Great powers jockey for control of Syrian oil

Syria oil map

In his talks with Vladimir Putin on their carve-up of northern Syria, Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that he has proposed joint Russian-Turkish control of the oil-fields in Deir ez-Zor province, now under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). “I made the offer to Mr. Putin that if he gives financial support, we can do the construction, and through the oil obtained here, we can help the destroyed Syria get on its feet,” Erdogan told reporters March 10. (Al Monitor) The Wall Street Journal meanwhile reports that the SDF has been selling oil from the Deir ez-Zor fields to the Assad regime. A regime-aligned entity called the Qatirji Group is reportedly brokering the deal. (VOA)

This is certainly an absurd irony. The US slapped sanctions on the  Qatirji Group back when it was similarly brokering deals for oil from those same fields when they were controlled by ISIS. Those sanctions remain in place—yet US forces are backing up the SDF in control of the Deir ez-Zor fields. Further evidence that, rhetoric and even official policy notwithstanding, the US is actually tilting to Assad in the Syrian war.

The sales would appear to be another bid by the Kurds to win a separate peace with the Assad regime now that they are caught between foreign powers—with Turkey especially hostile to any notion of a Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria. The bitter irony is that Assad, ultimately, is also hostile to Kurdish autonomy.

Bashar Assad has continued to reject any notion of Kurdish self-government in Syrian territory. In comments to Russian media in January, he went further, and even seemed to deny the identity and legitimacy of the Rojava Kurds altogether. “Regarding the so-called ‘Kurdish issue,’ there is nothing called a ‘Kurdish issue’ in Syria for a simple reason: Kurds have been living in Syria throughout history but some [Kurdish] groups who live [in] the north came [to Syria] during the last century due to Turkish [government] oppression,” the dictator told Rossiya-24 in an interview. “They took citizenship in Syria although they were originally not Syrians. Therefore, we are always positive towards the subject of Kurds. The so-called ‘Kurdish issue’ is not true but illusive and a lie.” (Rudaw)

If the reports are true that the Rojava Kurds are selling oil to Assad, with US connivance, this not only points to the cynicism and hypocrisy of the US position, but to the utter desperation of the Kurds, now that their territory has been usurped and occupied by foreign powers.

Map: Energy Consulting Group