Al-Qaeda claims control of Syria oil resources

Al-Qaeda claims control of Syria oil resources
Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:58:40

Syria’s Foreign-backed militants and extremist groups have seized control of Syria’s oil and gas resources, and are now using the proceeds to underwrite their fights against one another as well as the Syrian government, American officials claim.

While the oil and gas fields are in serious decline, control of them has bolstered the fortunes of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Nusra Front, both of which are offshoots of Al-Qaeda. The ISIL is allegedly selling fuel to the Syrian government, lending weight to allegations by opposition leaders that it is secretly working with Damascus to weaken the other rebel groups and discourage international support for their cause, the report claimed.

The scramble for Syria’s oil is described by analysts as a war within the broader conflict, one that is turning what was once an essential source of income for Syria into a driving force in a conflict that is tearing the country apart. “Syria is an oil country and has resources,” said Abu Nizar, an opposition figure in Deir al-Zour. “Now they are being stolen by those who are profiting from the revolution.”

He described the situation in his oil-rich province as “overwhelming chaos.”

Syria was once an important supplier of oil to Europe, and attracted international oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Suncor to develop its fields. Declining even before the unrest began, the oil industry has taken a beating since, with production down to no more than 80,000 barrels a day at the end of 2013 from about 400,000 barrels a day in 2011. Violence has damaged pipelines and other infrastructure, aggravating energy shortages and leaving the country heavily dependent on imports from its allies.

When the government first withdrew from the oil fields of Deir al-Zour Province in the country’s east, said Abu Nizar, militants and local tribes took control of wells and sold or tried to refine whatever oil they could extract to buy arms. Recently, however, most of the area’s militants have left the administration of the wells to an extremist legal commission set up to run local affairs, he said.

“We can’t cut off the gas because it would lead to a power cut in a large part of Syria,” Abu Nizar said, adding that he hoped the new commission would effectively manage the area’s resources.

“Let’s be honest. Some of the wells were used to arm the militants and to fund aid operations,” he said, “but unfortunately the majority were robbed and exploited by thieves.”


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