Military Review

Operation "Claw-Sword" and attacks on the economy of the unrecognized autonomy of Syria

Operation "Claw-Sword" and attacks on the economy of the unrecognized autonomy of Syria

Feature of the operation - objects of economic infrastructure

In development of the one raised in the previous article "Claw-Sword". Prospects for Turkey's military operation" I would like to touch upon such an interesting issue as the economy of this region. One of the important features of the military operation carried out by Ankara is the focus on economic infrastructure facilities.

Turkish operations 2017–2018 differed in scale, focus on the occupation of territories, the most significant of which, undoubtedly, is the mountainous region (canton) of Afrin. However, Ankara's further advance deep into Syria usually rested on the intensification of fighting in another disputed territory - the province of Idlib, where the Syrian army, supported by Moscow, in turn, took control of the pro-Turkish militants' base areas.

Such an actual "exchange" did not always suit Ankara, since it caused a storm of emotions in the patriotic electorate. The notorious "agreements" is a topic that periodically blows up not only Russian society, but to no lesser extent Turkish society.

The territorial claims of Ankara at one time rested on the small town of Manbij, to which we will return in the article. Having not resolved the territorial issue in its favor for several years, Turkey changed its rhetoric, moving on to discussing a new version of the so-called. "Pact of Adana" and continuing military operations against the forces of the Workers' Party and the ruling PDS / PYD in those territories in the variant of deep artillery and aviation raids. Infrastructure is usually not affected.

However, today we see a change in the format of Turkey's actions - the ground operation is not yet carried out, but not only and not so much military facilities are under attack, but the main source of income for the rebellious enclave is oil refining.

On the night of November 24, Turkish aircraft inflicted more than ten strikes on oil production and processing sites in the provinces of Hasaka and Deir es-Zor. Actually, the remnants of the raw material infrastructure of the southeast of Syria have been both a stumbling block and a link between different forces of the entire region for several years. And the fact that Turkey decided to strike precisely at this node shows both the depth of Ankara's intentions and the change in its military-political concept in this direction, because in both cases the United States was responsible for the security of this infrastructure.

Syrian oil has historically not been an important factor in pricing on world markets, but together with gas production, it fully covered the needs of the national economy in Syria and provided export earnings. With the advent of civil war on this land, and then the intervention of ISIS (banned in the Russian Federation), the main capacities were beyond the reach of the official Syrian government, and the flow of these resources almost completely turned into a headache for Syria's ally - Iran, which was forced to send oil by sea for processing at the refinery in Baniyas.

For the northern regions, which later gradually came under the control of Damascus, the issue of obtaining refined oil products was associated with constant bargaining with the PDS / PYD - the de facto government of the unrecognized enclave in the north. The latter, in turn, could not maintain the level of production and processing at the pre-war level without the involvement of specialists from the official government, a similar situation developed in the field of electrical networks.

In general, a significant part of the agreements and exchanges (the bases of Russia and Damascus in Kamyshli, the Tabka dam) were based on this factor. The second factor in the negotiations was Turkish military pressure. ISIS (banned in the Russian Federation) in Iraq and Syria as an organized force was eliminated, and a window of opportunity opened for the PYD/PYD.

Firstly, the way to the east was gradually cleared - to Iraqi Kurdistan, where the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline, reconstructed with Russian investments, regularly pumped raw materials to Turkey. In the case of Erbil's tacit consent to the mixing of flows, an understandable source of income was obtained.

Secondly, Damascus continued to buy (de facto from itself) raw materials.

And thirdly, US assistance in terms of capacity reconstruction made it possible to get away from artisanal fuel production, relatively unify quality and, consequently, provide more opportunities for the agricultural sector. And cultivation is another major component of the region's economy.

The departure from handicraft production made it possible both to centralize financial flows and to work out a certain balance of interests between the PDS and the Arab tribes in the south. And this was an important challenge for the PDS, because the Arab part of the SDS (military forces of Northern Syria) was not at all eager to fight under the command of the PKK.

And here we come to such an interesting issue as the legalization of such supplies.

Legalization of supplies

It is clear that no legalization is needed for the internal market of the northern autonomy or for interaction with the Syrian government, but for everything else? But for everything else in the United States in 2019, an amusing structure called Delta Crescent Energy (DCE) is being created, which was withdrawn by the Trump administration from the sanctions regime.

