00:40 GMT +326 March 2017
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    U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, center, is greeted by U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman as he arrives at Baghdad International Airport on an unannounced trip Monday, Feb. 20, 2017.

    We're Not Here for Your Oil, Mattis Tells Iraqis

    © AP Photo/ Lolita Baldor
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    The US is not here for your oil, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said as he made his way to Iraq for a quick, unannounced trip.

    US President Donald Trump has made both jokes and threats about seizing Iraq's oil, saying "to the victor belong the spoils" during his campaign and telling assembled US intelligence personnel on his first day in office that perhaps the country would get "another chance" to take the oil they'd left behind after toppling Saddam Hussein and leaving the country in chaos.

    "I think all of us here in this room, 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 that in the future," Mattis told reporters accompanying him as he traveled to Baghdad. "We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil."

    The US will, however, probably be in the country for a long time as American forces support Iraqi troops in their battle to oust Daesh militants, Mattis remarked after meeting in Baghdad with military commanders and Iraqi political leaders.

    Despite Trump's threats and the inclusion of Iraq in his short-lived travel ban (which resulted in US coalition partners being detained at airports) Mattis said his visit revealed a strong partnership.

    "[T[he Iraqi people, the Iraqi military and the Iraqi political leadership recognize what they're up against and the value of the coalition and the partnership, in particular with the United States," the secretary of defense said.

    "I imagine we'll be in this fight for a while and we'll stand by each other."

    The top US defense official also said he'd be open to any requests his commanders might have as they advise and support local forces fighting to retake the city of Mosul from Daesh and move on to its stronghold in Raqqa, Syria. An operation to force Daesh from the west of the city began days ago. 

    Senior US commander in Iraq Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend joined Mattis for his remarks. He commented that he did not expect US troops to be asked to leave the country after the battle for Mosul was over.

    "I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they're going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul."

    Townsend also confirmed that US forces are moving closer to the battlefront as the operation to retake western Mosul kicks off. "It is true that we're operating closer and deeper into Iraqi formations," Townsend said, acknowledging a shift approved in November, during the end of the Obama administration.

    US military personnel had largely maintained positions well behind the front lines since returning to Iraq in 2014, but after the battle to retake Mosul launched in October, the administration moved to allow US trainers and advisers to move closer to the battlefield for the operation, the New York Times reports.

    Lieutenant General Jeff Harrigian, the top Air Force commander in the Middle East, told AP that US troops responsible for calling in airstrikes are now closer to the battle and are able to advance with Iraqi units. They can now speak directly to pilots in the aircraft they're directing, making airstrikes quicker, he said.

    Mattis's trip was the first by a senior Trump administration official to Iraq. One of Trump's first acts as president was to order a 30-day review of the state of the fight against Daesh. There is one more week left in the review period, after which Mattis will have to give the president a plan to speed up the fight against the group.

    Asked in a news conference if the country was worried the US would indeed come for its oil, spokesman for Iraq's counter-terrorism services Sabeh Al Noman said, "We will trust your government, so we won't worry about that."

    There are more than 5,000 US military personnel in Iraq.

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    Tags:
    battle for mosul, oil, Donald Trump, Stephen Townsend, Jim Mattis, Mosul, Baghdad, Iraq, United States
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    • avatar
      mounir.assi
      You are there for what then, in Afghanistan you are there for what? In Yemen you are there for What? In Syria you want to take it for what? In Somalia you are there for what? In Europe you are there for what? The coup in Ukraine you did it for what? Americans you are the biggest bullshiters on earth, but your time is gone.
    • avatar
      jas
      I knew it was a matter of time before the evening hit pieces on Trump started in the CIA shill media propaganda. Everything Trump does is twisted out of context and exaggerated. I have no idea why I read this stuff at Sputnik because Trump is for letting Sputnik publish what it wants and the "progressives" are trying to close both RT and Sputnik.
    • avatar
      jas
      Someone needs to answer how ISIS is being allowed to retreat back into Syria from Mosul.
    • avatar
      ivanwa88
      Some 40,000 which reignited Daesh back on the offensive not for long though they are well and truly on the back foot and retreating fast again all over Syria.
      Thanks to Russian trained 5th Legion some 100,000 well trained and armed men who were brought into action after the 40,000 Daesh who were coordinated by Obama to flee Iraq and attack Syria to slow them down and allow US to take Raqqa and build a permanent military base there all without a peep to the sovereign government or even the toothless pro US UN.
    • avatar
      nonyank
      Mattis already cleaning up after Dopey Donald when he kept saying we should have taken Iraq's oil.
    • avatar
      PaleRiderin reply tojas(Show commentHide comment)
      jas, first, I am glad he said what he did, Jim Mattas that is, and second you are absolutely correct, ISIS should have never been allowed to go any where but hell.
    • AvantG
      Blood is thicker than water but oil is thicker than blood. It has always been about the oil.
    • avatar
      double bonus
      ["I think all of us here in this room, 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 that in the future," Mattis told reporters]

