Keeping Syria’s oil could well constitute pillage — theft during war — which is banned in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the 1907 Hague Laws and Customs of War on Land, which states, “The pillage of a town or place, even when taken by assault, is prohibited.” The prohibition has a solid grounding in the laws of war and international criminal justice, and the U.S. federal code, including as a sanction for the illegal exploitation of natural resources such as oil from war zones.' washpo
"Trump’s more grave rationale is his conception of oil as remuneration for U.S. military investment in the Middle East. In a speech Oct. 29, he said: “We want to keep the oil. $45 million a month? Keep the oil.” It mirrors a sentiment he expressed to ABC News in 2011 about Iraqi oil, saying, “You win the war and you take it. … You’re not stealing anything. … We’re taking back $1.5 trillion to reimburse ourselves.” That argument goes well beyond the notion of securing the oil — it suggests trying to profit from it — and therefore risks triggering responsibility for pillage. Contrary to Trump’s characterization, pillage is a form of stealing.
None of this is a new line of thinking for Trump: As a private citizen in 2011, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, commenting on U.S. military involvement in Libya, he said: “I’m only interested in Libya if we take the oil. If we don’t take the oil, I’m not interested.” Regarding Iraq, he said: “I always heard that when we went into Iraq, we went in for the oil. I said, ‘Ah, that sounds smart.’ ” Indeed, he sounded disappointed during his televised announcement last week of the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, when he returned to the subject of oil and lamented: “I always used to say … ‘If they’re going into Iraq, keep the oil.’ They never did. They never did.”" washpo