The United States is not going to Iraq to seize oil, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stressed earlier this week, prior to his visit to the country. Mr. Mattis arrived in Iraq on Monday (20 February) to assess the fight against the Islamic State, while the American troops are operating closer and closer to the front line against the terrorist group. Before setting off to Bagdad from Abu Dhabi, he told reporters that “all of us here in this room, all of us in America, have paid for our gas and oil all along and I’m sure that we will continue to do so in the future,” and stressed that the US is “not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.”
The comments by Mr. Mattis are, however, inconsistent with the previous comments made President Donald Trump, who said only in January that the US should have taken the Iraqi oil in exchange for US battlefield losses. “The old expression, to the victor belonged the spoils, you remember, they always used to say, keep the oil,” Mr. Trump said. “If we kept the oil, you probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made money in the first place,” he added.
Oil reserves in Iraq are considered the world’s second largest proven, with 140 billion barrels, although the statistics has not been revised since 2001. The sources of uncertainty stem from decades of war and turmoil as many oil facilities are unkept and in dire need of modernization and investment. The World Bank estimates that the country would need an extra $1 billion annually to maintain current production. International geologists and consultants estimate that Iraq might be home to very large reserves.