      The US is there to pay for the oil they seize, and in Afghanistan to buy the Opium.
    • avatar
      slimyfox
      Now that begs an answer and that should be very clear. USA did not come to Iraq to take their oil, they come to topple legal leader which did not bend before USA demands for … uppsss, bloody oil, well that was just coincidence as they needed to eliminate Saddam Hussein because he was such and dictator, and anti democrat, and had a weapons of mass destruction from nuclear bombs all the way to most deadliest biological and chemical weapons and … uppsss again, he had bloody oil, again just coincidence.

      We remember how USA boasted that they will rebuild Iraq which was very nice country at the time, with Baghdad being called Jewel of the Middle East. Beautiful city which USA ruthlessly destroyed, robbed of all treasures as enormous number of historical artefacts were smuggled into USA and UK. Iraq was destroyed and robbed with modern time barbaric hordes of butchers and war criminals. George W Bush was promissing to the world that they will make Iraq better place than ever and very clearly Bush oilman clearly stated that this gargantuan task will be done by USA companies with Iraqis oil, and that was absolute truth, USA companies come issued sky high bills, cashed money and left. Iraq was never ever as it was during Saddam regime.

      Country was clean in every aspect of the word including from terrorists. Saddam was tyrant and autocrat and very dangerous and bloody man for the enemies of the state and Iraqi people. He would without slightest qualm exterminate any kind of extremism, religious or political and that guaranteed Iraqis peaceful and safe life. Compare that with nowadays Iraq and there is nothing but to cry and swear and curse “liberators”.

      USA did not come for Iraqi oil as they have no oil, all belongs to USA, and we still remember how US vice president Penis Cheney (some call him Dickhead Cheney) who was previous to office post being one of directors in Halliburton company and who gave all exploitation rights to them. After so many years of very successful official theft of Iraqi oil new Iraqi puppet regime asked for oil to be returned to Iraqis and USA did but they are the one who get agreed quota of oil free of charge and officially USA has no more obligations to repair and rebuild all that destroyed.

      It is incredible how criminal are USA and I find it totally irritating to see how stupid they play as that they have no clue what they did one day before let alone years before. For USA committed crimes are matter of past and they do not bother even to look back and express remorse let alone to repair injustice done. It does not matter who is president as in USA every president is nothing more than puppet controlled by establishment and we can see today that Trump can say whatever he wants, his lieutenants will act as they will be ordered by establishment regardless Trump likes it or not. He is powerless and there will be huge struggle with uncertain outcome as Trump is stubborn enough to protect his image and name but how far he will go is matter of his determination and readiness for ultimate sacrifice.
    • avatar
      hopscotch64
      The US will end up taking the oil no doubt about it. But it will not be the overt seizure of the oil fields, it will be done behind closed door with lucrative contracts with US oil companies whereby the Iraqi people will not be under compensated for their oil. A few Iraqi oligarchs and political elites will become rich. A thief is still a thief no matter how they steal.
    • NightStalker
      We not here for your oil, just to make sure you don't actually take oil fields back from ISIS CIA team and selling it to Saudis. And to make sure they start the dominate oil producer in the Middle East to keep the petrodollar in place on the USD
    • avatar
      jlamenzo
      We have a standard joke here in the USA that goes like this: 'If you believe that bullshit, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you can get a great, I mean seriously great, deal on! ...really!'
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