DCE concludes an agreement with the leadership of the unrecognized autonomy on "assistance in the reconstruction" of the refinery in Hasek (Rumeilan, which was shelled) and the sale of oil for a symbolic share of $ 1 per barrel. DCE did not perform major work on the infrastructure, its office in Syria consisted of 15–20 people, but it covered supplies and also helped with spare parts. In general, it was an interesting process when the remaining drilling rigs were serviced by specialists from Damascus, and spare parts were supplied, among other things, by the Americans.

Why was the Rumelain refinery chosen by DCE as the point of focus of efforts, and not, say, the same powerful CONOCO complex in Deir es-Zor?

Not only because of the ownership structure, but also for logistical reasons. Rumelain is a city that is located close and convenient to the base route from the Zakho border crossing into the depths of Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq. This is generally the main cargo route to the region - the most comfortable and fastest.

What was the amount of income?

The fact is that the entire Syrian hydrocarbon complex brought in the best of times about 3 billion. dollars of revenue, but after the active phase of the civil war without large investments, the main part of production corny stood up. Today, production fluctuates at the level of 750-780 thousand barrels. per month, of which 2/3 went to the foreign market. Considering that the capacity of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan branch is approximately 325 thousand barrels. per day, the Syrian oil in it, at first glance, "did not make the weather" with its volume of 7-8%.

But this is only at first glance. If, as planned at the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, the city of Kirkuk was included in the structure of the KRG, then the situation would be more profitable for Erbil than the current one: after all, Kirkuk is still the basis of Iraq's oil production.

But in the end, the project did not work, and Iraq retained control over Kirkuk, that is, this oil pipeline today is not only Kurdish, but also all-Iraqi, as well as what flows through it to Turkey. Accordingly, both pricing and income structure are the subject of a rather difficult consensus between Erbil and Baghdad.

DCE and the leaders of the PDS eventually “bargained” with Erbil to an entry price of $17–19 per barrel. The difference between the entry price and the market exit price more than compensated Erbil for small volumes, and it is possible to understand the government in Erbil - getting your share from both oil and oil transit from the government of Iraq has always been that “quest”.

Simply put, this money was delayed all the time, because it was necessary to take into account, recalculate, issue, talk, etc. But there was no such problem with Syrian supplies - they could be sold separately and kept their own records. Baghdad has been trying for many years to limit the budget of the KRG, as well as the independence of the autonomy, but then where does the autonomy get money from?

It is clear that $14 million a month, which eventually remained in Syria, given that this is not net profit, but gross, played a significant, but not decisive role in the economy of the unrecognized autonomy, but played another, no less important, political one. , because these incomes cemented the relationship between the Arab tribal elite and the management of the PDS.

It is also clear that DCE's earnings of less than a million dollars per month were not the result of any particular corruption-conspiracy scheme. The US was simply providing the costs for a structure that strengthened its political influence in the region. And fastened, as they say, "for a small price."

After all, after the withdrawal of the main contingent of troops from Syria, about nine hundred Americans remained there at four main bases - this is a drop in the ocean for the entire region. But this is a drop, distributed in the right way, and with the DCE “plugged” in the right place, de facto they kept the entire Trans-Euphrates under the United States, and Damascus without free access to oil.

Iran, on the other hand, could not freely use the caravan routes of the southeast of Syria and bore the costs of supplying hydrocarbons to the government of B. Assad. That is, you can laugh, as some of us love the “eccentric Trump”, but there is no doubt about the rationality, cheapness and effectiveness of the scheme. Moreover, it would not be superfluous to take this principle as a model.

How did the oil story affect the political process inside?

Here we should make one more important clarification and dwell on how this oil история affected the political process within the most unrecognized autonomy. The fact is that formally and legally the Workers' Party is not included in the structure of the PDS / PYD, but de facto it is clear that all ideological and organizational control is in the hands of its functionaries.

The councils consist of different strata of the local society, and far from everywhere they function with a Kurdish ethnic advantage, but control is a power bloc, and it is either in the hands of the PKK functionaries, or structures that are synergistic in ideas like the Assyrian Dawn. There are many functionaries, and they are in different stratification - there are "elders" of the Ocalan call, there are their "pupils" and "pupils", there are ordinary adepts.

