Skip to main content

Intel: Democrats try to stymie Trump’s 'secure the oil' mission in Syria

Democrats are turning up the heat on President Donald Trump’s “secure the oil” mission in northeast Syria.

Democrats are turning up the heat on President Donald Trump’s “secure the oil” mission in northeast Syria.

The House’s version of the 2021 defense authorization bill, released this weekend, would require the defense secretary to certify that no US “military forces are being used or have been used for the extraction, transport, transfer or sale of oil from Syria.”

“The committee remains concerned that the United States strategy for Syria expresses objectives that cannot be achieved with the means identified,” a report accompanying the bill states. “Furthermore, the committee is concerned about the stated purpose of US military forces serving in Syria and tasks assigned to those forces,” the report adds.

The legislation also directs Defense Secretary Mark Esper to brief Congress by October “on the applicable domestic and international legal authorities that would authorize the US military presence in oilfields in northeast Syria and to deny the government of Syria access to them.”

Why it matters:  Trump abruptly announced that he would withdraw US forces from Kurdish-held northeastern Syria last year, paving the way for a Turkish offensive. But shortly thereafter, Trump reversed course, announcing that several hundred troops would remain in Syria with a stated mission to “secure the oil.” US troops in Syria engaged in several tense standoffs with Russian forces advancing toward the oil fields earlier this year. Russia backs President Bashar al-Assad as he seeks to re-establish control over the rest of Syria.

What’s next:  The House Armed Services Committee will debate advancing its defense bill on Wednesday. The full Senate is also debating its version of the defense bill, which does not contain the House’s Syria provision. Even if the Republican-held Senate jumps on board with the Syria provision, it’s not clear whether Congress will coalesce around a final law before October, the deadline House Democrats have set for Esper to brief them on the issue.  

Know more:  Amberin Zaman has the latest on the US-backed reconciliation talks to unify the various Kurdish factions in northeast Syria.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in