“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly ... and spread out the wealth,” Trump said during a news conference about the US special forces operation that reportedly led to the death of Daesh ringleader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp, the two largest US oil companies operating in the Middle East, declined to comment on his remarks.
“International law seeks to protect against exactly this sort of exploitation,” said Laurie Blank, an Emory Law School professor and director of its Center for International and Comparative Law, Reuters reported.
“It is not only a dubious legal move, it sends a message to the whole region and the world that America wants to steal the oil,” said Bruce Riedel, a former national security advisor and now senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think-tank.
“The idea that the United States would ‘keep the oil’ in the hands of ExxonMobil or some other US company is immoral and possibly illegal,” said Jeff Colgan, an associate professor of political science and international studies at Brown University. Colgan also said US companies would face “a host of practical challenges” to operate in Syria.
Even getting Exxon or another major oil company to develop Syrian oil would be a “hard sell” given its relatively limited infrastructure and small output, said Ellen R. Wald, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.
Syria produced around 380,000 barrels of oil per day before the country’s foreign-backed war erupted. An International Monetary Fund working paper in 2016 estimated that production had declined to just 40,000 barrels per day.