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People battle a blaze next to an oil well in the Al-Hasakah province. DELIL SOULEIMAN//Getty Images

The Inside Story of How Trump ‘Kept the Oil’ in Syria and Lost

This article, by APF fellow Kenneth R. Rosen, first appeared in The Daily Beast on May 21, 2021. It was supported by his research for his APF fellowship. Delil Souleiman/Getty The mind-blowingly ambitious plan would have seen Delta Crescent, a tiny Delaware company, bring peace and stability to the war-ravaged northeast of Syria. AL-HASAKAH, Syria—When former President Donald Trump said U.S. troops would remain in Syria to “keep the oil” at the end of 2019, the Pentagon scrambled to deny it. American forces only stayed in Syria to comprehensively defeat ISIS, a spokesman explained; any military presence around the oil fields was purely part of the mission to overcome the so-called Islamic State. Two years later, the remnants of ISIS are diminished, but American troops are still on the ground, still helping to protect that oil. The official stance of the White House, the State Department and the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was then—and remains now—that keeping the oil is not the reason American men and women are

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The American Wildcatters Who Sought Syrian Oil

This piece, written by APF fellow Kenneth R. Rosen, ran in Esquire Magazine, on November, 15, 2022. It was supported by his research for his APF fellowship. Amidst a global energy shortage, the three men behind Delta Crescent Energy figured that even oil from a war-torn autocracy was worth exploring. That is, until they became caught in a battle between the Pentagon, the State Department, and the president. The plan to profit from a war-torn piece of disputed land in the Middle East was born in August 2018, over a leisurely lunch at a southern-food restaurant in Cary, North Carolina, named Lucky 32. As James P. Cain, wearing a crisp blue blazer, dug into a platter of his favorite dish, creamy shrimp and grits, James Reese—strong chin, high-and-tight military haircut—sat across the table and talked. Cain was a former National Hockey League executive and, from 2005 until 2009, the U.S. ambassador to Denmark. “Gucci Ambo,” James Reese liked to rib. Reese, a retired Delta Force commander for the U.S. Army, now owned TigerSwan, a security

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