The U.S. military is "not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said, distancing himself from remarks by President Donald Trump in talks with Iraqi leaders.
Mattis is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Iraq since Trump irked Iraqis by imposing a temporary ban on travel to the United States and suggesting that Americans should have seized Iraq's oil after toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Trump told CIA staff last month: "We should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe you'll have another chance."
Mattis, however, flatly ruled out any such intent by the nearly 6,000 U.S. troops that remain in Iraq. "We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil," he said on February 20.
"All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I'm sure that we will continue to do so in the future," said Mattis, a retired Marine general who once led forces in Iraq.
It was only his latest departure from Trump's views. Mattis has been more critical than Trump of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he sought an exemption from Trump's travel ban for Iraqis who have served with U.S. troops, including translators.