Here, the negotiations with the Trump administration were not conducted by the "old men", but by a relatively young military elite by Eastern standards, which, having agreed with Washington, gained enormous authority, as well as full and real power on the ground. They succeeded a lot - at first they agreed with the United States on the formation of a "federation", to provide assistance to the Americans in the campaign against ISIS (banned in the Russian Federation) - rather bloody operations in Manbij and Raqqa.

And now they have concluded an oil agreement, which finally brought their authority and military leader A. Mazlum beyond the strict control of age ideologists. This is a very important factor, because for a long time the age ideologists had their own form of “apparatus pressure” on their functionaries in Syria – the female factor.

According to the precepts of the founder of the PKK, each council must have a man and a woman. Even military formations are divided into male (YPG - yellow flags) and female (YPJ - green flags). The female elite of the PKK is for the most part absolutely devoted to the idea of ​​fanatics, in fact, to ideologists too. The real "furies of the revolution." It is also control and information. To obtain unconditional authority along this “line” was a major victory for the military leadership of the autonomy.

All this took place under the umbrella of a violent standoff that unfolded in early 2020 in the Syrian province of Idlib, a rebel enclave partly controlled by Turkey and Syrian government forces. The fighting was intense, Turkey was involved there by the armed forces, which suffered losses, but could not hold the bridgeheads and were forced to retreat to the line of the so-called. highways M-4.

Meanwhile, almost under Ankara's nose, the United States set in motion a mechanism for the legalization of oil supplies. The rhetoric of Turkey, and Russia, by the way, was tough, but in fact the only gain was that the parties began patrolling areas under the control of the PDS.

By the way, this patrol pursued not only political goals. From a practical point of view, it would seem, what can a convoy of military equipment fly at speed along the roads of the province?

Almost nothing, unless there are loaded cars with the “wrong” oil on these roads. Now, probably, the reader understands why these clashes between Russian-Turkish and American patrols sometimes resembled scenes from the movie "Mad Max" with races in the desert, and also why in some villages our transports were thrown by disgruntled stones and bottles of gasoline. They threw, of course, and because many people do not like the Turks there, but not only for this reason.

The Trump team lost the US elections, as well as the DCE organizing team, and the Biden administration was somehow not very good at maintaining a structure that is alien, from the word “completely”. In mid-2021, Washington revokes the export license that removed the office from the sanctions regime, Erbil refuses to officially renew deals, but, as is usually the case in "international practice", the flow both went and continues to go. It’s just that now, formally, the US Army doesn’t seem to be obliged to actively defend these - only to fight ISIS, which is banned in Russia.

The hands of the Turkish Sultan finally reached the heart of Koshchei

And now the hands of the Turkish sultan have finally reached the heart of Koshchei (PKK) in Syria and his main pillar of political leadership - the oil consensus between ethnic groups, on which autonomy rests. The problem for the political leadership of the unrecognized federation is not even that their territory may lose large incomes within the region, but that there will be nothing to attract the Arab elite, which controls the entire southeast of the desert beyond the river, to cooperation. Euphrates.

At the same time, the presence of Americans there is practically nominal - these several hundred soldiers are technically not capable of controlling this vast and deserted territory. Getting them out is a two-week deal for Washington.

And here R. Erdogan, realizing that in the current conditions Moscow is not only weak in the region - its focus of attention is in a completely different direction, he already offers open negotiations with the government of B. Assad according to the formula of the so-called. "Adana Pact" - an agreement from 1998, according to which Syria refused the Workers' Party in any form of support, and Turkey, in the event of a threat, could conduct special operations in a 5-kilometer zone along the border.

Today, Ankara proposes to expand this zone to 30 km, and to recognize the PDS/PYD as equal to the PKK. Approve Damascus of this new formula, and Turkey will not need to negotiate ground operations with Moscow.

Another thing is that in Damascus such a formula does not seem acceptable, since in fact in this 30-kilometer zone all large settlements and main routes from west to east are located, including Manbij, which R. Erdogan wants to receive for "resettlement of refugees » for the fifth year already, and the oil fields in the north of Prov. Hasaka and Rumelain to boot.

In general, R. Erdogan's maximum program is understandable, ambitious and, what is most interesting, does not change from year to year. He “feels” it in one way, then in another, then in a third, but it seems that in the end he did find that lever and that moment in time when everything that is technically possible can be squeezed out of this program.

