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US Military Seizure of Syrian Oil Fields 'Act of Piracy' - Virginia State Senator

© AP Photo / Baderkhan AhmadIn this Monday, Oct. 28, 2019 photo, U.S. forces patrol Syrian oil fields.
In this Monday, Oct. 28, 2019 photo, U.S. forces patrol Syrian oil fields.  - Sputnik International
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US move to control the oil fields in northeastern Syria is an act of privacy and theft of resources that belong to the people of the country, said Virginia State Senator Richard Black, who met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2016 and 2018.

"Seizing the Syrian oil fields was simply an act of piracy. It’s stealing, plain and simple," Black, who has met President Bashar Assad twice, said. "The oil belongs to all the people of Syria. It doesn’t belong to the Kurdish minority, and it doesn’t belong to American oil companies."

Black said he is totally opposed to US troops being present in northeast Syria to seize the country’s oil not the least of which because poor people will go without heat in the winter and some of them will die as a result.

"This is cruel, it’s immoral and it’s un-Christian. It’s a sinful thing to do and we have no business stealing oil or any other natural resource from another country," he said.

Black also said he does not support keeping US forces in Syria because their only purpose is to undermine the legitimate Syrian government which only strengthens the Daesh* and al-Qaeda* terrorist groups.

The Virginia senator also said he opposes US sanctions against Syria because they are intended to impoverish the country by denying its people food, medicine and making rebuilding efforts difficult.

"So, I don’t believe that the United States should have military forces there, and I don’t think that we should interfere or blockade the country from trading with other nations," Black said.

In late October, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the United States would deny the Russian and Syrian forces access to the oil fields in northeast Syria and will ensure they are controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev has said that the oil-rich territories in northeastern Syria must be controlled by the Syrian government.

Leaving US Forces in Syria Hinders Reconciliation Between Kurds, Damascus

The United States’ decision to keep troops in northern Syria has undermined reconciliation efforts between the Kurds and the Syrian government that took place when US President Donald Trump initially ordered a pullout of forces from the area and Turkey began a military operation there, said Virginia State Senator Black.

"When President Trump ordered the US troop withdrawal, it immediately weakened the Kurds and forced them to begin to cooperate with their own Syrian government. Their leaders flew to Damascus and they were in a process of reconciling with the government," Black said. "In the course of this, the Kurds surrendered the important border city of Kobani and the vital crossroad city of Manbij... At this point, the conflict was well on its way towards a resolution."

Black pointed out that Trump has faced pressure from the so-called Deep State of government officials opposing his policies, forcing him to undertake other moves that made the Kurds intransigent again and effectively prolonged the war in Syria.

"Trump ordered, or at least he allowed the Pentagon to order a cross border invasion from Iraq and that involved dozens of US tanks and 500 troops who came rolling across the Iraqi border to cease the Syrian oil fields," Black said. "When this happened, it gave the Kurdish government an incentive to become intransigent with Syria again, and of course, this again is prolonging the war by interrupting the reconciling of the Kurds with the government in Damascus."

On October 9, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring in northeastern Syria to clear the area of Kurdish militia. Turkey agreed with the United States on October 17 to establish a 120-hour ceasefire and allow the withdrawal of the Kurdish fighters from the Syrian-Turkish border.

As the ceasefire came to an end, Turkey and Russia signed on October 22 a memorandum that set the conditions for the peaceful withdrawal of Kurdish forces as well as laid the ground for joint patrols to ensure the agreement’s implementation.

When asked to comment about the reached agreement, Black said, "I do support it," but added that the situation is confusing because there is no total agreement among the United States, Turkey and Russia.

"Each one has its own objectives, but I think on balance it has improved the situation because it has deteriorated this Kurdish area, and the Kurds have been forced to give up some very significant areas that they had controlled," Black said. "I think that’s a good first step and unfortunately, in Syria, things just move one step by bloody next step, but at least we are moving forward and I think we are making progress there towards peace."

Black said it makes no sense for the Kurds to have a separate state even in the area they hold given that they are a minority of the population.

"Most of the population is Arab. Most of them are Muslims, some of them are Christian, but I think it’s a very unstable and small area that would never be practical as a separate country."

Black noted that a possible Kurdish autonomy was announced as plan B by former US Secretary of State John Kerry during the Obama presidency.

