Syria’s oil fields have long since fallen out of the government’s control, with the major fields in the east mostly abandoned by military forces that have centered around the nation’s southwest. But where is that oil production now?
The answer in Raqqa is that the oil fields are now al-Qaeda property, with the group’s Syrian faction Jabhat al-Nusra running the show, keeping the crude flowing, selling it off to the mini-refineries cropping up around the area, and pocketing the profits.
When the government abandoned the oilfields, rebels of many different stripes moved in. But they fought each other too, and increasingly, the whole region is under Nusra control, as indeed much of Syria is.
And while the international community continues to insist it opposes Nusra in favor of more moderate rebels, the plans by the EU to start buying oil in deals approved by the SNC are already in motion. The SNC, itself Islamist in nature, will likely get a cut for approving the deals, but so long as the fields are dominated by al-Qaeda fighters, they will be getting the lion’s share of the money.