Of all the absurd statements from the campaign trail that you might have expected President Trump to walk back after taking the oath of office, the one about taking Iraq’s oil might well have topped the list. But to the contrary, the President seemingly used his first speech following his inauguration to double down on what we’d hoped was mere bluster. To an audience of roughly 400 C.I.A. employees, President Trump said the following verbatim:
The old expression: “to the victor belong the spoils” – you remember? You always used to say “keep the oil.” I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you. When we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said: “In addition to that, keep the oil.” Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about, Mike, if we kept the oil we would probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe we’ll have another chance.
When asked at a press conference if Trump intends to send more American troops into Iraq to take Iraq’s oil, the new Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “I’m not going to talk about what we may or may not do.”
Like some members of the press, Iraqis seemed to take Trump at his word. Kareem Kashekh, a photographer working in the Iraqi armed forces, said, “There’s no way Trump could take the oil unless he launched a new military front and it [would] be a new world war.” Dawoud Ali, who lives in Baghdad and is a fighter for one of the Shiite militias battling ISIS, said, “He cannot do it. He cannot succeed… Of course I would fight the Americans if they came for the oil.” Today even the Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi had to weigh in to say that Iraq’s oil belongs to Iraqis.