Friday, May 10, 2013

In eastern Syria oil smugglers benefit from chaos

In Syria's eastern province of Deir al-Zor, a network of tribes and smugglers has exploited the chaos of war to create an illicit oil trade that makes European hopes of buying crude from President Bashar al-Assad's opponents a distant prospect.

Powerful Sunni Muslim tribes have deployed armed fighters around oil production facilities and pipelines that have fallen under their control and set up smuggling and trade deals, according to sources in the province including rebels, an oil company employee and people with ties to the tribes.

Deir al-Zor is critical to Syrian oil output that has more than halved in the past two years of fighting. The hijacking of the oil industry by tribes complicates Western efforts to help the Syrian opposition fund itself and will make any future reconstruction even more difficult.