(The Independent newspaper) No one knows how seriously to take President Donald Trump’s threat to seize Iraq’s oil.
Doing so would involve extraordinary costs and risk confrontation with America’s best ground partner against Isis, but the President told the CIA this weekend: “Maybe you’ll have another chance.”
The recycled campaign comment is raising concerns about Mr Trump’s understanding of the delicate Middle East politics involved in the US-led effort against extremist groups. He has said he was opposed to the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. But on the campaign trail and again on Saturday, the day after his inauguration, he suggested the costly and deadly occupation of the country might have been offset somewhat if the United States had taken the country’s rich petroleum reserves.
To the victor belong the spoils,” Mr Trump told members of the intelligence community, saying he first argued this case for “economic reasons.” He said it made sense as a counterterrorism approach to defeating 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.”
The statement ignores the precedent of hundreds of years of American history and presidents who have tended to pour money and aid back into countries the United States has fought in major wars.
The US still has troops in Germany and Japan, with the permission of those nations, but did not take possession of their natural resources. And taking Iraq’s reserves, the world’s fifth largest, would require an immense investment of resources and manpower in a country that the United States couldn’t quell after spending more than $2 trillion and deploying at one point more than 170,000 troops.
US enemies and friends would oppose the move. While Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has accepted US help to retake Isis-held territory in his country, he has repeatedly asserted Iraqi sovereignty. He said of Trump’s oil vow in November, “I am going to judge him by what he does later.”
Reuters reported Mr al-Abadi as saying: “It wasn’t clear what he meant. Did he mean in 2003 or to prevent the terrorists from seizing Iraq’s oil? Iraq’s oil is constitutionally the property of the Iraqis.”
Asked about the matter Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer stressed Mr Trump’s economic argument.
“We want to be sure our interests are protected,” he told reporters. “We’re going into a country for a cause. He wants to be sure America is getting something out of it for the commitment and sacrifice it is making.”