[Marxism] Jihadists and Baathists divide up the oil pie

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue May 21 07:12:11 MDT 2013


"The fact that the Syrian army has withdrawn from the heart of the 
country and that the victorious Salafist groups have not pressed their 
attack, but instead entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with 
Damascus over the oil, show that both sides are satisfied with the 
dividing lines."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/19/jihadists-control-syrian-oilfields/

Jihadists' control of Syrian oilfields signals a decisive moment in conflict

Source of funding is helping al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra to sideline 
western-backed rebels and reshape the Middle East

by Julian Borger	

The stranglehold that Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies have achieved over 
Syria's oilfields signals a decisive moment in the conflict that will 
shape the rapidly and violently evolving map of the new Middle East.

The impact is immediately visible. With a new independent source of 
funding, the jihadists holding the oilfields between al-Raqqa and Deir 
Ezzor are much better equipped than their Sunni rivals, reinforcing the 
advantage originally provided by Qatari backing. They have been able to 
provide bread and other essentials to the people in the areas under 
their control, securing an enduring popular base.

This serves to marginalise the western-backed rebels, the National 
Coalition and the Supreme Military Council (SMC), even further. The 
blustering claim by the SMC commander, Salim Idriss, that he was going 
to muster a 30,000 force to retake the oilfields served only to 
undermine his credibility.

More importantly, as so often in history, control over hydrocarbons has 
solidified new lines on the map. The fact that the Syrian army has 
withdrawn from the heart of the country and that the victorious Salafist 
groups have not pressed their attack, but instead entered into a 
revenue-sharing agreement with Damascus over the oil, show that both 
sides are satisfied with the dividing lines.

The regime's forces, made more ethnically pure and more resolute by two 
years of Sunni defections, is clearing out an Allawite state along the 
Syrian coastal plain. The horrific massacres of Sunni communities in 
Baniyas and al-Bayda earlier this month were acts of ethnic cleansing 
designed to scare away any remaining Sunni pockets.

With the rise of al-Nusra, meanwhile, the importance of the Syrian-Iraq 
border, forged nearly a century ago by Britain and France in the 
Sykes-Picot agreement, is eroding fast as Sunni Salafist groups on both 
sides find common cause. The executions of Syrian soldiers in a public 
square in al-Raqqa were carried out under the black banner of the 
Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, a merger between Syrian and Iraqi 
al-Qaida affiliates.

While the makings of a Sunni mini-state are emerging in al-Jazira plain, 
Upper Mesopotamia, stretching from Turkey to central Iraq, a Kurdish 
state is forming to the east, again crystallised with the help of oil. 
To the fury of Baghdad, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq 
has reportedly struck a deal with Ankara for Turkish state energy 
companies to take a stake in the region's oil and gas fields. The deal 
has caused tension with Washington, apparently during the Turkish prime 
minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to the White House last week.

For Ankara, the aggravation with the US is worth it. A reliable source 
of energy is essential for Turkey if it wants to continue to grow and 
eventually become the pipeline connection between Europe and the Middle 
East. These geostrategic ambitions are the background to Ankara's 
ceasefire with its own Kurdish separatists, the PKK, which has also 
cleared the way for side deals with Syria's Kurds who hold oil and gas 
fields in al-Hasakah.

The new map that is emerging from the turmoil may make a lot more 
historical and cultural sense than the lines imposed by western 
imperialism, but Assad's fateful decision two years ago to respond to 
the Syrian uprising with violence rather than negotiation has meant that 
the new Middle East will be even less stable than what came before, 
perhaps for a generation at least. And oil has helped stoke the fire.




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