The statement is a reversal of the previous administration's position, which advocated leaving a small contingent of troops to protect the oil fields from Daesh

US clarifies that its military is not in Syria to protect oil 

photo_camera AFP/DELIL SOULLEIMAN  - A US military helicopter flies overhead near the Malikiya oil field in northeastern Syria, 17 January 2021. 

The US military contingent in Syria continues its operations against the remnants of Daesh. Last Thursday the Pentagon was keen to stress that they are not there to protect the oil fields.  

"Military personnel and their subcontractors are not authorised to provide assistance to a private company, its employees or its agents seeking to exploit oil resources in Syria," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a press conference on the mission of US forces in Syria. The 900 US military personnel stationed in northeast Syria "are there to support the mission against ISIS," Kirby added. 

Most of the oil fields are located in the east and northeast of the country so they are still out of reach of the Syrian government and are controlled by the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is their main source of revenue. 

AFP/DELIL SOULLEIMAN -Un vehículo de combate Bradley (BFV) estadounidense patrulla cerca de las instalaciones de producción de petróleo en el campo cerca de al-Malikiyah (Derik)  

One of the main groups that make up the SDF is the YPG, the Kurdish militia that for much of the war was allied with the US. In fact, in 2020 an agreement was reached between the US oil company Delta Crescent Energy and the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria so that they would not be affected by the sanctions imposed by the US on Damascus.  

Trump left the Kurdish militias in the lurch once the goal of stopping Daesh had been achieved and they were at the mercy of Turkey's invasion of northern Syria. A country at odds with the Kurds and which argued it was a necessary operation to guarantee its national security. 

AFP/DELIL SOULLEIMAN -Un helicóptero ruso sobrevuela un convoy conjunto de Rusia y Turquía mientras patrulla en los campos de petróleo  cerca de la frontera con Turquía, el 4 de febrero de 2021 

The withdrawal of troops was ordered by former US President Donald Trump in 2019, although he explained at the time that a few hundred troops would remain "where there is oil"

The former US administration then defended itself against accusations of profiting from Syrian oil, claiming that the military presence was only intended to prevent Daesh from accessing Syrian oil and to allow the SDF to finance the reconstruction of the areas of the country they control. 

PHOTO/AP -Combatientes kurdos de las Unidades de Protección Popular (YPG) 
Washington will continue to support Israel's control of the Golan Heights 

In an interview with CNN, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated US support for Israel's control over the Golan Heights, occupied from Syria during the Six-Day War (1967), while refusing to endorse the legality of former President Trump's decision to recognise Israeli sovereignty in the area.  

"Leaving aside the legal aspects of the issue, as a practical matter, the Golan Heights are very important for Israel's security," Blinken said after being asked whether Washington would continue to consider the area as part of Israel.  

Blinken stressed that "control of the Golan Heights is of great importance to Israel's security" as long as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "remains in power". He also stressed the threat posed by the presence of Iran and the armed groups it supports in Syria. 

AP/ALEX BRANDON -El portavoz del Pentágono, John Kirby, durante una rueda de prensa en el Pentágono, el lunes 8 de febrero de 2021, en Washington.

"The legal issues are another matter. Over time, if the situation in Syria changes, that's something we'll look at, but we're nowhere near that now," Blinken said. 

Blinken's predecessor, Mike Pompeo, in his final weeks in office travelled to Israel and became the first secretary of state to visit a settlement in the West Bank and Golan Heights.  

Syria called it a "provocative act before the end of the Trump administration at a time when Israeli occupation forces have carried out repeated aggressions against Syria". 

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