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    Syria's oil reserves could be a boon for Western energy firms. | Photo: AFP

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International oil firms including the Anglo-Dutch giant Royal Dutch Shell could be among the biggest winners from Western airstrikes in Syria.

As the U.K. voted to go to war for the fourth time in a Muslim nation in 14 years, new revelations suggest that Western energy firms could benefit the most from the military intervention in the long-term.

In a piece for Insurge Intelligence, investigative journalist Dr. Nafeez Ahmed unveiled an oil industry study that suggested Western oil firms including Royal Dutch Shell are keen to exploit Syrian offshore gas reserves in the Mediterranean, but have so far been impeded by Syria's internal conflict.

The revelations were found in a 2011 study printed by GeoArabia, an influential petroleum journal with no open subscription system. The journal is generally only circulated among industry insiders, and according to Ahmed it is “exclusively distributed to transnational energy corporations, corporate sponsors and related organizations, as well as some universities.”

Ahmed's piece also highlights a 2014 report from the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute that suggested the U.K. and other nations “see the Mediterranean as an opportunity to wean Europe off dependence on Russian gas, and boost Israel’s energy independence.”

“As part of this process, the report revealed, military action is viewed as potentially necessary to secure Syria’s untapped offshore gas resources, which overlap with the territorial waters of other Mediterranean powers, including Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey,” Ahmed wrote.

Speaking to teleSUR, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed said oil interests are an unsung motivation for international intervention in the war-torn nation, with countries like the U.K. and the United States angling for a piece of the pie in post-war Syria.

“While I think it would be a mistake to reduce Western involvement in Syria to a case of 'it's all about the oil,' it is frankly appalling that the role of oil has been ignored, despite the disturbing precedent set by previous interventions in Iraq and Libya for instance,” Ahmed said.

He explained, “there can be no doubt that Russia, the U.S., Britain and France see military action as essential to guarantee a stand in post-conflict energy opportunities in Syria, which have been estimated to be in the trillions of cubic feet by a French firm, CGGVeritas, which had been contracted to (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad as late as 2011.”

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However, he stressed the Syrian conflict is about more than just oil.

“I think it's important to preface any recognition that energy interests are playing a role in the Syria crisis with the fact that this is, of course, a multifaceted and complicated conflict, being driven by many factors,” he said.

Ahmed added, “Equally, the involvement of external powers in the conflict is linked to a range of interests and concerns—energy is one of these, but the geopolitical context of those energy interests is very important.”

Ahmed's research into causes of terrorism contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

The U.K. Vote

The investigative journalist spoke to teleSUR as the U.K.'s parliament voted in favor of joining international airstrikes in Syria.

Three hundred and ninety seven legislators voted in favor of the airstrikes proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron, while 223 voted against.

Many of these votes for war came from legislators from the opposition Labour party, which has been fiercely divided on the issue of airstrikes over the past week.

While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued against airstrikes, his own shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn claimed recent attacks in Paris illustrated the Islamic State group poses a security risk to the Western world.

“We have a moral and a practical duty to extend the action we are already taking in Iraq to Syria,” Benn said.

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Corbyn, whose Labour party holds the second-most seats in the U.K.’s lower house of Parliament, rejected claims from pro-war voices including Benn that airstrikes would make the U.K. safer.

He stressed that “the question of whether the government’s proposal for military action in Syria strengthens—or undermines—our own national security must be at the center of our deliberations.”

The decision to take military action in a fourth Muslim country in just 14 years is not only opposed by anti-war activists, but also the majority of British voters.

Yougov reported Wednesday that public support for the airstrikes in Syria has sharply fallen over the last month from 59 percent to 48 percent, with a corresponding leap in those who disapprove from 20 percent to 31 percent between Nov. 17 and Dec. 1.

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