Despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to end “forever wars” by withdrawing troops from Syria, the U.S. has in fact taken over oil fields in the country. By doing this, Washington is further entrenching itself in the eight-year-long war as well as setting itself up for long term confrontation with regional actors.
Ostensibly, the U.S. presence is meant to protect oil fields from a potentially resurgent ISIS, which had previously relied on both Syrian and Iraqi oil to finance its terrorist activities. However, it is likely that the real motivations are to deny other powers these resources. While Syria’s oil output is relatively low by regional standards, cash-strapped Damascus would find the revenues from the oil extremely beneficial as it enters the final stages of the war and looks towards rebuilding the country. By preventing the Syrian government from retaking their oil fields, the U.S. is effectively shifting the economic burden back to both the government as well as Russia, which won’t be able to shoulder post-war reconstruction efforts by itself.
By denying Damascus, the U.S. is also limiting Iranian influence in the country. The growing unpopularity of its role in Syria could come back to bite the Tehran government as domestic issues worsen due to U.S. sanctions.
Additionally, continued American entrenchment in the region will probably soothe politicians, like Senator Lindsay Graham, who opposes any U.S. withdrawal from Syria and supports alignment with Israel and Saudi Arabia as part of an anti-Iran axis.
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