A puzzle about Americans and daesh in Syria

Do you remember that the lying moron claimed the Syrian oil fields are secured? It was a headpalm moment if there ever was one. That would not be something that a U.S. official would be supposed to say out loud even if oil was the objective of U.S. military action.

He was basically telling the Syrians that Americans were there to grab what's left of Syrian wealth, which kind of provokes (if not justifies, given the absence of an invitation by the Syrian government) the killing of U.S. troops in Syria. He made it really easy to paint the American troops there as resource-thieving invaders, modern-day Mongols. PsyOps people all over the Western World must have laughed out loud in despair at this ineptitude gift to daesh and Assad propaganda.

- - - - -

Well, the ISW blog's graphic on the location of the U.S. troops

made me wonder; Syria's oil fields aren't all in that one area around Tanf, aren't they? I thought I remembered some of those depicted in the East of Syria in my old atlas (I read that book way too much).
(Supposedly, about 600 American servicemen are in the Northeast, but those seem to be rather embeds and the exact locations of small teams are not known to the public for obvious reasons.)

Well, a quick search later it turned out that they are indeed almost all over the place*, EXCEPT at Tanf.


Now where is daesh active?
So there's hardly any daesh (a.k.a. ISIS) activity in or around Tanf, either.
Maybe that's because of the American presence?

No, that's not it, either. daesh wasn't ever much active there, just some presence along the road** - a very minor theatre of operations for daesh.
The American military doesn't stay in Syria to protect some oil, or to protect people - Kurdish or whoever. It's not there to fight daesh territorial control (attempts), either. It doesn't block escape routes for daesh militants because it blocks at best but one of very many possible routes.
The American military stays in Syria because it wants to keep playing in the great powers playground formerly known as Syria.

Maybe some professional journalists (those who get paid to look into such things) should have a look at this and start a public discussion about WTF they're doing there? I suspect they simply maintain a helicopter refuelling point (or base) for SOCOM raids outside of pesky Iraqi jurisdiction.


*: (and particularly in the East, hooray)
**: I don't know details, but I suspect that was little more than toll-raising banditry. 

P.S.: This irregular (non-Saturday) blog post was a part of next Saturday's link drop, but outgrew it. Think of it as making up for missing the Nov 2nd slot.
Regarding the "daesh"; I know grammar asks for a capital "D", I just think it's suitable to not grant Daesh any capital letter. They lost any claim to a capital. ;-) 

edit a few hours later:
"He said 'we have total control of the oil' and 'we can do with the oil what we want'" (3 Dec 2019)


  1. Cross posted:

    It has been obvious for a long time that the American garrison in al-Tanf along with the Syrian Maghawir al-Thawra militia was to keep the Iranians from using the M2 Baghdad-Damascus Highway to supply missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon (and to the SAA). Originally it was meant as a base from which to thrust from the south against the Daeshis in the Abu Kamal district on the Euphrates. But that was finessed by Assad and the Russians in their late 2017 offensive. So now the al-Tanf garrison has turned into doing Netanyahu's dirty work for him by blocking the al-Waleed border crossing and the M2.

    No oilfields in al-Tanf and no known oil reserves.

    1. I read that before, but it looks utterly obsolete considering that Assad has now sent troops to the previously Kurdish-controlled areas. This means that Iran could just as well send shipments through Iraq into Eastern Syria. The Kurds could not dare to intercept such shipments (save for maybe gaining a share), for else they would lose Assad's and Russia's protection against the Turks.

    2. True. But the the Baghdad-Damascus highway is still the most direct route. Plus the northern route needs a great deal of rebuilding.

    3. The Kurds have no intention of intercepting Iranian shipments. Why would they? I don't believe there is anything that either the US or Israel could do to entice the Syrian Kurds to go against Iran.

      They are NOT pro-Israel despite the Arab propaganda. PKK had a unit in Lebanon in 1982 fighting alongside the PLO against the Israeli Army occupation. A small unit, but they left some martyrs there at the Battle of the Beaufort near the village of Arnoun. And they know well that it was Israel that provided Turkey with drone technology and other intel against the Kurds in Turkey; and that the Turks are now using against the Kurds in Syria.

    4. What are you talking about?
      The Kurds have been allied with Israel for quite some time now.
      And Israel shills for them constantly because the Kurds aid them in their goal of balkanising the ME.

    5. I'm talking historical fact.

      You are talking about a faction of the Iraqi Kurds that are being used by Israel to cause hate and discontent in Iran among the large Kurdish population there. And yes you are right about the attempts to Balkanize the ME.

      The Syrian Kurds, and Turkish Kurds, do NOT trust Israel. And would never work with her. Israel & Turkey have worked together against them. That may have changed now since Israel is taking Greece's side in the dispute over maritime oil exploration off the coast of Cyprus. But the YPG is smart enough to know that won't last. And if they sided with Israel they would lose the support of the Arab tribes within the SDF.

    6. Israel has no reason to work against the Kurds.
      The Kurds have been a highly useful asset for them in Syria, Iraq and even Iran.
      And SDF is mainly Kurdish, it doesn't really have that many Arabs within it.

    7. Iraq & Iran true. And although Israelis have tried to use the Syrian Kurds, they have been continuously rejected. But they start the whispering campaign anyway just to keep everyone divided.

