The recent agreement brokered between the U.S. and Russia on Syria's chemical weapons saved Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria from the threat of military strikes — for now. It also seemed to settle some nervy oil markets.

Oil prices climbed to a six-month high of $117 per barrel in August, when military action appeared imminent. In fact Syria is home to relatively few oil reserves, but crude prices are not driven by supply and demand alone. Instead, oil markets react strongly to nerves and tremors along political fault lines, nowhere more so that in a neighborhood like the Middle East.

While oil is key to the political economy of Syria, particularly given the country's potential as a regional transport hub, the interruption of supplies from Syrian wells is not nearly enough to shake global crude markets.

Prewar output levels in 2010 were only around 385,000 barrels per day (bpd), a level that dropped to 164,000 bpd in 2012 as conflict and sanctions took their toll. Current production is around 50,000 bpd. However, when we look beyond Syria's borders we find a nation nestled near Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, which among them are responsible for more than one-fifth of global crude production.

But as history has shown, oil markets and prices are driven not necessarily by taps being turned off, but on what "might happen." And those movements can be revealing.

The subversive U.S. shale boom aside, the Middle East remains at the epicenter of supply routes, en route to European and U.S. consumers. Geopolitical trends in the region over recent years, in large part provoked by the Arab Spring protests and their legacy, have made oil markets jumpy indeed.

As the fighting shows little sign of ceasing within Syria, there is concern of the conflict spilling over borders to neighboring countries, notably in Turkey's Kurdish east, a region only now beginning to regain a fragile stability, but which is fast reaching capacity with nearly half a million Syrian refugees absorbed so far.

Iraq, too, has a porous border with Syria, and its own "Kurdish question" that the conflict threatens to exacerbate. Iran, in turn, has always been a steadfast supporter of Assad, but the election of the seemingly moderate Rouhani as its latest president has eased fears that the country would respond to Western strikes with anything stronger than words.

Key oil infrastructure, such as the huge Turkish port at Ceyhan, is also frighteningly close to combat zones. Not to mention the Straits of Hormuz, the global choke-point through which almost one-fifth of all global oil is traded.

Price spikes, however short-lived, will always produce alarmist reports in the media. But what exactly is the impact of such a spike?

Well, a (contested) rule of thumb claims that every $10 increase in the prices of a barrel of oil reduces GDP growth by half a percentage point within two years. And the IEA's Fatih Birol has warned that prices beyond $110 per barrel can be considered in the "red zone," seriously threatening growth in vulnerable importing countries.

Up until now, the surge onto the market of U.S.-produced hydrocarbons has cushioned the impact of supply constraints in the Middle East. But we should be looking beyond Syria at the global supply outlook to predict how long the current spike could last.

Troubling reports of sarin gas in Syria has kept the conflict high on the international news agenda in recent weeks, while fluctuating oil prices are perennial headline favorites. But we should hesitate before jumping to a causal relationship between the two.

The disruptive potential of Syria's conflict on a large scale is clear to see — it has already triggered a serious adjustment of U.S.-Russian power relations. But we must see the Syrian question and its impact on crude prices in the context of the confluence of several circumstances tightening supply — not only in the region (Libya, Iran and Iraq), but also in distant Nigeria, where unprecedented theft and technical problems have seen output fall to a four-year low.

Contrary to common wisdom, Morgan Stanley has even suggested that, given the low risk to actual supply, global oil prices could fall following a military intervention in Syria. According to the analysis, the headline-driven build up to possible strikes was so fierce, we could see a "post-event decline" in prices as markets settle.

While the sharp turn in the humanitarian consequences of the battle against Assad should trouble our leaders and all of us, we cannot expect what is going on in Syria alone to have a similarly dramatic effect on the oil markets.