US to make decision with Kurds on Syrian oil ‘fairly soon’: Trump

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — In his first comments on a deal between an American company and Kurds over Syrian oil, US President Donald Trump said on Thursday they will make a decision “fairly soon.”

Meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in the Oval Office, Trump told reporters that his cabinet has reduced the number of their troops in Syria to “almost nothing,” just a small number of forces to protect oil fields.  

“[W]e are down to almost nothing, except we kept the oil.  We will work on some kind of a deal with Kurds on that. But we kept the oil,” he said. “We will make a determination over the oil fairly soon.” 

A number of senior US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have confirmed a deal was struck over the oil, but this is the first time Trump has publicly commented on it. 

Not much is known about the agreement, but it has been widely reported that Delta Crescent Energy LLC is involved, according to VOA which quoted an anonymous Kurdish official in northeast Syria (Rojava) saying, “As per the deal, a refinery will be built in northeast Syria with a cost of $150 million.” 

“The company will explore [for] oil in three locations in northeast Syria, including Rumeilan, Tel Hamees and Tel Brak,” the official added.

The deal has been condemned by both Damascus and Ankara. The Syrian regime labeled it as “theft” and Turkey said it is “considered within the scope of financing terrorism.” 

Kurds have yet to officially comment on the deal. 

‘Nobody’ killed

The US has fewer than 1,000 troops in Syria, all in Kurdish-held areas in the northeast of the country. In October 2019, American soldiers withdrew from the Syria-Turkey border, paving the way for Ankara to launch Operation Peace Spring. Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies took the northern towns of Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain) and Gire Spi (Tal Abyad) from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). 

Trump described the withdrawal as “successful.”

“We left the border. We said Turkey and Syria can take their own border. We do not have to do it. And that worked out very well. I remember when I did that I was scorned by everybody,” he said, referring to the wide criticism he received from inside and outside the US for abandoning their Kurdish allies to a Turkish offensive. 

“We removed our troops. Nobody was killed, nobody. Now they protect their own border, like they have been for hundreds of years,” said Trump.

While no American forces were killed, there were nearly 1,300 casualties on both sides of the conflict and among civilians. According to the Kurdish administration of Rojava, 522 civilians and 508 SDF fighters were killed; Turkish media reported 251 members of Syrian militias were killed; and a conflict monitor said 11 Turkish soldiers died. 


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