Investigation Must Be Launched to Disclose the Expenditure of Oil and Gas Revenues, with Fears These Are Being Used to Fund Terrorism
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) states in its report released today that Syrian Democratic Forces are breaching 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 15-page report notes that the UN Security Council has failed completely in its mission to fully maintain peace and security in Syria, despite the staggering and exhaustive extent of the violations perpetrated by the ruling authority against the Syrian people, effectively giving the Syrian regime carte blanche ad enabling it to use a weapon of mass destruction against the country’s citizens, with the United Nations failing to even impose economic sanctions or arms embargoes.
The report also notes that, given this massive failure by the Security Council in its duties towards the Syrian people, some countries have assumed some of their responsibilities to punish the Syrian regime and achieve some kind of accountability against its brutal practices; the USA, the European Union and a number of countries worldwide have imposed economic and political sanctions against the Syrian regime in order to pressure it to change its criminal behavior, and in an effort to force it to accept a political path leading to a process of change from the current system of dynastic dictatorship toward real elections free from the control of the security services.
The report explains that any economic or military support for the Syrian regime contributes to relieving pressure on it and to supporting its military capabilities and security services. Such support is categorized as complicity in support of the Syrian regime perpetrating 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), which is classified as a terrorist organization. This implicates the SDF in supporting and financing global terrorism.
In this context, as the report states, in April 2019, several villages and towns in Deir Ez-Zour witnessed public outrage over poor service conditions; although this is an oil-rich region, its inhabitants have not witnessed the restoration of infrastructure or hospitals and have not been provided with basic services since the SDF took control of the region.
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 relies on investigative and statistical reports by specialist agencies specializing in energy, and compares oil productivity between 2010 and 2018, revealing that the SDF oil fields produce approximately 14,000 barrels of oil per day. The report is also supported by accounts SNHR has obtained which reveal that the SDF currently sells a barrel of crude oil to the Syrian regime for around US $ 30, making a total daily return estimated at $ 420,000, a monthly return estimated at US $ 12.6 million, and an annual return estimated at 378 million dollars; this sum does not include the gas revenues.
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 Ez-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 travelling 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 that 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 stresses that Syrian Democratic Forces have breached economic sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime by civilized democratic countries around the world that constitute a near international consensus against a regime that has committed crimes against humanity, and is primarily supported by states like Iran and Russia that do not respect international law and which are involved in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity and in defending and justifying the regime’s crimes.
As the report makes clear, Syrian Democratic Forces, through their oil-smuggling operations, have supported the Syrian regime which is involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity, with the report further noting that Syrian Democratic Forces have treated the oil and gas fields as though these facilities were their own property and that of the Self-Management and Kurdish Democratic Union Party, which may have transferred some of the funds earned from these sales to its leaders in the PKK, which is on the US terrorism lists. This falls into the category of providing financing and support for terrorism in the world.
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 terrorist PKK.
The report also calls on these bodies to make genuine efforts to establish legitimate civilian local governance and democratic elections in northeast Syria as a substitute for the dominant military forces, placing military forces under the authority of the democratically elected civilian governance, and placing the region’s resources under its control, which will be reflected in positive effects on services and infrastructure.
The report recommends that Syrian Democratic Forces should open an investigation into those involved in oil and gas smuggling operations, and supporting the Syrian regime, should hold them accountable by trial conducted by an independent judiciary that is not affiliated with the SDF or Self-Management, should use the oil and gas revenues for the benefit of society, restore infrastructure and services, and should commit to financial transparency in this. The report also recommends that the SDF must not support the Syrian regime which is involved in committing crimes against humanity, as this could lead to a charge of collusion against the SDF and its political and military leaderships.
The report urges the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on the Syrian regime targeting the organs and persons involved in committing atrocities and violations, above all to impose an arms embargo and travel ban.
The report stresses the urgent need for the OHCHR and the International Commission of Inquiry to recommend that the Security Council imposes sanctions against the Syrian regime in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law, including a comprehensive arms embargo, and to stress the vital need for the imposition of sanctions, including legal and criminal accountability for all those who actively support the Syrian regime in its military and criminal operations against the Syrian people.