Syrian oil industry falling to rebels
posted at 1:58 pm on April 6, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
This may be the beginning of the end for Bashar al-Assad. If he can’t keep revenues flowing, his forces may soon melt away, leaving him at the mercy of the rebels who are gaining control of his oil fields:
Syria’s vital oil industry is breaking down as rebels capture many of the country’s oil fields, with wells aflame and looters scooping up crude, depriving the government of much needed cash and fuel for its war machine against the uprising.
Exports have ground practically to a standstill, and the regime of President Bashar Assad has been forced to import refined fuel supplies to keep up with demand amid shortages and rising prices. In a sign of the increasing desperation, the oil minister met last week with Chinese and Russian officials to discuss exploring for gas and oil in the Mediterranean off Syria’s coast.
China and Russia would like to keep their client Assad in place, but it’s difficult to imagine that they will be sanguine about investing a lot of capital into his regime at this point. Without that kind of assistance, though, China and Russia should start planning for the post-Assad future:
Since late 2012, rebels have been seizing fields in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, one of two main centers of oil production. Most recently, they captured the Jbeysa oil field, one of the country’s largest, after three days of fighting in February.
At the same time, overburdened government troops have had to withdraw from parts of the other main oil center — the northeastern Kurdish-majority region of Hassakeh, where they have handed control of the oil fields to the pro-government militia of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD. Production from some of those fields still goes to the Syrian government, but the fields are more vulnerable to theft and smuggling.
When the money runs out … will Assad run out of Syria?