President Trump bragged at a Las Vegas campaign rally on Friday that he ordered US Troops to steal oil from Syria, a move which experts say would amount to a war crime.
While discussing his decision to pull US troops out of Syria, Trump told the crowd: “We moved them all out of Syria, except we did keep the oil.”
“You noticed that right?” he asked the crowd. “We kept the oil. Sorry. They said, ‘He left soldiers in Syria.’ Yeah, I did to keep the oil if you don’t mind, which is what we should have done in Iraq too, by the way.”
“I would have done that and make a lot of money with all that oil,” he added.
“We kept the oil” — Trump brags about stealing oil from Syria pic.twitter.com/A84J8UsCKh
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 21, 2020
In January, Trump had threatened to forcibly steal oil from Syria while speaking to Fox News host Laura Ingraham. Trump defended his decision at the time 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.”
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.