"Since the early months of the revolution oil pipelines came under attack in a strike against the regime's economic power," said Abdul-Rahman of the Observatory. "Such attacks harmed the regime financially as well as the Syrian economy and citizens in general."

Last week, the oil minister, Abbas, broached with the ambassadors of China and Russia the possibility of exploring for oil and gas off Syria's Mediterranean coast, the state news agency SANA reported. Israel is already developing recent discoveries of massive offshore deposits, with gas set to begin flowing in the coming days, and Lebanon has also spoken of trying to develop offshore fields.

Russia and China are Assad's strongest international backers and have used their veto power at the U.N. Security Council to prevent the international community from imposing international sanctions against Syria.

But Seifan, the Syrian economist, said it's unlikely international companies, even Russian and Chinese ones, will want to commit huge investments to any exploration now "because they don't know what the fate of the regime will be after few months."

"Businesswise there isn't a company that is willing to invest in Syria these days," said Seifan, who currently lives in Iraq.

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