Israel has been at war with Syria since 1948. Period. Full stop. It has been at war over the Golan, West Bank, southern Lebanon, and Shebaa Farms, where no peace agreement or armistice has ever been signed or accomplished between Israel and Syria. During this time, the hegemonic power behind Syria’s war has primarily been about land, water, and resources, while Syria possesses tremendous untapped oil and mineral wealth.
Now in these changing geopolitical times the Kurds have been forced to negotiate with their neighbors instead of looking to the United States and Israel for support. Since Donald Trump has withdrawn most US forces from Syria, let’s explore in detail why Neocons and Neoliberals in the west are going spare about Syria.
According to the EIA: “Syria is the only relatively significant crude oil producing country in the Eastern Mediterranean region, which includes Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Syria produced about 400,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of crude and other petroleum liquids in 2010.” And, “According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Syria had 2,500,000,000 barrels (400,000,000 m3) of petroleum reserves as of 1 January 2010.”
Syria’s oil and gas production accounted for 1/5th of Syrian state revenue in 2010, and 1/3rd of its exports. Subsequent to the US State-led rebellion in Syria during 2011 however, Syria lost control of the oil fields east of the Euphrates.
Kurdish tribal elements in Syria have controlled the oil fields east of Deir Ezzor since then, and traded that oil to the United States in exchange for weaponry and funds to pursue battle with Turkey, and to some extent ISIS.
Like the United States, Israel too is aware of the enormous oil and gas reserve present in eastern Syria. On October 10th, Netanyahu wrote, “Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies. Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people.”
Now, what can Israel do to prevent the Turkish ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Kurds in Syria? No doubt the irony of Netanyahu’s statement here is lost on him, and strikes the rest of the world as somewhat tongue-in-cheek at best. Netanyahu says Israel will provide “humanitarian assistance” only, which highlights the erstwhile Israeli support for the Kurds since 1964, when ben Gurion judged the Kurds to be a strategic partner versus Saddam Hussein’s ‘radical Arab’ regime.
Indeed, besides seizing the Golan, West Bank, Shebaa Farms and Southern Lebanon from Syria, the Deep State’s tactical support for the Kurds is based on the strategic interplay of feuding powers as defined by Saddam Hussein’s rise to power in 1969.
By 1972 Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger believed that the Kurds would provide a useful foil to oppose and undermine the strategic alliance between Iraq and the Soviets. Israel too insisted that Kurdish instability in Northern Iraq would force the Iraqi leadership to maintain troops there, and prevent Iraqi forces from attacking Israel.
But even Nixon and Kissinger knew that a people split between four nations and without access to the sea could not form a viable state on their own. Promises made by the United States to the Kurds were (in eventuality) not kept, and Israel too was incapable of providing the Kurds autonomy.
As a result, the Kurds developed into a sort of mercenary force, fighting on behalf of Israel (versus Saddam) or for the United States, ultimately for financial gain; while the PKK – labeled as a terror group by the US – worked to destabilize Turkey, particularly resurging in 2011 with Clinton’s ‘Arab Spring’.
Considering that the United States largely created the fiasco in Syria beginning in earnest in 2011, it is difficult to consider the Kurds as a US ally, when the US placed the Kurds in harms way by inciting them versus America’s own NATO ally in 2011… and then put the Kurds on defensive via the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, the very ISIS terror group that the United States itself created.
Consider too the 1996 Israeli IASPS blueprint for the region (detailed in this October 10th tanker attack article) if we accept that the US withdrawal prima facie is a fundamental change to the global hegemonic after twenty-four years of Warfare State adventurism, then the Neocon/Neoliberal outrage about the US withdrawal from Syria is simply heir apparent.
Next consider the interest of the generals, the Pentagon, and Beltway contractors who all realize enormous profits from Syria. Whether by commissions, by share values, or by government contracts. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to forget the real lives and real consequences of the US war in Syria. Yes, it’s all about the oil, but it’s about real people too.
Just one example is the abortive attack on a Conoco oil installation near Deir Ezzor in February of 2018, which remains unexplained to this day. The New York Times used this tragedy to castigate Russia for possibly employing contractors in Syria, just as the US factually employs contractors in all war theatres where it operates. In other words, the tragedy in Syria is played by the media just like all the war propaganda the west produces, in pursuit of endless wars for profit, regardless of lives lost.
And so, while we shed a crocodile tear for the Kurds in Syria, please also consider the big picture… where we came from… how we got here… and where we might go next. Let’s hope the United States and Israel will not be involved. And if not, Washington’s Deep State will cry louder… and louder still.
Steve Brown is the author of “Iraq: the Road to War” (Sourcewatch) editor of “Bush Administration War Crimes in Iraq” (Sourcewatch) “Trump’s Limited Hangout” and “Federal Reserve: Out-sourcing the Monetary System to the Money Trust Oligarchs Since 1913”. Steve is an antiwar activist, a published scholar on the US monetary system, and has appeared as guest contributor to The Duran, Fort Russ News, Strategika51, and the Herland Report.