Mattis Breaks From Trump on Key Iraq Issue

Defense secretary assures Iraq we want to help beat ISIS, not take its oil
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2017 8:06 AM CST
Mattis to Iraq: We're Not Here to Seize Your Oil
In this Jan. 27, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump, left, listens as Defense Secretary James Mattis, right, speaks at the Pentagon in Washington.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Trump has noted more than once he thinks we should've taken Iraq's oil when we had the chance (and suggests that option may still be on the table), but his secretary of defense is pushing a different message—what the New York Times characterizes as comments that would previously have been deemed "unthinkable" under other administrations—on the eve of his first visit to the Middle East country as head of the Pentagon. "We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil," James Mattis told reporters Sunday night, per the Washington Post. Mattis added that US citizens have "generally paid for our gas and oil all along," and he doesn't see why that wouldn't continue. Mattis was traveling to Iraq Monday to gather intel and scope out the best ways to fight ISIS, a topic for which he's scheduled to lay out a game plan in a couple of weeks.

The AP reported last month that Trump has noted that his enthusiasm for taking Iraq's oil is something "I have long said." The Post and CNN, meanwhile, report that Trump more recently brought up the subject the day after his inauguration—when he said during a CIA visit, "We should have kept the oil. Maybe we'll have another chance"—and also during an ABC News interview a few days later, in which he added, "You wouldn't have ISIS if we took the oil." Last week, the defense secretary smoothed over things with NATO members by telling them the US still values the group, despite Trump's past comments, while on Sunday Mattis said he doesn't think the media is an enemy of the American people like his boss does. (What may be more worrisome for Iraq than ISIS: Mosul's dam.)

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