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U.S. Defense Secretary: We’re Not in Iraq to Seize Anybody’s Oil | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis (center), arrives in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on Feb. 20, 2017. (Thomas Watkins/AFP/Getty Images)

Baghdad – U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis confirmed that military is “not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil”, in an attempt to lessen the tensions brought by the statements of U.S. President Donald Trump during his visit to Iraq.

Mattis met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Defence Minister Irfan al-Hayali and other officials.

During his campaigns and since his election, Trump repeatedly said that U.S. troops have been in Iraq for eight years and should have grabbed Iraqi oil to fund its war effort and also deprive the ISIS group of a vital revenue source.

But Mattis, a retired Marine general who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, aimed to assure Iraqis. So, he announced at the start of his visit to Iraq: “All of us in America have generally paid for gas and oil all along, and I am sure that we will continue to do so in the future. We are not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.”

Mattis said he is open to any request from his military commanders to aid the battle to retake Mosul and launch a major battle to oust ISIS from the base of its so-called caliphate in Raqqa, Syria. He didn’t provide further details.

PM Abadi stressed that there aren’t any foreign troops on Iraqi lands, just advisors. He reiterated the importance of international support for Iraq in its fight against terrorism.

“We confirm our ability to defeat ISIS and we await the crucial moments to liberate our cities, and it is imperative that the support for Iraq continues,” added the PM.

The two also discussed means to enhance the cooperation between the two countries as well as Mosul liberation operation.

Aside from the confusion caused by Trump’s statements about the oil, U.S. President also caused turmoil when he issued the Muslim travel ban of seven Muslim countries including Iraq.

U.S. court has ruled against Trump’s ban and suspended it.

Mattis has sought an exemption from Trump’s travel ban for Iraqis who have served with U.S. troops, including translators and other employees. He added that he would take the needed measures to assure those who fought with U.S. troops can enter the States.

U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, said he believes U.S.-backed forces will recapture both of ISIS major strongholds Mosul and the city of Raqqa in Syria within the next six months.

Townsend told a news conference in Baghdad he had been putting U.S. military advisers closer to front lines in Mosul than before, a move that would increase risk but bolster their ability to aid Iraqis, including directing air strikes.

“We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and we embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation,” he said.

Townsend added he was certain victory in Mosul was within sight. “The Iraqi security forces are going to take that city back. No doubt about it,” he said.