"Kerry became very frustrated that he was unable to topple the Syrian government. Plan B was designed to chop Syria into pieces, and it was very convenient to use the Kurds for this purpose. So, they set up this rump government or rump country, if you want, they called it Rojava," Black said.

Black also noted that the proposed Kurdish autonomous area is landlocked, has hostile countries on every border and cannot even fly aircraft out because they would be crossing over hostile airspace.

"It’s a very impractical thing and the only way the Kurdish state can survive is with a prominent US troop presence in the area," he said.

Black pointed out that the Deep State is hoping the United States will keep a prominent troop presence there, enabling it to block road access from Iran through Iraq into Syria.

"That’s really our purpose. We don’t care one way or the other about the Kurds. But we do care about blocking the road that comes from Iran into Syria. And so, that’s what going there," he said.

On November 13, President Donald Trump announced that the United States intended to retain control of the oil fields in northeastern Syria despite his earlier decision to withdraw US troops from the area. About 90 percent of Syrian oil is concentrated to the east of the Euphrates River.

Astana Format Talks Only Sincere Peace Process on Syrian Conflict

The Astana-format negotiations process is the only genuine approach to solving the Syrian conflict and should be continued to improve the situation in the Middle Eastern country, Virginia State Senator said.

"I think the only sincere process is the one that the Russian government has organized - the Astana process. I think it will continue to add to the situation and improve the situation but again, ultimately, I think, the matter will be determined on the battlefield," Black, who personally met with President Bashar Assad during visits to Syria in 2016 and 2018, said.

A great deal has been accomplished through the Astana process, Black added, when Russia, Turkey and Iran worked together, unlike other formats.

"There has been a great deal of forward motion," Black said. "Whenever the West tries to convene these international conventions and hold them in Geneva, nothing happens. They are simply an effort to trick the Syrian people and to undermine the progress being made on the battlefield."

The state senator said he expects a gradual erosion of the areas that are held by the Kurdish rump government and by the al-Qaeda terrorist group in Idlib province.

"I think there is fighting that’s going on in Idlib province right now and there are gradual gains being made by the Syrian army there. At the same time, the Syrian government is reasserting authority in more and more areas that are controlled by the Kurds," he said. "I think it’s going to happen a little bit at a time, I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight. It may take several years before the country is completely unified again."

The Astana talks under the mediation of Russia, Iran and Turkey were launched to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria. In particular, the talks resulted in a landmark ceasefire agreement with the opposition and the establishment of four de-escalation zones. Since the launch of the Astana format, nearly all terrorists have been cleared out of Syria. This has encouraged the beginning of a political settlement process, the return of refugees and reconstruction efforts.

Amid these talks, in January 2018, a meeting of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress convened in Sochi, culminating in an agreement to form the Constitutional Committee. The body, which consists of three equal groups representing the government, opposition and civil society of Syria, gathered for its inaugural meeting on October 30 of this year in Geneva.

Black said he believes the work done by Russia, including President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the other Astana guarantors have been helpful for Syria.

"I do think that those efforts [Astana talks] should be continued," he said. "I think that President Putin and Minister Lavrov have done very good work for the Syrian people and really for the cause of peace. And I think the Iranians have been quite helpful. I think the Turks are always difficult but with this process even they have occasionally done something that has been helpful."

When asked to comment on the Syrian Constitutional Committee, Black pointed out that the existing Syrian constitution could serve as an example for the other countries in the region.

"I have read the Syrian constitution. The constitution guarantees greater women’s rights and greater religious freedom than any other Arab nation has," Black explained. "Syria’s existing Constitution should serve as a model for all Arab nations to emulate. It’s interesting that Saudi Arabia for many years has demanded revisions to the Syrian constitution. But guess what, Saudi Arabia doesn’t even have a constitution. So, it’s ironic that they are demanding that another country change its constitution."

Black said he does not think the committee to rewrite the Syrian constitution will succeed. The committee is made up of 150 members, the state senator added, including 50 Syrian government representatives and 50 who represent the terrorists.

"Trying to arrive at an agreement is like to mix oil and water. The terrorists want Sharia law, while the Syrian people want freedom... And since Sharia calls for killing infidels and selling their women as slaves, I just don’t see how you can compromise that with the freedom that is guaranteed to the Syrian people by their own constitution," Black concluded.

*terrorist groups banned in Russia and a wide number of other countries.

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