      The SDF was mostly Kurds back in 2015 when it was formed. But it quickly gained Arab allies and by last year was 75% Syrian Arab with smaller elements of Assyrians, and a few tiny groups of Syrian Armenians, Circassians, and Turkmen. The Kurds, Assyrians, and the Shammar Arabs are the ones doing the heavy lifting. The others are mostly in it for the protection and of course the money. Many of those are now peeling off out of the SDF and making deals with Assad. The Kurds are trying to make that deal also, but Assad is playing hard-to-get.

    8. The Syrian Kurds are already being used by Israel.
      They are attacking their enemy (Assad), in return Israel's ethnic lobby in the US will make sure that America continues to arm and subsidize them.
      That's about the only thing that the Israelis find useful about the Kurds.

    9. You need to do some serious homework Anon, and stop repeating Erdogan's propaganda. Kurds are NOT attacking Assad. They have never considered him an enemy. The SDF and the SAA are fighting together against Turkish backed headchoppers in the northeast, and also in Manbij & Tell-Rifaat. Back in 2016 they fought alongside Assad's Army to help liberate Aleppo City.

    10. Kurds want to create a separate state which will most likely be a corrupt shithole (even by the region's very low standards) and an Israeli vassal, just like they did in northern Iraq.
      That's a direct attack against Syria itself.
      And I am unfamiliar with Turkish propaganda in general, nevermind Erdogan's specific brand of pan Islamic propaganda, I get my news from a variety of sources so I can balance out the bias inherent to all news outlet.
      And the SDF only kinda sorta came to the SAA's side when the Turks showed up and the Americans falsely stated that they were backing off.
      And now that Americans are back in, the Kurds have changed their demands.
      And out of all the sides involved in the shitshow that is Syria, the Kurds are by far the least capable, their greatest achievement is producing cheap propaganda that appeals to Western sensibilities.
      All the Kurds do is lounge about and call in American air-strikes.
      As for the "moderate headchoppers", those guys get their backing from pretty much every Western aligned actor in the region.

    11. It's incorrect to claim that the Kurds are the leat capable faction in the Syrian War.
      There are many, many tiny groups with much less capability. The undisciplined extremists who serve as Erdogans infantry in the border region (TFSA) are less capable, for example.

      The Kurds are the only ones who have shown prowess in sustained offensive ops in the past couple years. They had air support, but few heavy arms unlike the SAA, which had Russian air support and conquered much less territory.
      The Kurds can furthermore call up many more fighters than probably any other faction in there.

      Besides, the TFSA offered little evidence of being moderate and I've never seen any indication that they get support from any other faction than Turkey.

    12. Anon - Your history leaves out a few key points. The SDF came to the SAA's side long before the Turks invaded the northeast. They fought side by side with the SAA in 2016 to liberate Aleppo City. In February 2016 they recaptured the Tell Rifaat area with Russian air support, and since March 2018 they have been working with the Syrian Republican Guard and the Russian Armed Forces in that area. In January 2018 Assad based militias were welcomed by the Kurds of Afrin in trying to fight off TFSA. One year ago they worked with the SAA and Russian military police in the Manbij district west of the Euphrates, and they have fought alongside them there against the Syrian opposition who have kept up shelling and infiltration attempts.

      Syrian Kurds have never wanted a separate state. They have always said that whoever rules Damascus rules all of Syria. They have asked for the ability to elect their own local mayors and District councils; a very limited autonomy similar to what is enjoyed in Denver and Darmstadt.

      You claim to be unfamiliar with Turkish propaganda. Yet you continue to brand Syrian Kurds with the same false claims about Kurds that the Turkish government-controlled press is promoting. You need more honest sources.

    13. PS - There are also a small number of former YPG that are part of the SAA offensive in Idlib. They were blackmailed by the coalition to NOT enlist in the SAA, but a small number did anyway, as they were greatly disillusioned with the US after Afrin. They wear SAA uniforms. But some Arabized Kurds there are working undercover.


    14. Assad needs to reassert national control, and for this he needs a coalition of minorities to subdue the dominantly Sunni Arab rebels. It makes sense for him to get the Kurds under his tent as long as they will leave him the lion's share of the oil revenue. He can enforce that by his control of the only relevant export route.

    15. "The Kurds are the only ones who have shown prowess in sustained offensive ops in the past couple years.
      They mainly rely on America's air power.

      "They had air support, but few heavy arms unlike the SAA, which had Russian air support and conquered much less territory."
      The Kurds didnt need heavy weapons as they barely did any fighting by themselves, they simply declared a bunch of areas they migrated to, to be part of their territory.
      Assad was too busy dealing with other factions to do anything about them.
      And America threatned to bomb the shit out of him if he comes nears them.

    16. Most of the rebels aren't even Syrian at this point.
      They come from all across the Muslim world.
      Aligning with an Israeli proxy (Kurds) is not a good idea.

  2. In my honest opinion this is all just a quartet and waltz until the actual event kicks off. We are probably around 2 to 4 years away from a major war between Hezbollah and Israel that will likely draw in Syria. That is probably what is being discussed behind closed doors. After all if you are willing to use an excuse as "we are after the oil" you really don't have that many excuses left. Don't quote me on the figures but assuming WMD first use by Hezbollah anything at Tel Aviv and north of Jerusalem better get right with their God cause casualty estimates are going to be appalling high.

  3. America is there because Israel demands it.
    ISIS was just a pretext.
    It takes a ridiculous amounts of mental gymnastics to deny this geo-political reality.