Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson accused the Trump administration on Friday of “criminal activity” after President Donald Trump revealed a plan last month to deploy U.S. troops to guard oil fields in eastern Syria, reports Newsweek.
Maria Zakharova claimed that the U.S. was engaging in illegal smuggling of Syrian oil and estimated that Washington stood to make tens of millions of dollars every month from the oil extracted in the region.
According to state news agency Tass, Zakharova said the U.S. was “bypassing its own sanctions” to take “$30 million” worth of oil “per month” from Syria.
She also suggested the U.S. forces deployed “are not going to leave these areas in the near future.”
Zakharova’s remarks came days after Trump said he’d be interested in making a deal with ExxonMobil or another energy company to “spread out the wealth” from Syrian oil reserves.
“We’re out, but we are leaving soldiers to secure the oil,” Trump told reporters while announcing the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi following a U.S. military raid in Syria last month.
“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…and spread the wealth,” he added, noting that much of the oil is in the ground and the equipment to extract it is lacking.
“The oil is so valuable, for many reasons,” Trump said on Sunday. “It fueled ISIS, number one. Number two, it helps the Kurds – because it’s basically been taken away from the Kurds… And, number three, it can help us, because we should be able to take some also.”
The US “may have to fight for the oil,” he said. “It’s okay.” The president said anyone trying to take the oil will have a “helluva fight” on their hands.
"I want our soldiers home, or at least fighting [for] something that's meaningful" — Trump suggests the Kurds aren't "meaningful" enough to defend militarily, in contrast with Syrian oil pic.twitter.com/ZTv2MLJhxK
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 27, 2019
Trump has committed to deploying U.S. troops to protect Syria’s oil reserves even as he has repeatedly claimed that he is withdrawing troops from Syria’s northern regions.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper explained on Friday that the Pentagon will be dispatching armored vehicles and combat troops into Syria in order to protect oil fields from Islamic State militants.
When a reporter asked Senator Lindsey Graham by what “legal right in international law” the U.S. could take Syrian oil after Trump’s remarks, Graham responded: “This was the chief source of revenue for a long time for ISIS. It is now in the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, which are Arabic Kurds, mostly Kurds, with the partnership with the United States. So, no this doesn’t violate any law. In my view, what it does is just good common sense foreign policy.”
“This is a win-win,” he continued. “The SDF will get more money if we can modernize the oil fields.”
Zakharova said the international community has a right to question America’s strategy.
She characterized the deployment as the U.S. “pumping oil out of the northeast of Syria” while it “masks its criminal activity by some pretexts of a struggle against the Islamic State.”
She added that the U.S. “systematically declares its commitment to some democratic values and international law.”