Alwaght- Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, the control over the significant West Asian country’s energy resources has been raised by many analyses shedding light on the reasons behind the intervention of regional and international powers there.
The illegal sales of the Syrian oil by the militant groups by the help of some of the regional countries occasionally find their way to the media reports. But every time the involved countries deny a role in the facilitation of sales of oil that is mainly in the regions held by the Syrian Kurds. However, a couple of days ago, Al-Akhbar newspaper of Lebanon, citing “leaked documents” reported that it has learned that the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), a north-based Kurdish organization affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has granted permission to an American-Israeli businessman, Moti Kahana, to export the northern region’s oil. The Syrian separatist council’s measure raises questions about its goals as well as about the consequences of its measure at home and the region’s levels.
Syria produces only 0.5 percent of the global oil. Still, the oil industry played a considerable role in the Arab nation’s economy before and after the eruption of the crisis, now in its ninth year. This significance of this Syrian industry becomes further clear if we know that Syria is the only producer of oil among the eastern Mediterranean coastal nations like Lebanon, Jordan, and occupied Palestine. Before the home conflict, which started in 2011 following foreign arming of militias, the country produced 378,000 oil barrels per day, 140,000 of which exported and the remaining consumed at home. France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and Turkey were the main buyers of the Syrian oil. After the outbreak of the devastating war, the oil production sharply fell, to 15,000 barrels a day.
After the defeat of the ISIS, a terrorist group that emerged in the country in 2014 and announced a caliphate stretching from Syria to Iraq, the country moved into relative stability that ushered in what is called post-ISIS period. Earlier this year, Al-Qasioun newspaper of Syria reported that the national oil production increased to 24,000 barrels daily. Over 80 percent of the oil-rich spots are located in the northeast and the Kurdish-majority areas. In the predominantly Kurdish province, there are some 1330 oilfields. Sweydya oilfield in Rmelan, a town in Hasakah province in the northeast, is the biggest oilfield of the country. Also the US has its eyes on the Syrian oil. Since 2016, the Americans tried, in association with the allied SDF, to produce 145,000 oil barrels every day from three oilfields of Al-Omar, Al-Tanak, and Conoco.
Oil in the Syrian equations
In 2015, a pipeline transferring oil from Rmelan oilfield to two central government-operated refineries was destroyed by ISIS terrorists. As a result, a major amount of the produced oil was to be sent to the refineries using tankers. The Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political wing of the Kurdish SDF, took advantage of the central government’s need for oil and since then used oil as a political pressure tool. The PYD signed a contract with a company that used to buy oil from ISIS and sell it to Damascus.
When Turkey launched a military campaign in Manbij in late 2018, a Kurdish-held town in Syria’s northeast, the Kurds developed doubt about the US intention to protect them in the face of the Turkish operation. The issue took serious aspects especially after the US President Donald Trump said in February he wants to withdraw his forces from Syria. Having in mind that the major oil refineries are held by the central government and with the defeat of ISIS Damascus government tightened its control over the coastal provinces and their markets, the SDF decided that they need to work with the government to export oil. They, thus, handed over to Damascus the northern Deir ez-Zor oil facilities and Conoco gas field. But they continued their competition for further control of oil sources.
Syrian Kurds and the Israeli regime
Since 2014, Tel Aviv publicized its support to the Syrian Kurds to perpetuate the home conflict and split of the Arab country. Ofra Benjio, the head of the Kurdish studies at the Tel Aviv University, revealed that a number of the Syrian Kurdish leaders secretly traveled to the Israeli regime to talk cooperation. In the same year, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced support to the Kurdish independence from Syria, something realizing an Israeli plan to escalate the tensions in the region.
On the other side, Trump through his uncertain Syria policy has shown that he does not intend to spend money in Syria. That is what arouses the ire of the Syrian Kurds. The Kurds should either deliver their territories back to the central government to stop Turkey’s advances or seek a new allay. If they negotiate the geopolitical issues with the government of President Bashar al-Assad, a last stage of the Syrian war will end. Apparent enough, a strong and united Syria runs counter to the Israeli objectives and policies. Tel Aviv, considering the share of the Kurds from the Syrian oil sources according to past agreements with Damascus, tempted the Kurdish leaders for cooperation by vowing to help them produce 400,000 a day.
In a letter sent to Kahana by Ilham Ahmed, the co-head of the SDC, the Israeli businessman is granted an authorization to sell the Syrian oil “under the supervision of the US Department of Treasury.” If this agreement is implemented, the SDF will earn $24 million daily and more than $3 billion annually, an income made thanks to an Israeli-established link between the Kurds and the US.
What the Israelis benefit from such a deal is a deeper influence in Syria and the power to push for the split of the Arab country using the economic instruments and circumventing the Damascus-operated refineries. This is a mission the Amalia charity foundation, affiliated with Mossad, launched a couple of years ago under the guise of charity work in the Kurdish-majority Syrian regions. The mission is presided by Kahana.
If such a big amount of oil is transferred out of Syria, it will be a rentier exchange between Tel Aviv and the Kurds that will corrupt the SDF leaders as they work in line with the Israeli interests and betray the Syrian and Kurdish people already suffering because of the Israeli meddling and contribution to terrorism in Syria.