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US oil company's Syria operations canned by Biden administration

President Joe Biden's administration has maintained the US is not in Syria to 'keep the oil', as former President Trump once put it
Suwaydiyah oil fields in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province
A US soldier looks on while on patrol by the Suwaydiyah oil fields in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on 13 February (AFP/File photo)

A politically connected US oil company will likely no longer be able to operate in northeast Syria, after the Biden administration declined to renew its waiver.

Permissions given to Delta Crescent Energy (DCE) in April 2020 under former President Donald Trump - who had pledged to "keep the oil" produced in the region - will not be renewed, a US official familiar with the decision told the Associated Press. 

Under US law, most US companies are prohibited from doing business in Syria without explicit permission from the federal government. When the oil company was issued a waiver last year, opponents of the Trump administration decried the move as political.

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DCE was incorporated in 2019 by GOP donor James Cain, who also served as US ambassador to Denmark under President George W Bush; James Reese, a retired Army Delta Force officer; and John Dorrier Jr, a former executive with United Kingdom-based Gulfsands Petroleum.

Dorrier, who serves as the company's CEO, has warned that the company had some $2bn in pending contracts to sell oil to US regional allies who helped fight the Islamic State (IS) group.

"If the Biden administration chooses not to renew the [federal] license, it will be a substantial change in policy that does not support Coalition Allies who fought and died to eliminate ISIS," Dorrier said in a statement, as quoted by the AP.

"Depriving our allies of the opportunity for sanctions relief on critical infrastructure as laid out by the Obama administration would, in effect, turn the North and East of Syria over to Russian, regime and Iranian forces," Dorrier said.

'Plundering Syria's oil and gas'

Syria's main oil fields are in the country's northeast, a region controlled by the US-allied Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces who depend on the oil for income.

In August DCE inked a deal with the Kurds in northern Syria to develop and export the area's crude oil.

Meanwhile, the company has said that it had not received official notice from the US Treasury Department indicating that its waiver would not be renewed, according to AP. Typically the department gives companies some warning in order to wrap up operations.

Middle East Eye reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a response by the time of this article's publication.

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The Pentagon announced in February that US forces in Syria were not guarding Syria's oil fields, as previously ordered by former President Trump, and were instead focused on fighting the remnants of the IS group.

At the time, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that US troops had not been involved in Syria's oil fields since DCE's August deal with the Kurds. Still, some troops remain around the oil operations to protect US civilians.

Former President Trump withdrew a number of US troops from Syria in 2019, leaving only around 900 behind, which he said remained in order to "protect" the oil.

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar al-Jaafari, has accused the US of using the multi-sided war to steal the country's oil reserves and other natural resources.

"The American occupation forces continue to plunder Syria's wealth of oil, gas and agricultural crops, burning and destroying what it cannot steal," Jaafari said in February.

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