The final forms of agreements between Damascus and Ankara can be very, very diverse, while the moment is quite obvious that if Ankara persistently brings the issue of negotiations with Damascus into the public sphere, stating in the person of R. Edogan:

“There are no eternal disputes and disagreements in politics. There comes a time when you have to carefully weigh everything, think it over and change the old approach. Guided by the interests of Turkey, today we are ready to review relations with countries with which we have difficulties on a number of issues,”

then negotiations in an informal manner are conducted more than actively.

So far, we are seeing that Turkey is potentially campaigning in such a way as to force the Americans, if not to withdraw completely, then for security purposes to retreat south towards Shaddadi and the oil fields of prov. Deir es-Zor. The government of the unrecognized autonomy has only made one move so far - it has weakened the security of the zones where captured ISIS militants (banned in the Russian Federation) and their families are kept. But this is not the first time it has done this, and it is not certain that this blackmail will work.

And what about Russia?

Russia in this story finds itself in a rather strange position, when, oddly enough, little depends on it, since Moscow has always stated that Damascus is not a dependent entity, but is a full-fledged subject of international politics. And if Turkey and Syria are close to sitting down at the negotiating table in this situation, it is quite difficult to say what role we can play there.

But this does not mean that Russia should just observe, because we have a very good and high-quality option - the supply of weapons. After all, no matter how the rounds of negotiations between Syria and Turkey go, Ankara will try the Syrian defense “to the tooth” in any case, and as soon as a weak spot is revealed, a painful injection will immediately be inflicted there.

To prevent this from happening, but it was inconvenient and expensive to try, and we should talk less, but supply more modern weapons to Damascus, in particular air defense, since Turkey's main stake is air, not land. Turkey does not hesitate to supply Ukraine - and we have nothing to be ashamed of in this regard.

Apparently, such an approach will be much more useful than the role of a "buffer" between the pro-American PDS, Damascus and the ambitious Ankara.

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  1. Nikolay Malyugin
    Nikolay Malyugin 26 November 2022 06: 36
    The experience of Russia in 1918-1922 suggests that only its own forces can decide the independence of a state. As soon as Syria and Libya get rid of foreign military formations, then there will be a victory for the domestic front. This will take several years. But it will be its own victory.
    1. nikolaevskiy78
      26 November 2022 06: 49
      With Libya, the issue is more complicated - there is not even the potential for a single government there yet.
      1. Doccor18
        Doccor18 26 November 2022 09: 58
        Quote: nikolaevskiy78
        With Libya, the issue is more complicated ...

        Yes, and with Syria, everything is oh so difficult. There is power, but there are so many external pressure vectors ...
        Thank you for your interesting analysis. We are waiting for new articles. hi.
    2. The comment was deleted.
  2. Bingo
    Bingo 26 November 2022 07: 28
    Famous porridge. On the one hand, Tarakan competently plays the card with Sweden joining NATO, which makes it possible to bomb US proxies and receive approval for this:

    Asked by Green Party co-chairman Martha Stenevy in the Swedish parliament why Turkey's "Claw-Sword" air operation in northern Syria and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have not yet been criticized by the government, Prime Minister Kristersson replied: "Turkey against terrorist attacks. She has the right to defend herself."

    On the other hand, by redirecting the Syrian Kurds from Assad to himself, Tarakan risks getting a united Kurdistan against Turkey alone - if Assad steps aside, Iraq as a state has long ended, the Kurds have the only enemy left. And they just could not cope with the Turkish enclave.
    1. nikolaevskiy78
      26 November 2022 18: 15
      No, it's not risky. First, the Workers' Party, which forms the ruling bloc in Syria (PYD), is opposed to the ruling bloc in Iraqi Kurdistan, has repeatedly threatened the Barzani family, and is opposed to the very idea of ​​a national Kurdish state. These are the paradoxes of the "Syrian Kurds"
  3. ARIONkrsk
    ARIONkrsk 26 November 2022 07: 30
    And where is the reaction to the invasion and operation of Turkey in Syria, where are the sanctions ... and for sure, everyone except Russia can fight.
  4. rotmistr60
    rotmistr60 26 November 2022 08: 50
    focus specifically on economic infrastructure facilities
    And this is mainly, as the author correctly noted, oil wells, i.e. oil. But the most interesting thing is that the United States is brazenly pumping oil for their own needs and supposedly to compensate for the military and financial assistance provided to the Kurds. So Erdogan encroached on the American piece. But for some reason (?), the Americans keep quiet and did not even condemn the Turkish operation.
    1. nikolaevskiy78
      26 November 2022 18: 17
      The Americans want to get out of that game so softly in order to avoid the Afghan scenario and not run into criticism of the leftists in Europe and the USA, which, by the way, are their electorate. How it will be in practice - we'll see.
  5. Machiavelli
    Machiavelli 26 November 2022 15: 26
    Quote from ARIONkrsk
    And where is the reaction to the invasion and operation of Turkey in Syria, where are the sanctions ... and for sure, everyone except Russia can fight.

