US troops have illegally occupied Syria’s oil-rich territory for years, but a top United Nations official falsely claimed “there’s no US armed forces inside of Syria”.
In a press briefing on March 24, Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, sparred with Chinese reporter Edward Xu.
Xu pressed Haq about a US airstrike on Syria, which killed a dozen people, following an attack on US troops that have been illegally occupying Syrian territory.
“Do you think the presence of the US military in Syria is illegal or not?” Xu asked.
“That’s not an issue that we’re dealing with at this stage”, Haq replied.
Xu countered, “A foreign ministry based presence in another country without invitation, sounds like something else to me”.
The UN spokesman then falsely claimed, “There’s no US armed forces inside of Syria… It’s not a parallel situation to some of the others… I believe there’s military activity. But, in terms of a ground presence in Syria, I’m not aware of that”.
This statement is simply not true.
US troops have illegally occupied Syria's oil-rich territory for years, but a top United Nations official falsely claimed "there's no US armed forces inside of Syria"
A reporter called out his lie, exposing the UN's hypocrisy on Ukraine.
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) March 29, 2023
The New York Times published an article on March 4 revealing that US General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has demanded that troops remain in Syria.
“America still has more than 900 troops, and hundreds more contractors, in Syria”, the Times reported.
In a March 24 newswire on the US airstrike in Syria, the Associated Press reported that “American troops have been in Syria since 2015“.
The news outlet Kurdistan24 has published video footage of US armored vehicles occupying oil wells in Syria.
In 2018, the Washington Post printed an article boasting, “In Syria, we ‘took the oil’“.
The piece quoted the director of research at the neoconservative, US government-funded think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), who proudly stated, “We have this 30 percent slice of Syria, which is probably where 90 percent of the pre-war oil production took place… This is leverage”.
US state media outlet NPR followed up in 2020, stating very clearly: “U.S. forces in northeastern Syria have a relatively new mission: securing oil fields not only from ISIS, but also from Syrian government and Russian forces”.
NPR noted that its embedded reporter Tom Bowman “has been travelling with American military forces”.
Bowman explained that President Donald Trump “agreed to keep a small number, about 600 or so, to secure these oil fields not only from ISIS but also from Syrian government and Russian forces. Now, they want their Kurdish forces, their allies, to use the proceeds from the oil to pay for their operations”.
For his part, Trump was strikingly honest about what Washington was doing in Syria. He told Fox News, “I left troops [in Syria] to take the oil. I took the oil. The only troops I have are taking the oil. They’re protecting the oil. I took over the oil… We have the oil. Right now, the U.S. has the oil”.
Here’s irrefutable video evidence of Trump “fighting the deep state” ?
“I left troops [in Syria] to take the oil. I took the oil. The only troops I have are taking the oil. They’re protecting the oil. I took over the oil… We have the oil. Right now, the U.S. has the oil” pic.twitter.com/IYaep53GP5
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) March 31, 2023
A hard-line neoconservative activist Dana Stroul, who oversaw Washington’s Syria Study Group, boasted in 2019 that the US military “owns” one-third of Syria, including its oil-rich “economic powerhouse”.
When President Joe Biden came to power in 2021, Stroul was made the top Middle East policy official in the US Department of Defense.
The top Pentagon Middle East policy official, neocon Dana Stroul, confirmed Biden is keeping troops to illegally occupy sovereign Syrian territory
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) August 15, 2021
An official UN transcript of the March 24, 2023 press briefing follows below:
Journalist Edward Xu: A couple of questions on Syria. Yesterday, there’s a drone attack to a US base in north-east Syria which resulted in one death and six injured. After that, US launched an air strike, also killed 11 people in Syria. Any reaction from the Secretary-General on this incident?
UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: Oh, well, of course, we continue to be worried about all of the continuing tensions, and we are trying to see what can be done to lower the tensions from different forces in Syria and will continue with those efforts.
Edward Xu: Do you not urge everybody to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria?
Farhan Haq: Well, of course, that’s a given, and obviously, it’s important that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria is respected. At the same time, you’re aware of the complexity of the situation of foreign forces, but we call for them to exercise restraint.
Edward Xu: But, do you think the presence of the US military in Syria is illegal or not?
Farhan Haq: That’s not an issue that we’re dealing with at this stage. There’s been a war.
Edward Xu: But, is that… because it sounds very familiar this week. We talk a lot about the UN Charter, the international law and relative resolutions. But, it sounds to me, a foreign ministry based presence in another country without invitation, sounds like something else to me.
Farhan Haq: I’ll leave your analysis to you. That there’s… At this stage there’s no…
Edward Xu: What’s the difference between the situation in Syria and the situation in Ukraine?
Farhan Haq: There’s no US armed forces inside of Syria. And so I don’t have a… It’s not a parallel situation to some of the others.
Edward Xu: You’re sure there’s no US military personnel in Syria?
Farhan Haq: I believe there’s military activity. But, in terms of a ground presence in Syria, I’m not aware of that.
Edward Xu: Okay. Five US service members were injured in that attack. If there were no US service members in Syria, how could they got injured? That’s weird, right? Should I ask you about that? And by the way, if you’re talking about the resolution, the international law here is the resolution from Security Council 2254 (2015), I believe, it says in its PA [preambular] paragraph, “reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.
Farhan Haq: Yes. I’m aware of that. And as you see, that is accepted by the members of the Security Council itself.
Edward Xu: Yeah. So, again, back to my question, is that illegal to have presence in Syria for the US base, according to the relevant resolution that I just read out?
Farhan Haq: The relevant resolution does call for that and we call on all countries to respect that. I wouldn’t go beyond that at this stage.