US forces have been frequently maneuvering in the Syraq corridor which links Northern as well as western and southern areas of Syria and Iraq through Al Hasakah, Deir Ez Zour and Homs provinces of Syria. During late October and early november of 2019, US president Donad Trump announced that American troops will fully withdraw from Syria. However, the US military convoys went to Iraq in November 2019. In April 2020, the US military stationed in Iraq vacated almost dozen bases to return to Syria despite Trump's initial decision announced in October 2019. The main action of US Army in Iraq was to decapitate the IRGC leadership as main point of Iranian influence in Baghdad which depicts the reason behind US troops stationing in Iraq during American strike on IRGC commander in January 2020. Amidst the global issues such as oil price wars and pandemic, the Middle East has been witnessing the crossover of US troops from Iraq into Syria. Yesterday, Chinese Oil company in Iraq was targeted through rockets near Baghdad for the first time. The Chinese influence has increased in Baghdad after Iraq-China reached understanding regarding Oil agreement involving  operations of multiple Chinese companies on Iraqi oilfields starting from May 2018. 

Prominent Journalist Accuses America of Using COVID-19 Crisis to Quietly Seize Syria’s Oil

With its healthcare system devastated by nearly a decade for foreign-backed civil conflict, Syria now faces a critical shortage of hospital beds and ventilators, with equipment and medicine scarcity exacerbated by unrelenting Western sanctions.

US intelligence agencies and Washington’s regional allies are trying to take advantage of Damascus’s battle with the COVID-19 pandemic to consolidate their control over Syrian oil fields east of the Euphrates, and plan to facilitate the continued robbery of Syrian resources with the help of local mercenaries, veteran journalist Abdel Bari Atwan fears.

In an op-ed published by Arab digital newspaper Rai al-Youm on Friday, Atwan explains that according to reports coming from Syria’s al-Hasakah governorate, the Central Intelligence Agency has begun a campaign to recruit and train fighters from the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces militia to “guard” Syrian oil and protect the US-SDF oil smuggling operations in the region. The compensation for these services? $350 a month to each militia member, the journalist says. The main benefactors, meanwhile, supposedly include the countries and companies that receive the stolen oil, including Kurdish-administered areas of Iraq and contractors, including some representing Israeli firms.

Atwan recalls that US President Donald Trump has been unabashed in his plans to “keep” Syria’s oil and gas wells, ostensibly to “protect” these resources from falling into the hands of either Daesh (ISIS)* or their rightful owner, the Syrian government.

Fortunately for Damascus, however, Atwan believes that the United States will have a difficult time holding on to its positions in the region in the months to come, with the recent defection of dozens of militants from the US base at At-Tanf, southern Syria possibly just a taste of things to come, particularly after Iraqis begin forcing the US to evacuate its bases in accordance with the decree of Iraq’s parliament in January, following the US assassination of Quds Force Commander Qasim Soleimani and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

“The territories east of the Euphrates and their oil and gas wells will inevitably return to Syrian sovereignty,” Atwan writes, suggesting US forces will eventually flee the area just as they have from the Kirkuk (K1) and al-Taji base north of Baghdad. “It’s unfortunate,” he notes, “that certain Kurdish groups which have counted on US support have turned into mercenaries guarding stolen Syrian oil. They do not learn from the past and continue to make the same mistakes, turning into cannon fodder for American plans.”

US Convoy Forced to Turn Around by Villagers in Northeastern Syria

US and Syrian forces and local residents have engaged in a tense war of position in the country’s northeast in recent months, with Syrian troops and locals repeatedly blocking American convoys attempting to make their way through local communities. Fortunately, most of these incidents have taken place without either side resorting to deadly force.

Residents of the villages of Abu Qasaeib and al-Rhaia al-Souda in the al-Qamishli district, Al-Hasakah governorate banded together to intercept and turn back a US convoy of five vehicles, preventing them from traveling through their communities along a key local road, the Syrian Arab News Agency has reported.

Video footage reportedly shot outside one of the villages shows locals, activists and troops singing songs and waving a Syrian flag after engaging the US convoy in a short standoff and forcing it to turn back. No gunfire was exchanged and no one was hurt in either of the incidents.

This is said to have been the second time in two weeks that the US military has attempted to drive through the area.

At least two similar incidents took place in the nearby village of Hamo earlier this month. In these, US military vehicles and Syrian Democratic Forces militia attempted to pass through, but were reported to have been turned back by locals gathered at a Syrian Army checkpoint.

Hamo residents repeatedly blocked US military convoys from attempting to pass through their community last month as well, preventing convoys of between six and 11 vehicles from driving through. Before that, media reported that Syrian troops and angry locals stopped a US convoy consisting of 7 vehicles while it tried to pass through Kuzelia and al-Basha, also in al-Hasakah. In the former incident, locals reportedly pelted the convoy with stones and cursed at US troops.

Similar incidents have been reported going back to February, with some of them turning violent.

The US has yet to comment on any of the incidents or to present its account of what took place, or what its forces are doing in the area.

The US has quietly built up its presence in northeastern Syria in recent months, reportedly dispatching nearly three dozen truckloads of military and logistical equipment into northeastern Syria from Iraq last week. Before that, media reported that US troops had begun construction of a new military base near the town of Tell Brak, with the base reportedly meant to prevent Syrian and Russian forces from reaching the Rmelan oil field.

Syria has repeatedly demanded that all uninvited occupying forces vacate its territory in accordance with international law. The US moved to consolidate its control over oil-rich areas of northeastern Syria late last year, with President Trump openly admitting that the US mission had switched from guarding the border with Turkey to “keeping the oil.”