Trump's defense chief, in Iraq, says: We're not here for your oil

Tracy FergusonFeb 21, 2017

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has arrived in Baghdad for a previously unannounced visit focusing on the effort to defeat Islamic State (IS) militants.

But he is likely to face questions about Mr Trump's remarks and actions, including a temporary ban on travel to the United States and for saying America should have seized Iraq's oil after toppling leader Saddam Hussein in 2003. But as with several of his recent stops in Europe, Mattis had to spend some of his time in the country smoothing over some of Trump's more controversial remarks. His own confirmation assured, Mattis asked the senators to help Tillerson, whose nomination appeared less certain and who he thought might be an important ally in the Cabinet.

While speaking at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters last month, Trump cited the adage.

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The president then added, without elaborating, that "maybe we'll have another chance".

"So we should have kept the oil", he said.

But despite clashes with Trump, the retired general Mattis, who led USA troops in Iraq, is anything but a moderate.

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The UAE is seen as an important regional ally in the US-led coalition's fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

NPR's Alice Fordham says Iraqi leaders have been rattled by Trump's comments about seizing their oil, and by the President's inclusion of Iraq in his Executive Order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Asked about the tensions, Mattis said he has been assured that the travel ban - it has been stalled by a legal challenge - would not affect Iraqis who have fought alongside USA forces.

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"They will have been vetted obviously by their performance on the battlefield and by normal procedures and I am sure we will work our way through this quickly". But he has been talking with military leaders about the possible options, and has largely supported the USA strategy of fighting IS with and through local forces.

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