The Unmentioned Cause of Syria’s Civil War

“In my view, oil and gas resource limits are major contributors to the conflict in Syria.” – Gail Tverberg

Erasmo Calzadilla

syria-1HAVANA TIMES — It will have been four years since civil war broke out in Syria this March. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look to be the last year of conflict. Hundreds of thousands of deaths, more than two million refugees, fifty thousand disappeared persons, an economic infrastructure that has been razed to the ground and the rise of religious hatred are the most evident results of this bloody conflict.

Much has been written about the causes of the war, but there’s one fact analysts tend to overlook: in 1996, oil production in the country reached its peak and has been declining unstoppably ever since.

Syria-2Oil production in Syria is dropping steadily, not because a handful of politicians are meddling in the sector (as many believe is happening in Venezuela). It’s quite simply because the subsoil has no more to give.

If politicians, experts, civil society and common folk had understood the gravity and irreversibility of the problem in 1996 and acted accordingly, we could have well averted the current catastrophe. But no, people partied on, and harder than ever. The population and consumption of fossil fuels went up and Bashar Al Asad (who has been in power since 2000) flung the country’s doors wide open to let capitalism in.

Syria-3With decreasing production and a population that would not stop growing, there was hardly any oil left to export by 2010. Finding itself in a tight corner, the government ceased subsiding fuel and the price of food skyrocketed. The political crisis would detonate one year later.

The mass media in the West chalked up the Arab Spring revolts to the broadening of people’s democratic and civil consciences, achieved thanks to Web 2.0, portable phones and social networks. The reality is quite different from this caricature.

Syria-4Libya, Yemen and Egypt threw out their old despots but haven’t been able to stabilize their situation. This time around, we aren’t dealing with dinosaurs that thwart development and curtail freedoms, but with an energy problem: these countries, which were once oil-exporters, no longer have enough crude to maintain a social system designed for times of abundance. If a new balance is reached through peaceful means, the horsemen of the apocalypse will do it their way.

Syria-5Looking at Cuba

Let us now move to Cuba. Oil production is declining non-stop at home and in Venezuela. The country’s energy consumption (which has remained stable till now) will collapse from one moment to the next, plunging the island into a crisis of unpredictable consequences.

Neither renewable resources nor new investors nor US tourists are going to pull us out of the fire. The only way to avoid the crash and the worst scenarios is to drastically reduce oil consumption and working for energy and food self-sufficiency. Will we have the maturity needed to understand what is happening and to organize an effective response?

Note: For this post, I relied chiefly on an article by Gail Tverberg published in 2013, Oil and Gas Limits Underlie Syria’s Conflict”. Tverberg is an expert consultant for energy issues, a member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) and author of the blog Our Finate World.


12 thoughts on “The Unmentioned Cause of Syria’s Civil War

  • My I suggest nuclear power for Cuba. It can be built today. Fuel is a small volume 60 years worth can be stored on site. China or Russia would be a good sources for design work.

  • No, I’m referring to the pro-democracy protesters who marched against Assad before the fighting began. Obama cut them off from support and insisted on calling Assad a reformer. Assad slaughtered the students. After that he fighting began and the Islamist extremists moved in. By then, it was too late.

    Now, three years later, the US is trying to find “acceptable” rebels to arm. But the acceptable rebels are either dead or fled. Only the Islamist extremists remain.

  • The GOUSA has never wanted any true democratic form to come into being .
    Its 100 year foreign policy strategies were overwhelmingly aimed at overturning democratic elections, preventing democratic elections and helping squash human rights struggles around the world. .
    Have you not read “Killing Hope ” yet ?
    How can you even use the word democracy in reference to U.S. foreign policy without gagging ?

