Trump State Department Adviser Urges Biden to Choke Off Syria’s Emergency Iranian Oil Lifeline
18:08 GMT 04.01.2022 (Updated: 16:46 GMT 08.01.2023)
Tehran has provided Damascus with billions of dollars in fuel aid as US troops and their Syrian Kurdish militia allies continue to block Syria’s access to as much as 90 percent of the Arab Republic’s domestic energy wealth. Iranian tanker crews have faced sabotage attacks while bringing oil to the besieged country.
The Biden administration should step up its sanctions on Iran’s provision of emergency fuel assistance to Syria, Andrew Tabler, a former senior adviser to James Jeffrey, the State Department’s special envoy for Syria, has recommended.
In an article in The National Interest, Tabler accused the president of "looking the other way" where Iran’s energy assistance to Syria was concerned, “even though Tehran’s shipments are a flagrant violation of both US sanctions and the administration’s stated policy of securing a solution in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, which calls for a Syrian-led process that would create a permanent, peaceful, and political end to he conflict.”
With this in mind, the former official recommended imposing new restriction on Iranian entities providing assistance to Syria, suggesting this should help achieve US policy objectives “and push [Syrian President Bashar] Assad away from Iran.”
Tabler suggested that there was “no better place” to start increasing pressure on Syria “than by targeting Iran’s oil shipments to Hezbollah via Syrian ports,” and recommended that Washington slap both the National Iranian Tanker Company and the National Iranian Oil Company with Syria-related restrictions. This, he said, would “send a powerful message to the regime that continued reliance on Iranian energy would come at a cost”.
Tabler served as director for Syria policy at the National Security Council’s Middle Eastern affairs directorate in 2019, and as a senior policy adviser to Trump Syria special envoy James Jeffrey between 2020 and 2021. Jeffrey made headlines in late 2020 after admitting that he deliberately deceived the president on the number of troops the US had operating in Syria at any one time, and openly bragging that his staff prevented Trump from pulling all US troops out of the country after the defeat of Daesh* in 2018 and again in 2019.
13 November 2020, 18:42 GMT
Iran provided Syria with a $3.6 billion emergency credit to buy oil products in 2013, and its tankers have risked the threat of sabotage attacks (allegedly by Israel) while bringing oil to the country after Damascus lost control over its oil-producing regions, first to Daesh and then to the US and its Syrian Democratic Forces militia allies.
Iranian officials estimate that more than ten
of its commercial vessels sent to Syria between 2019 and 2021 were attacked or sabotaged by Israel while en route to their destination.
Syrian media report almost every day
that tens of millions of dollars’ of oil have been smuggled from US-occupied Syrian territories. However, although President Trump openly bragged about “taking” and “keeping” Syria’s oil, the Biden White House has kept silent on its involvement in smuggling activities, claiming
instead that it is “securing” Syrian oil and gas production facilities from terrorists.
As well as keeping a tight grip on Syria’s oil facilities, Washington has imposed Caesar sanctions on Damascus which allow the US to slap secondary sanctions on any country or company that cooperates or does business with the Assad government.
These policies have served to slow Syria’s economic recovery from a decade-long foreign-backed war, and prevented the import of much-needed foreign assistance, including medical supplies.
The US and Europe have kept sanctions in place against Syria even as hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have begun to return home, thereby easing the European refugee crisis and the pressure on Syria’s neighbours, including Turkey and Jordan, in housing and supporting refugees materially. In 2021, the Russian defence ministry reported that more than 2.23 million
Syrians had returned home thanks to the stabilisation of the situation in Syria.
During a visit to an industrial park outside Damascus last year, President Assad expressed confidence
that his country would be able to overcome the West’s crushing siege and restore its industrial base. In 2018, Assad estimated that it would cost between $200 billion and $400 billion to repair the damage caused by the war to the country’s economy.
* Daesh (ISIL/ISIS) is a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.