Pentagon officials are revising their Syrian war plans this week around a totally new set of priorities, which President Trump has defined simply as controlling Syria’s oil. This came after Trump declared the Syrian war effectively over, and subsequently backed off withdrawing all US forces.
For awhile this was going to be a couple of hundred US ground troops staying embedded with Kurds at the oilfields. Now, the Pentagon is going more all-in, sending tanks and armored vehicles into Syria, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is trying to take credit for this continued war, with reports that he and long-retired Gen. Jack Keane, a Fox News analyst, visited Trump at the White House twice to show him a map of Syria and emphasize where all the oil is.
Graham had been loudly wailing on about the pullout from Syria, and suggested Iran might somehow seize Syria’s oil if America didn’t. Those present say Trump faily quickly resigned himself to keeping troops there to control the oil.
While styling this as Trump reluctantly staying at war fits Graham’s narrative, Trump has been talking since before his election about paying for wars in the Middle East by taking the oil, and has subsequently taken to Twitter to brag about how he’s controlling Syria’s oil.
That a small contingent of ground troops could never really “control the oil” is very much beside the point, as now the decision to send tanks into Syria amounts to a huge escalation of the military operation, and likely will ultimately mean the deployment of more US troops into Syria to maintain the armored forces. It also represents another very long-term commitment to the ever-morphing US War in Syria.
The idea that the US will ultimately get all this oil for the cost of a few hundred troops occupying parts of Syria is tailor-made for Trump’s existing view of Middle East war. That said, it’s hard to imagine US companies eagerly lining up to extract appropriated oil out of occupied territory, and the US ever getting the oil is almost certainly a pipe dream.
It’s a dream good for keeping an occupation going, but not much else.