Syrian Democratic Forces Breach US and European Sanctions and Support the Syrian Regime with Oil and Gas

Syrian Democratic Forces Breach US and European Sanctions and Support the Syrian Regime with Oil and Gas

Sep 21 2019

ARK News: The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) states in its report released on Thursday that Syrian Democratic Forces are breaching the US and European sanctions and supporting the Syrian regime with oil and gas, with SNHR requesting that investigations be launched to disclose the expenditure of oil and gas revenues due to well-founded concerns that these funds are being used to fund terrorism.

The report explains that any economic or military support for the Syrian regime contributes to relieving pressure on it and to support its military capabilities and security services. Such support is categorized as complicity in support of the Syrian regime perpetuating further crimes, especially through furnishing material support that could be used in military operations. Although the operations to support the Syrian regime are carried out by rogue regimes such as Iran and Russia that do not care about international law and have a shameful human rights record, this report, which has taken more than four months of work, covers the period until September 18, 2019, concludes that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have significantly contributed to supporting the Syrian regime with oil and gas supplies.

As the report reveals, the SDF has, on the one hand, supported a regime implicated in crimes against humanity and under economic sanctions imposed on it specifically by the US administration, a major backer of the SDF, which is surely a strong blow to the US government. On the other hand, it explains, the SDF has used the financial gains from its operations without any accountability or transparency, with a large proportion of that money possibly reaching the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

This report highlights the SDF’s control of Syria’s oil fields, and its accompanying failure to disclose any information or show any transparency in revealing where millions of dollars in oil and gas sales revenues have gone and where these funds have been disbursed. In addition to this, aiding the Syrian regime and frequently supplying it with oil and gas is a flagrant violation of US, European and Canadian sanctions against the regime.

As the report explains, the governorates of Raqqa, Hasaka and Deir Ez-Zour contain nearly 20 oil fields, 11 of which are under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces; these 11 fields have a productive capacity far larger than that of the fields under the control of Syrian Regime forces, meaning that Syrian Democratic Forces control 80 percent of Syria’s oil and gas production.

The report points to the existence of a number of indicators suggesting coordination between the SDF and the Syrian regime dating back to mid-2012, when the Syrian regime withdrew from Hasaka governorate, clearly demonstrating systematic coordination between Syrian Regime forces and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party forces, who seemed quite obviously to have reached a mutual agreement to share areas of influence and control of the city’s neighborhoods, as well as agreeing on control of different military checkpoints, in addition to forming joint military units to repel ISIS’ attacks on the city. According to the report, the frequency of meetings between the two parties escalated after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his country’s intention to withdraw from Syrian territory in December 2018.

The report further reveals that the SDF began its oil smuggling operations to the Syrian regime at the end of 2017, when the SDF tightened its control over the oil and gas fields in Deir al-Zour governorate following its battles against ISIS, while the supply of oil to the Syrian regime from the al Rmelan and al Suwaydiya fields in Hasaka governorate has not stopped since the Kurdish Democratic Union Party took control of the two fields in mid-2012, as these fields are subject to agreements between the two parties, with the workers at both fields still receiving their wages from the Syrian regime.

The report notes an unprecedented rise in smuggling operations since the US administration increased the level of economic sanctions imposed on the regime in mid-2018, with these operations assuming a more organized form, and taking place either through selling crude oil from SDF-controlled oil fields to traders and companies affiliated with the Syrian regime or through using vessels traveling between water crossings on opposite banks of the Euphrates River.

The report also notes that the International Coalition forces forced the SDF to take part in a campaign to end the oil smuggling operations, further noting that the occurrence of these joint attacks on the oil crossings confirms the existence of a popular oil trade that has been going on for years; its public exposure necessitated the intervention of International Coalition forces. As the report emphasizes, military force alone is not enough and those investigations should be opened into those involved in supplying oil to the Syrian regime, where the resulting financial revenues have gone and how much they are worth.

The report calls on the US government and the governments of countries participating in supporting the International Coalition against ISIS to open an immediate investigation into the involvement of Syrian Democratic Forces in oil-smuggling operations benefiting the Syrian regime, which is on US sanctions lists, to ensure disclosure of all the money it has received from selling oil and gas since 2012 to date, to provide a financial statement on where and how the money was spent, and to stop supporting the SDF and the PYD fully and immediately if it is proven that they are transferring funds from Syria’s oil and gas revenues to the PKK.