01:00 GMT17 June 2021
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    In late 2019, US President Donald Trump candidly admitted that Washington had “left troops behind” in Syria “only for the oil". Damascus has blasted Trump for pillaging the Arab Republic’s resources, but President Bashar al-Assad also praised him for openly admitting the real reason US forces continue to occupy part of his country.

    A convoy of 20 tankers laden with oil pumped from wells in the US-occupied region of Jazira left Hasakah province heading toward the illegal Al Waleed border crossing between Syria and Iraq on Saturday night, local sources have told the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).

    The agency's sources did not provide any more information about the convoy’s composition, and whether it included any military escorts.

    In late September, the news agency reported that another convoy consisting of 35 tankers had slipped across the border, with more smuggling incidents reported this past summer.

    Late last year, Russian military intelligence released a report on US oil-smuggling activities in Syria, revealing that the Pentagon, private contractors, the CIA and Kurdish militias were shipping up to $30 million-worth of black gold out of the war-torn country every month.

    In a related development, SANA reported Sunday that US forces had brought a convoy of 30 vehicles into Syria from Iraq via the Al Waleed crossing point to shore up its bases in Hasakah, with the convoy said to include refrigerator trucks, tankers, and a plethora of Hummers, with aircraft providing air cover as the convoy travelled toward Qamishli city. Some 55 vehicles including 13 military units were deployed to the city a week earlier.

    Also on Sunday, reports emerged that a militia member belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was killed and several others wounded in attacks on their positions in the Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor countryside by unidentified militants in gun and bomb attacks. Two days earlier, four SDF troops were reportedly killed and several others wounded after an improvised explosive device blew up near their military vehicles. The SDF is known to be fighting a combination of Turkish-backed militants and Daesh (ISIS)* remnants in areas under its control. At the same time, the group and its US allies have repeatedly faced off with Syrian civilians protesting their occupation and alleged mistreatment.

    The vast majority of Syria’s oil resources are concentrated in the country’s north-eastern provinces of Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor. Before its foreign-backed civil war began in 2011, the country was able to use its oil resources, modest compared with some other nations in the region, to provide itself with energy self-sufficiency, and to generate roughly 20 percent of the state’s revenues. Damascus estimates that it will need the equivalent of between $200 billion and $400 billion to rebuild from the war. However, reconstruction efforts have been hindered by the continued presence of US forces, their Kurdish allies, and Turkey-backed militias in the region, and their pilfering of Syrian resources.

    In August, Damascus denounced a US energy company's signing of an oil deal with the SDF, calling it an act of "aggression" against Syria's sovereignty, and suggesting that its main objective was "to hinder the efforts of the state aimed at the reconstruction of what was destroyed by terrorism supported mainly by the US administration itself."

    * A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.


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