  • Righto!
    Take a look across the so-called Arab Spring states and it is easily seen that they are all failed states and all have relapsed not only into totalitarian forms but now even more regressive theocratic forms .
    The borders in the Middle East were created by European colonialists and the people of those areas being tribal and of different religions and cultures are in the process of reforming those borders .
    The Christians have gotten over the need to talk about Christendom but the very insecure and more primitive Muslims are now talking about a caliphate which would be a Muslim state that encompasses all or many of the now existing Muslim states with those European -drawn borders.
    Like all religions , the Muslims depend on the ability to force their faith onto their children but unlike all but the fundamentalist/extremists in Judaism and Christianity, the Muslims want to enforce THEIR primitive and totalitarian way of life on everyone .
    This is jihad on the part of a religion that is irrational and primitive. It will not take no for an answer.
    This is a war that will end only when the world is educated to its full potential and realizes that there is no supernatural aspect to our existence and that those old books were written by very primitive and ignorant men and those societal rules are not applicable to an educated race.
    That said, in the USA , 98% of scientists -people with master’s degrees or doctorates – believe in evolution as a fact.
    In the general, lesser educated population, that figure is 65% .
    That means 35% of those in the USA actually believe in a divine creator .
    Good luck with that thinking.
    I just had my DNA traced ….National Geographic is doing a study….. My DNA was traced back to where all humans originated and that is somewhere around modern-day Kenya and 60,000 ( SIXTY THOUSAND) years ago. .
    The only people with pure human DNA are the Africans who never left Africa and never got a chance to interbreed with the Neanderthals and Denisovans as did those humans who migrated north into Europe where those extinct races lived alongside homo sapiens.
    Most white people have something like 2.7 per cent Neanderthal and /or Denisovan DNA .
    This fact really gets the racists going and don’t even think of mentioning it to the Jews and Christians who think the Earth is only 6000 years old.
    So the religious craziness that drives Islam must also be seen in how it affects many aspects of life in the non-Muslim world as well.
    Religion does poison everything and as Christopher Hitchens put it ( paraphrased but true to the spirit ) ” We would only begin to achieve the heights of which our race is capable if we were to discard these primitive and totalitarian beliefs of our race’s intellectual and scientific infancy.” .

  • Now who’s clueless!!! Which pro-democracy protestors……? Are you referring to the same people that are beheading and raping? Please get your facts right…. the British Gov almost armed the same “pro-democracy potestors”

  • I did not say the US should have sent troops to Syria. Obama should have supported the pro-democracy protestors in Syria from the very beginning. Instead, Obama cut them off and called Assad a “reformer”. Even while Assad’s troops were shooting students in the streets, Obama continued to call Assad a reformer. How deluded can he get? By the time it was brutally clear that Assad never was and never will be a reformer, the pro-democracy factions were destroyed. The only viable opposition to Assad was coming from the Islamist radicals, who were getting arms from Turkey, Qatar & Saudi Arabia.

  • What would you have the U.S. do, Griffin, continue to support the bogus and bootless crusade to bring our flavor of demoKKKracy to every corner of the Third World?! Have boots on the ground everywhere? The U.S. has already failed through its proxies, like the clueless regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq; as soon as we departed, even after the longest occupations, our plans are quickly falling apart. (Perhaps not as quickly as they did in Viet Nam, where we got the bum’s rush out the door!) The American people are no longer interested in buying your goods, Griffin! They are as tired of these foreign adventures as they are of the false promises of both major political parties. (They know both are bought and paid for by the lobbyists of the major multi-national corporations). Young folks are not bamboozled by boozhie media either. Although FOX may claim the most viewers, its ads betray their gerontological demographics.

  • You really are clueless. Assad and his father brutalized and tortured the Syrian people for decades. Syria was a horrid nasty, repressive dictatorship for 60 odd years. And an ally of Cuba, by the way. Did you not hear of the Massacre of Hama by Hafez Assad in 1982?

    Obama pulled the US out of the Middle East and stopped supporting pro-democracy groups. The extremists rushed in to fill the vacuum. That’s why Syria now torn between ISIS and Assad: because the US ignored the growing problem.

    Maybe it was never their business, but it is truly bizarre, psychotic even, to suggest the slaughter in Syria is the fault of American interference. If anything, it is the consequence of American neglect.

  • At least Saddam Hussein, as repressive as he was, protected Iraqi religious minorities, including Christians, from Sunni pograms (even his foreign minister was a Christian); ditto the Assad regime, at least until the beginning of the current civil war, against the same Sunni intollerance. Now it looks like there will be interminable religious wars, just like in Europe during the Reformation, when whole cities and regions of Central Europe were decimated and depopulated. Like that conflict, I suspect the current religious wars in the Middle East will only wind down when both sides exhaust each other. I can’t help but suspecting that U.S. imperialism was behind provoking the latest manifestation of this ancient dispute; like the Romans before them, their technique is to “divide and conquer.”

  • The fighting predated US/European involvement in the region. The Ottoman Empire fought the Iranians for 3 centuries, with what is now Iraq the bloody battlefield. Long before that, the Battle of Ashura launched the interminable wars between Sunni & Shia.

    Sunni Jihad is nothing new. That’s what built the Islamic Empire in the first place.

  • Agree.
    The fighting in the Middle East has gone from blowback against U.S/European imperialism to a now religious war; a jihad which seems to be of the Sunni extremist variety and not the Shiite allied type.
    It’s something new

  • Neither Yemen nor Syria were significant oil producers. They were both oil importers. The analysis presented above ignores the deep sectarian religious and ethnic divides which drive the conflict. The government of Bashir al-Assaad is a client of the Iranian regime, which is quite capable of supplying them with all the oil they need. The Iranians also supply Assad with weapons and fighters from the IIRG & Hezbollah.

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