Satellite Images Confirm US Smuggling Syrian Oil: Russian Defense Ministry

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"America's mission in Syria is morphing from a noble battle against the most reviled terrorist organization in the world into a quixotic gambit to force changes in Assad's behavior by taking Syria's oil", Heras said.

Russia's defense ministry on Saturday attacked USA plans to maintain and boost the American military presence in eastern Syria as "international state banditry" motivated by a desire to protect oil smugglers and not by real security concerns.

The additional "assets" would appear to be headed to the oil field areas of Deir al-Zour, near the Iraqi border still controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Trump's plan has drawn significant criticism, coupled with the withdrawal of US troops from the northeast of the country where their presence had been protecting America's Kurdish-led allies from Turkish attack.

Part of the U.S. troops, who returned from Iraq to Syria after a brief "withdrawal" announced by Washington, have been deployed to the oil-rich governorate of Al-Hasakah, near the town of Tell Beydar, local sources say. Perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the Oil Region! Trump tweeted on Thursday before a meeting with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and other military leaders.

Esper met Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Friday in Brussels during a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting. "When these pundit fools who have called the Middle East wrong for 20 years ask what we are getting out of the deal, I simply say, THE OIL, AND WE ARE BRINGING OUR SOLDIERS BACK HOME, ISIS SECURED!"

Trump's decision to withdraw the bulk of roughly 1,000 American troops from Syria drew bipartisan condemnation.

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the main goal of the American troop presence is to make sure the Islamic State is contained and unable to gain control of the oil fields and the revenue they generate.

With Russian and Syrian forces on the move, any plans to keep a small contingent of United States forces in Syria would still represent an uphill battle. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, was working with a number of options, among them sending tanks to the region, deploying forces pulled from an armored brigade.

The SDF, spearheaded by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), took control of the area when it allied itself with the USA in its battle against ISIL in the region.

"Turkey put us all in a very bad situation and I think the incursion's unwarranted", Esper said.

Esper's remarks in Brussels on October 25 indicating that the force will be "mechanized" suggests that several hundred US troops will be deployed to the region.

That offensive began after Mr Trump announced United States troops would not stand in the way, though he also said the U.S. would punish Turkey's economy if the country acted inhumanely.

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