From nearly the start of the now eight-year long war in Syria, analysts and commentators polarized into two camps, with some calling the conflict a "popular uprising" in cause of democracy against a brutal dictator, and with others seeing it as a 'regime change war' fueled largely by US imperialist interests.
While there's many layers to what most can now acknowledge long ago became a complex international proxy war, America's commander-in-chief just issued an astounding admission that has a number of pundits scratching their heads.
Following a Friday morning phone call with Turkey's Erdogan over Thursday's newly inked ceasefire deal with the Kurds, President Trump tweeted "The U.S. has secured the Oil, & the ISIS Fighters are double secured by Kurds & Turkey..."
.....this thinking years ago. Instead, it was always held together with very weak bandaids, & in an artificial manner. There is good will on both sides & a really good chance for success. The U.S. has secured the Oil, & the ISIS Fighters are double secured by Kurds & Turkey....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2019
Amid Trump's 'mission accomplished' moment where he also said "The Kurds are very happy, Turkey is very happy, the U.S. is very happy" (though we seriously doubt the Kurds are happy) — came these further statements in front of reporters:
"We've taken control of the oil in the Middle East," the president said.
Though not elaborating on his provocative statement further, it remains that though a general US troop draw down in Syria has been ordered, 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. Thus presumably the president was talking specifically about "securing" Syria's oil, which over the past two years has been an accomplished fact.
"We've taken control of the oil in the Middle East," says @POTUS (who didn't respond to subsequent questions from me and other pool reporters to elaborate on what he means by that).— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) October 18, 2019
On Thursday, we asked the question: will US forces withdraw even from occupying Syria's largest oil fields, like the massive al-Omar field? Will the Pentagon hand back another major energy resource, Conoco gas field, to Damascus?
Over two years ago, as the Syrian Army was racing toward its oil and gas heartland in Deir Ezzor just as the Islamic State was in retreat, the US-backed SDF took over the region, with support of American fighter jets.
Above: overhead view Conoco/Tabiya plant. ConocoPhillips founded it, yet is not currently associated with the company. After 2005 the facility was entirely state-owned and operated.
Since then, Damascus has demanded the giant oil and gas fields be turned back over to their legitimate owner, the Syrian state.
The US in turn maintained a tight blockade against Damascus on these vital energy supplies, combined with more recent crippling sanctions on Syria's ability to import oil (which it must now get primarily from Iran).
But with the war now clearly winding down, and Trump's stated desire to exit the theater altogether, is he ready to finally hand back Syria's crucial energy heartland?
Though it's not the first time Trump has briefly pulled back the curtain to reveal naked US imperial self-interest in Syria at work (instead of Washington's usual "humanitarian" war rhetoric), explicitly connecting the Pentagon's presence in the region with oil and MidEast energy, Friday's comments are deeply revealing in terms of what may keep the Pentagon there, even if there's a "light footprint," as US pundits like to say.
But if Syria's oil and gas fields are finally handed back, this will be the surest sign every US soldier is set to come home from Syria.