Oil companies in Europe are betting on the survival of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, in sharp contrast to their support for Libya’s opposition six months ago, even while the European Union is expected to soon slap oil sanctions on Damascus.
Several tankers are sailing to Syria this week to either deliver fuel or pick up crude, which may suggest that oil companies believe the rebellion in Syria will fail to overthrow Assad’s government.
The same companies, including Swiss-based trader Vitol, made the opposite bet when it came to trade in Libya. They agreed to supply opponents of Muammar Gaddafi with fuel in the hope their support would be rewarded at the end of the war.
“What oil firms are currently doing does really look like they believe Assad will win, and they will have to deal with him again,” said a Western diplomatic source.
“The big difference that they all see with Libya is that in Syria you don’t even have a location where the opposition can get together like Benghazi,” he added.