While addressing the CIA on Saturday, President Donald Trump took a break from lambasting the media to remind everyone that he thinks the U.S. should have stolen Iraq’s oil. He also suggested that the U.S. might get another chance to violate international law.
“Now I said it for economic reasons,” Trump said while introducing Representative Mike Pompeo, his pick to lead the agency. “But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil, you 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.”
National Review has noted that Trump’s “odd fixation” with taking Iraq’s oil dates back to at least 2011. He made the argument numerous times on the campaign trail, suggesting that the U.S. could take Iraq’s oil while fighting ISIS. When PolitiFact examined the claim in September, numerous experts said trying to seize Iraqi oil would not be legal, feasible, or desirable. The idea is “so out of step with any plausible interpretation of U.S. history or international law that they should be dismissed out of hand by anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of world affairs,” said Lance Janda, a military historian at Cameron University.
It’s not clear what Trump meant by “maybe we’ll have another chance,” but when you’re president, people take even offhand remarks about violating international law pretty seriously. BuzzFeed spoke with several Iraqis on the front lines of the battle against ISIS, and they said they were prepared to take up arms against Americans if they attempted to take their country’s natural resources.
“I participated in the attack against the Americans by attacking them with mortars and roadside bombs, and I’m ready to do it again,” said Abu Luay, an Iraqi security official using a nom de guerre, who is currently fighting the terrorist group in northwest Iraq. “We kept our ammunition and weapons from the time the Americans left for fighting ISIS. But once ISIS is gone we will save our weapons for the Americans.”
Several other people at a base for Popular Mobilization Units, a new branch of Iraq’s armed forces consisting of former militiamen and volunteers fighting against ISIS, said the move would be counterproductive. Iraq recently took out a $5.3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, in part to help pay for the fight against ISIS.
“There’s no way Trump could take the oil unless he launched a new military front and it be a new world war,” said Kareem Kashekh, a photographer who works for the Popular Mobilization Units.