Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday that the United States is not going to seize oil from Iraq, walking back an argument by President Donald Trump that the United States should have done so during the Iraq War.
According to CBS News, Mattis told reporters accompanying him on his first trip to Baghdad as defense secretary that the United States will not take Iraq’s oil.
“I think all of us here in this room, all of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I’m sure that we will continue to do that in the future,” Mattis said. “We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.”
In remarks at the CIA after taking office in January, Trump again suggested that the United States should take Iraq’s oil.
“To the victor belong the spoils,” the president said.
Trump argued that taking the country’s oil would not only be good for “economic reasons” but also added that it might help defeat ISIS “because that’s where they made their money in the first place.”
“So we should have kept the oil,” he said. “But, OK, maybe you’ll have another chance.”
Trump's remark about having "another chance" to seize the oil was met with confusion and concern. Following Trump's speech, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the president was indicating that he wants to ensure that American "interests are protected."
CBS notes that Mattis is visiting Iraq to discuss a strategy with Iraq’s leaders for defeating the Islamic State terrorist group.