Syrian and Libyan oil: Washington’s hand in the till

People across the middle east continue to suffer war and economic hardships as the price of living on top of coveted oil resources.

Lalkar writers

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Lalkar writers

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Despite the clear failure of the western-backed jihadi war of subversion against Syria to impose a change of leadership, thanks to the courageous resistance of the Syrian Arab Army and the fraternal assistance of Russia and Iran, imperialism continues in its efforts to strangle the country economically, so hampering the nation’s reconstruction.

It does this in two ways: by the imposition of sanctions, and by obstructing government access to the nation’s oil wealth, concentrated primarily in the north-east of the country.

Daylight robbery in Syria

Imperialism’s chosen guard dogs in the Kurdish SDF rent-an-army are ostensibly tasked with ‘protecting’ this oil resource from remnants of Islamic State, but their real job is to deprive the Syrian nation of its own oil revenues and hold the door open for imperialist plunder.

This is now openly declared US policy. On 30 July, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo told the Senate foreign relations committee that an (as yet unnamed) American oil company would begin operations in the north-east of Syria in areas under SDF occupation.

To back the SDF militarily, US forces are being established in the provinces of Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor, and US convoys have been ferrying war materiel into the north-east.

This new US aggression has not gone unanswered by patriotic forces however. A Syrian Arab Army checkpoint near the settlement of Tell al-Zakhab recently barred entry of a US patrol into a government-controlled area southeast of the city of Qamishli in Hasakah.

A US reprisal airstrike sadly claimed the life of one soldier and injured two more, but this flouting of Syrian sovereignty is meeting with increasing resistance from people in Syrian towns and villages, who have repeatedly denied passage to US convoys, driving them back into SDF-controlled areas.

One Syrian tribe in the province of Deir ez-Zor, the Al-Uqaydat, has announced the formation of a military council to launch popular resistance against both the Americans and the Kurds. It blames America for the assassination of a tribal elder, Matshar al-Hafl, as well as complaining about other assassinations of its leaders by the SDF.

Clearly, the US has not lost the knack of winning hearts and minds that served it so well in Vietnam.

The price of oil in Libya

Oil is also central to the civil strife that continues to make life a misery for Libyans, who, after seeing over four decades’ worth of economic and social progress wiped out by western-backed counter-revolution and Nato bombs, now live in fear as rival imperialist interests pick through the ruins to plunder the country’s mineral wealth.

Whilst the ‘international community’ pretends to have its sights set on peace and reconciliation in Libya, the biggest obstacle to that outcome is precisely the conflicting vested interests of those imperialists who are backing the two sides.

When the western-backed Benghazi revolt against the Libyan revolution blew up in 2011, the French oil company Total did a secret deal with the rebels, who promised it a tempting range of oil concessions should the revolt prove successful. Britain’s BP and Italy’s ENI had already secured concessions in the 1990s.

Turkey, meanwhile, is anxious to get access to gas deposits under the Mediterranean, and hopes to achieve this by lending its support to the so-called ‘Government of National Accord’ (GNA). However, in spite of the fact that the UN officially recognises the GNA as the legitimate government, Turkey is in practice its only major backer, bringing it into collision with fellow Nato member France, which backs the revolt by the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar, a stand shared by most other international parties.

Ankara and the GNA have identified an ‘exclusive economic zone’ off the Libyan coast to which Turkey has been granted access – in exchange for increased military assistance.

Whilst most of the blood being shed on all sides is Libyan, direct conflict between France and Turkey erupted on the high seas at the beginning of July.

In theory, the United Nations has put an embargo on arms sales to either side in the war, which Nato is supposed to be policing. According to Paris, however, when one of its ships tried to approach a freighter suspected of running weapons to Libya, three Turkish warships threatened it, lighting it up three times by targeting radar.

Ankara has hotly denied the Paris version of events, as each country accuses the other of breaking the arms embargo.

Efforts by Russia to broker a truce have been hampered by the GNA’s insistence on winning militarily, despite the declared readiness of the LNA to sign up for an immediate ceasefire.

And, behind the scenes, rival imperialist interests prolong and exacerbate the civil conflict as they jostle to be in the best position to take control of Libya’s oil wealth.