    You don't understand this is different. How they like to grow up in Europe.
  6. The comment was deleted.
    1. nikolaevskiy78
      26 November 2022 19: 13
      Syria 2022 is that really rare case when you can stand aside and let Turkey and Syria decide the issue themselves. At the same time, in the place of the Kremlin, I would supply Damascus with a good batch of air defense. Just in case.
      1. Dmitry Rigov
        Dmitry Rigov 27 November 2022 15: 59
        Is Syria now generally independent? I just thought that she was actually under the control of Iran.
        1. nikolaevskiy78
          27 November 2022 17: 21
          Iran's influence is very great, but it is not control. It is even recognized by the Arabs that Damascus is restoring relations (like the UAE), and some even directly advocate the return of Syria to the Arab League. Those. there is an active dialogue going on. If Iran had full control over Syrian politics, there would not have been such a fairly wide dialogue
      2. springrain
        springrain 29 November 2022 18: 20
        Good afternoon!
        A good batch of air defense will not be delivered to Syria for several reasons:
        1. In the context of the conflict in Ukraine, it became necessary to qualitatively strengthen the air defense system covering troops and important logistics hubs. The probability that there will be an "extra" batch of Shells or S-400s is vanishingly small.
        2. Extremely high dependence at this stage of the Russian leadership on the position of Erdogan. Here is a grain deal, and gas, and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. That is, as a partner at the moment, Erdogan is much more valuable than Assad.
        3. Also. for additional arms supplies to Syria, Erdogan can mirror the increase in supplies to Ukraine. For example, the Armed Forces of Ukraine already have Turkish armored vehicles, UAVs and multiple launch rocket systems.
        At the same time, the position "to step aside while the grown-up uncles resolve issues" is fraught with a serious weakening of Moscow's role in the Syrian settlement. That is, in the future Ankara and Damascus will be able to agree on their own, without resorting to venues like Astana or Sochi.
        Therefore, it can be assumed that Russia will try to contain Turkey, or to impose some kind of "mutually beneficial" exchange of territories, of course, at the expense of the Kurds.
        1. nikolaevskiy78
          1 December 2022 12: 14
          Good afternoon!
          S-300\400 for Syria, as practice has already shown, are redundant, because they form not so much the military umbrella itself, but the tension along the perimeter. And the use of this mechanism is called into question precisely because of politics. And once it is called into question, then the reputational losses are intensified. But the machines of the divisional link would be very much in demand. How many can be delivered to Syria, I, of course, do not know. It is unlikely that in Ukraine we will use this particular arsenal to the limit of what is possible. No, maybe the situation is such that we no longer have anything "over the limits" in our stocks and production programs, but then it's just sad.

          About dependence on Erdogan. Yes, we have this factor for granted. But given the nature of these relations, it is the supply of weapons, oddly enough, that will be perceived in Ankara as a "lesser evil" than blocking the operation along various Astana routes. What does "blocking" mean? An increase in the number of personnel on the line of contact, which indirectly forms a restricted zone for Ankara. And what about the increase in supplies to Ukraine? Remember how briskly there were arms deliveries to Syria itself. How much did it affect the situation in the field? Affected, but not in the way that suppliers would like. Simply because, unlike Ukraine, our work on the formation of proxy opportunists in Syria was tough and systemic.

          I disagree about the weakening of positions. Russia today, and so on the whole, is not in the strongest position in a variety of negotiating platforms. In this situation, it may be that the dialogue between Damascus and Ankara will allow us to focus on other areas, while retaining the "stop" option. Those. without straining relations with Turkey to the limit and in the context of a dialogue between Turks and Syrians, we will be able to say after a while - "and now it's time to talk." And they got theirs, and Damascus PKK will wait and exchanges will do in Idlib. Here, after all, the question is that the Syrians of Idlib are still more interested in the position of the PDS in the border area.