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.