American "occupation troops" stationed in Syria are "looting" the country's resources, Beijing said
China has blasted the United States for its "banditry" in Syria, claiming that Washington's years-long military occupation and the "plundering" of Syrian resources have placed the country on the brink of a "humanitarian disaster."
Addressing reporters during a press briefing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was asked to comment on recent reports in Syrian media that US forces had transported a large quantity of "looted oil" from Syria to Iraq earlier this month.
"We are struck by the blatancy and egregiousness of the US's plundering of Syria... Such banditry is aggravating the energy crisis and humanitarian disaster in Syria," he said, citing Syrian government statistics purporting that "over 80% of Syria's daily oil output was smuggled out of the country by US occupation troops" in the first half of 2022.
"Whether the US gives or takes, it plunges other countries into turmoil and disaster, and the US gets to reap the benefits for its hegemony and other interests," he added. "This is the result of the US's so-called "rules-based order.""
On January 14, Damascus' state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that "a convoy consisting of 53 tanks loaded with stolen Syrian oil" were brought from the country's Hasakah province to US "bases in Iraqi territory," noting the operation was carried out alongside local Kurdish militants which have long received American backing. The outlet also stated that 60 additional trucks smuggled stolen oil and wheat into Iraq earlier this month.
"The Syrian people's right to life is being ruthlessly trampled on by the US. With little oil and food to go by, the Syrian people are struggling even harder to get through the bitter winter," Wang added, demanding that "the US must answer for its oil theft."
US forces were first sent to Syria in 2014, beginning with a contingent of special operators followed by more conventional ground troops the next year, most embedded with Kurdish fighters in the country's oil-rich northeast. Though then-President Barack Obama maintained the deployment was focused only on combating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists, Washington had long intervened in Syria's war against jihadist groups, sending and overseeing countless arms shipments to rebels seeking to overthrow the government in Damascus beginning as early as 2013.
Though American involvement in the conflict slowed under the next administration, in 2019 President Donald Trump said some US troops would remain in Syria "for the oil," openly suggesting Washington would simply "keep" the energy resources.
Subsequent reporting in 2020 would later reveal that the Trump administration had approved a deal between a US energy firm and Kurdish authorities controlling northeast Syria to "develop and export the region's crude oil" - a contract immediately condemned as "illegal" by Damascus. However, while that particular deal would later fall through after President Joe Biden took office, Syrian authorities have continued to accuse Washington of plundering its resources and some 900 US troops remain in the country illegally.