Despite earlier comments from President Donald Trump suggesting otherwise, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters the U.S. does not intend to seize Iraq's oil.
"We're not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil," Mattis said during an unannounced visit to Iraq on Feb. 20, according to Reuters.
The trip to Iraq was his first as defense secretary and came while he worked to evaluate the nation's fight against ISIS, as U.S.-backed Iraqi troops look to take back Mosul, which is controlled by the extremist terrorist group.
Questions about Trump's intentions for Iraq and the country's oil have abounded since the president commented on the U.S. approach to the country after taking down former dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
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"We should have kept the oil," Trump told CIA staffers at the time. "But OK. Maybe you'll have another chance."
But on Feb. 20, Mattis assured reporters that he advocated a different route.
"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 so in the future," he said.
Mattis' views diverge from Trump's on several issues, including the effectiveness of torture, for which Trump said he would defer to Mattis, and opinions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Mattis has sharply criticized.
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Mattis also disagrees with Trump's opinion that the press is an "enemy of the American people" that routinely and intentionally reports "fake news," as the president said on Feb. 17, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"I've had some rather contentious times with the press," the former general said on Feb. 19. "But no, the press is a constituency -- as far as I'm concerned -- that we deal with and I don't have any issues with the press, myself."
The Pentagon leader has also taken issue with elements of the president's travel ban and is working to include an exemption for Iraqis who have served with U.S. military forces.
"I right now am assured that we will take steps to allow those who have fought alongside us, for example, to be allowed into the United States," Mattis said, adding that he has not yet seen any new drafts of the executive order, the first version of which has been stalled in the court system, notes Reuters.