[pjw] NEWS: US to leave forces in Syria to defend oil fields (Wash Post 10/25)

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Fri Oct 25 14:02:48 EDT 2019

Hi PJW supporters

I recognize that the US has (once again, as repeatedly in history) not 
followed through on its apparent promised to the Kurdish people, but in 
the long view of things this was inevitable. The US only uses the Kurds as 
an excuse to protect American access to oil, as seen in Iraq and now in 
Syria. And if anyone thinks this is an oversimplification, _the US is now 
explicitly saying they want to stay in Syria to guard oil fields._

Just as bad is the Washington Post's coverage of the flimsy justifications 
for the US' most recent (of the 7 ongoing wars) imperialist occupation of 
another nation:

  The Pentagon is operating in Syria under the long-standing Authorization
  for Use of Military Force passed by lawmakers in the wake of terrorist
  attacks in September 2001 to target "nations, organizations, or persons"
  who were involved and to prevent "future acts of international

  While the Obama and Trump administrations have argued that allows action
  against the Islamic State, there are concerns that the Syrian regime or
  forces aligned with it also could want the oil fields.

Where to even start with this? The Islamic State, which is ostensibly the 
organization the US is battling, did not exist at the time of 9/11 and in 
fact came into existence _because of the US's use of this Authorization 
for Use of Military Force to excuse its war in Iraq_ (albeit they passed 
another flimsy AUMF specific to Iraq).

Moreover, there are fears that the Syrian regime wants access to the oil 
fields... in eastern Syria??? Not that anyone should be drilling for 
fossil fuels anymore, but the oil fields are _in the country of Syria_ so 
this is a strange thing to "fear."

I'm not hearing a lot about how Trump could have, say, gone to the UN 
Security Council to come up with a withdrawal plan that didn't involve 
mass civilian evacuations, the military incursion by Turkey, or the 
brokering of deals over a third country's territory by two Security 
Council members (US and Russia), especially given that they each have veto 
power so would have had to approve anything there. Again, not saying the 
UN is a perfect structure, nor that Trump's decision was enacted the right 
way, but the idea to get the US military out of Syria is a good and 
necessary one.

dan handelman
peace and justice works iraq affinity group


U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says U.S. will leave forces in Syria to defend
oil fields from Islamic State
By Michael Birnbaum and Missy Ryan
Oct. 25, 2019 at 7:20 a.m. PDT

BRUSSELS . Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Friday that the United 
States would leave forces in Syria to protect oil fields and keep them 
from falling into the hands of the Islamic State.

The announcement marked an abrupt and partial reversal of President 
Trump's speedy withdrawal from Syria, and it capped a meeting of NATO 
defense ministers that showcased intense anger among some alliance members 
toward Turkey for its decision to pour troops into Syria.

The move came a day after Trump said the United States would prevent the 
Islamic State from regaining control of oil fields in eastern Syria and 
signaled an increasing U.S. focus on Syrian energy assets.

"We are also considering how we might reposition forces in the area in 
order to make sure that we secure the oil fields," Esper said. "We are now 
taking some actions. I'm not going to get into the details."

He said the U.S. deployment "would include some mechanized forces," but he 
declined to comment on reports that the Pentagon's plans include the 
possibility of tanks or other armored vehicles and support personnel. The 
purpose of the troop repositioning is to "ensure that we can deny ISIS 
access to the oil fields," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic 

Esper said the overall U.S. withdrawal from Syria would continue. The 
troops would remain in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zour, where 
the United States has maintained a base, Esper said. He said the U.S. 
military remains in close contact with the Syrian Kurdish forces that it 
has long assisted.

Esper's announcement came a day after Trump said on Twitter that "we will 
NEVER let a reconstituted ISIS have those fields!"

"Perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the Oil Region!" he 

The change further dilutes the practical effect of the U.S. pullout from 
Syria, which critics say essentially gave the Turkish invasion a green 
light and endangered a battlefield ally, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic 
Forces (SDF).

Pentagon officials have expressed concern that the unstable situation in 
Syria could allow the Islamic State to regain strength. Administration 
leaders have been discussing options, including tanks and associated U.S. 
troops, to protect oil fields that are currently under SDF control.

