President Trump renewed his threats to forcibly steal oil from Syria, a move which experts say would amount to a war crime.
Speaking to Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Friday night, the president defended his decision to leave a small number of US troops in the war-torn nation after a general withdrawal in October by claiming they were only there to secure and plunder Syria’s oilfields.
“They said, ‘He left troops in Syria,'” he said during the Fox News interview. “You know what I did? I left troops to take the oil. I took the oil.
“The only troops I have are taking the oil. They’re protecting the oil. I took over the oil.”
When Ingraham attempted to correct Trump by insisting the soldiers weren’t actually there to take the oil but to guard the facilities, the president cut her off.
“We’re not taking the oil, right?” Ingraham asked.
“I don’t know, maybe we should take it, but we have the oil,” he said. “Right now, the United States has the oil. We have the oil.”
Best part is when far right Laura Ingraham tries to give Trump an out when he says ‘we’re taking the oil’ & says ‘you’re not ‘taking’ the oil’ and he says, nope, ‘maybe we are’. Love it when Trump is too batshit crazy and far right for the batshit crazy far right hosts at Fox… https://t.co/iE61re7nZi
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) January 11, 2020
This is not the first time Trump has publicly vowed to steal Syria’s oil reserves.
In October, shortly after his abrupt withdrawal of US forces and abandoning of their Kurdish allies in the region, Trump said he wanted an American oil firm to fly in to take Syria’s oil on behalf of the government.
“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly,” he said at the time.
The Independent reports:
However, such a move would likely constitute pillage and looting, actions which have long been designated as illegal under international law and the rules of war.
The Geneva Convention, which the US is a signatory to, explicitly prohibits the looting of property during conflict, defining it as a war crime.
“The president appears to believe that the US can sell the oil, based on his statements in the past about Iraqi oil and Libyan oil … thinking that we can loot countries,” Benjamin Friedman, policy director at think tank Defence Priorities and adjunct professor at the George Washington University, told the news outlet last year.
“I am sure people in the White House have tried to explain to him that is not how it works,” he said. “Taking the profits from the sale of Syrian oil for the US treasury would be illegal. That would probably qualify as pillaging under the law.”
Ironically, experts say Syria’s oil fields are not much of a prize anyway. Even before the country descended in a chaotic civil war, it only produced about 380,000 barrels of poor-quality oil a day. In 2018, after its production was several hampered by the conflict, it produced about the same amount of oil as the state of Illinois.
Before entering the Oval Office, Trump had said several times that the US should have “taken the oil” from the other Middle Eastern nations its armed forces had intervened in, including Iraq and Libya.