Trump’s Oil Claims Complicate and Prolong US War in Syria

Trump reiterates that US is 'keeping the oil'

In a recent speech in Chicago, President Trump announced that the US isn’t just staying in Syria to control the oil, but also that “we’re keeping the oil,” saying he’s always said the US would keep the oil taken in eastern Syria, and claiming it to be worth $45 million per month.

That’s America’s war in Syria now. After twice suggesting the troops are coming home, Trump has now restructured the war in an open-ended way around looting oil from Syria in a non-specific way that officials are keen not to elaborate on.

US military goals in Syria have never been all that well defined, part of its endless nature. Now that the goals are defined, and are just oil, the US war risks getting a lot more complicated, even more morally dubious, and potentially even longer than before.

Russia was deeply critical of taking the oil as “state banditry,” and US legal experts concede there really is no legal basis for the US to just take Syria’s oil. The practical matters are likely to be just as dicey.

While the US can keep hundreds of US troops, tanks, etc., in eastern Syria indefinitely, costly as that is, there is still no sign President Trump has gotten any interest from any US oil companies in going to Syria and extracting oil whose ownership is in dispute.

Getting into the oil business with a military occupation underpinning it would  mean the operation will last as long as the oil does. The logistics of setting up the oil extraction will be complicated, and lawsuits trying to stop them are a given.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.