The shift to protecting oil fields also could raise issues in Congress.

The Pentagon is operating in Syria under the long-standing Authorization 
for Use of Military Force passed by lawmakers in the wake of terrorist 
attacks in September 2001 to target "nations, organizations, or persons" 
who were involved and to prevent "future acts of international terrorism."

While the Obama and Trump administrations have argued that allows action 
against the Islamic State, there are concerns that the Syrian regime or 
forces aligned with it also could want the oil fields. In February 2018, 
U.S. forces said they used airstrikes and artillery to kill more than 100 
advancing Syrian forces in the same area after commanders determined that 
U.S. troops on the ground were in danger.

Esper was pressed repeatedly at a news conference in Brussels for more 
specifics about whether the plans included tanks and about how many troops 
would remain deployed around the oil fields, but he declined to offer more 

One U.S. official, speaking before Esper's announcement, said an operation 
to secure oil fields would probably require about a company of U.S. troops 
at the outset, including a couple hundred service members, several tanks 
and supporting equipment.

The details would be decided based on what equipment is already in the 
theater, said the official, who spoke on the condition on anonymity 
because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The announcement capped two days of discussions at NATO headquarters in 
Brussels that were dominated by anger at the invasion of Syria by Turkey, 
a fellow NATO member. One after another, defense ministers castigated 
Turkish officials for a move that many said risked undermining European 
security by destabilizing northeastern Syria. Turkish forces invaded Syria 
to push back U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighting groups that Ankara says 
pose a security threat to Turkey.

The Kurds played a leading role in pushing the Islamic State out of its 
territory in the region, and more recently they had been operating prison 
camps in which former Islamic State fighters and families were interned. 
The Turkish incursion has led to prison escapes and fears of a renewed 
terrorism threat to Europe.

Esper said Friday that Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar informed him 
that Turkey has regained control of at least some alleged Islamic State 
detainees in Syria who escaped.

A spokeswoman for the Turkish mission to NATO did not immediately respond 
to a call for comment.

Turkey's agreement this week with Russia to jointly send in troops to the 
region to fill the vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal has also caused 
heartburn at NATO, an alliance that spends much of its energy countering 
threats from the Kremlin. European countries fearful of a Russian security 
risk on their borders dislike that an ally, Turkey, is making security 
deals with Russia elsewhere in the world.

"These are disagreements on a very serious situation in northeast Syria," 
said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who has struggled to hold 
together an organization that runs by consensus.

NATO members have little recourse to take action against Turkey. The 
organization's rules do not allow members to be kicked out against their 
will; nor is it a venue for sanctions to be imposed. Individual members 
have broad power to put holds on decisions. And many NATO members still 
calculate that, even though Turkey can be a frustrating ally, alliance 
security is still improved with Turkey inside.

But many NATO policymakers fear the instability in Syria has been a gift 
to Russia. The upheaval in northern Syria has strengthened Russia's 
position in the Middle East at a time when European nations have voiced 
concern that a resurgent Russia could threaten their security.

"We are not very enthusiastic when we see Russians on former U.S. bases," 
said Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimondas Karoblis. "The alliance should 
not give gifts to a strategic competitor."

Esper meanwhile must navigate strong feelings of resentment within the 
Pentagon that the Trump administration has abandoned a battlefield ally 
and potentially provided an opening to the Islamic State, despite the 
president's depiction of events in Syria as a success. Trump this week 
said the region was safer than before, as he appeared to overlook a host 
of potential challenges to U.S. security including the expansion of 
Russia's military role in Syria and a possibility of renewed 
Turkish-Kurdish fighting.

On the other side of the domestic divisions, Esper must also keep in mind 
the animosity Trump has articulated toward NATO and his belief that the 
alliance has not provided value to the United States.

Esper "has an audience of one," said Jim Townsend, who served as a senior 
Pentagon official for NATO and Europe under President Barack Obama, 
referring to Trump.

Ryan reported from Washington. Dan Lamothe in Washington contributed to 
this report.

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