntly this week: “Oil, like it or not, is owned by the Syrian state.”
Trump also acknowledged during the Wednesday televised address, in a rare reference to past White House policy, that Obama embarked on a failed "regime change" bid in Syria, which morphed into a nightmarish war taking 500,000 lives.
Currently, even amid a US troop pullback in the north, American special forces and Kurdish-led SDF forces remain in control of the key oil and gas infrastructure in the Deir Ezzor region, east of the Euphrates. The major oil and gas fields in the eastern region such as al-Omar, Conoco field, and Rumeilan oil field, remain Syria's only significant domestic energy access.
TRUMP on Syria's oil: "We've secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of US Troops will remain in the area. Where they have the oil. And we're going to be protecting it, and we'll be deciding what we're going to do with it in the future." pic.twitter.com/nKgmXS4yRx— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 23, 2019
Perhaps this policy of "we're keeping the oil" will at least dispel among the public and media that Washington's actions in the Middle East are somehow 'noble'.
Clearly at the end of the day it appears more simply as just naked US imperialism, bent on economic strangulation of the Syrian people in order to bend Damascus (and its ally Iran) to America's will.
But there's always a 'fig leaf' justification concocted. In this case it was expressed by the Secretary of Defense yesterday: “Esper said the main goal of leaving some troops around the oil fields would be to make sure the Islamic State doesn’t gain control of the revenue they generate,” the Associated Press reported.
Though Trump has now expressed his will to "protect" the oil for US interests, one key question remains: how on a practical military level will this be done?
The Syrian Kurds have already done a deal with Assad, which will likely lead to further forced concessions (the oil and gas fields being primary, which clearly the White House is grasping for as last minute leverage).
So ultimately Trump's plan could see a tiny contingent of US special forces stationed in the heart of a sovereign state, specifically in oil fields, with little practical logistical support and access, and surrounded by hostile powers.