Syria's economic recovery is hindered by the US Caesar Act, which penalises foreign firms for dealing with Syrian government entities, as well as by the US-backed Kurdish forces' takeover of the Arab Republic's rich oil and gas areas and agricultural lands in northeast, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov highlighted during a Russian delegation's Monday visit to Damascus while discussing ways to ramp up the region's revival.
"We stated that relative calm has been established in Syria and that we need to work on strengthening this trend", said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the joint press-conference with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem. "This does not suit everyone, hence the attempts of a number of external players to fire up separatist sentiments in Syria and use unilateral and illegitimate measures to smother the country's economy."
Washington's Goals in Syria Remain Unchanged
Over the past several years, the US has dealt a heavy blow to Syria's economy by ruining its infrastructure and imposing tough sanctions on the Arab Republic, observes Basma Qaddour, a Syrian journalist and head of the news department at Syria Times.
"[The US] deprives the Syrian government of the revenues of oil through appointing the Kurdish 'Syrian Democratic Forces' group as 'guards' of Syrian oil fields", she emphasises. "The US openly steals 200,000 oil barrels from the Syrian oil fields on a daily basis. It has also stolen 400,000 tonnes of cotton and sets fire to thousands of hectares of wheat fields. It has stolen 5 million livestock. It is deliberately weakening the value of the Syrian pound."
The aforementioned figures were also voiced by the Syrian delegation at the United Nations Security Council's meeting on 16 June 2020. In late October 2019, the Russian Defence Ministry released a detailed report on US oil-smuggling activities in Syria, presenting satellite intelligence data, and dubbing Washington's actions as nothing short of "international state banditry".
For its part, the Pentagon confirmed that it had denied the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian allies access to the country's oil fields. "We want to make sure the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] does have access to the resources in order to guard the prisons, in order to arm their own troops, in order to assist us with the defeat Daesh* mission," US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper told journalists on 28 October 2019.
Qaddour notes that in an apparent attempt to "legitimise" what appears to be the outright theft of the Syrian nation's oil, the American firm Delta Crescent Energy LLC inked a deal with the Kurds in the northeast. The agreement was denounced as null and void by Damascus.
"This is a deal between two thieves", the Syrian journalist highlights. "The first one steals Syrian oil, while the second one buys it from the first one."
As Politico revealed in early August, Delta Crescent Energy's partners include "former US ambassador to Denmark James Cain; James Reese, a former officer in the Army’s elite Delta Force; and John P. Dorrier Jr., a former executive at GulfSands Petroleum, a UK-based oil company with offices and drilling experience in Syria."
Commenting on motives behind Washington's apparent attempts to ruin the Arab Republic's economy, Qaddour opines that the major US goals under the Obama and Trump administrations have remained unchanged: it "still wants to topple President Bashar al-Assad, who is the legitimately elected president, to fragment Syria and destroy it" in order to upend cooperation between Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, which would play into the hands of America's principal allies in the region: Israel and Saudi Arabia.
There's No Reason to Risk the Lives of US Troops
Whatever goals Washington is pursuing in Syria, it has no leverage to accomplish them: Syrians are unlikely to tolerate the occupation of their land by the US and its proxies, the journalist highlights, referring to sporadic attacks on illegal US occupation forces' bases and US-Backed Kurdish militia sites.
"The US presence in Syria is illegitimate and illegal and they are occupation forces," she points out. "So, Washington has to keep in mind that there will be popular resistance against them and they will return home, either dead or alive. It is up to their administration."
According to Qaddour, the occupation of Syrian territory has nothing to do with US national interests and American soldiers should not be put at risk for the sake of a completely pointless mission.
Last month, Arab tribal leaders in Deir ez-Zor Governorate issued an ultimatum to the US forces and their "proxies", the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), demanding that they pull out of the region within a month. They also condemned the US-led coalition for the murder of Syrian sheikhs in the region. Tribal representatives of Aleppo joined the chorus and vowed to support a Syrian popular resistance against the "occupants".
"We are calling on the international coalition to transfer control over the province directly to its Arab population, respecting Syria's territorial integrity, as well as the rights of Syrian citizens," the tribal elders emphasised.
'What are US Troops Doing in Syria Anyway?'
Meanwhile, it appears that American intelligence specialists and foreign policy observers have started to realise the "futility" of Washington's mission in Syria.
On 3 September, Newsweek quoted an unnamed senior US intelligence official as describing Washington’s current strategy in Syria as a “clusterf**k”, and adding "We don't have a strategy".
The next day, Business Insider published an op-ed by US author and international affairs analyst Christopher Mott, eloquently titled "Keeping US troops in Syria to counter Russia has the opposite effect."
According to Mott, there is virtually no reason for "risking the lives of US troops to maintain remote areas of Syria" while "the dangers of US forces being sucked into the next round of combat in northern Syria are very real."
The American analyst points out "the long-term US presence in eastern Syria wobbles on unsteady foundations." Though officially the Pentagon's mission in Syria envisages defeating Daesh*, the terrorist group has already been thwarted. On the other hand, the US mission of securing oil looks questionable: Syria's oil reserves are neither "impressive" nor a "significant percentage of the global or even regional market", the author notes. Besides this, the strategic necessity of the Middle East for US energy production is also losing its relevance, according to the analyst, who argued that "US forces should be withdrawn from Syria immediately."
"The US's position in the world would be stronger without all these apparent low-stakes, high-danger deployments," insisted Mott.
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