By Ian Swanson - 02-20-17 07:33 AM EST
James Mattis has a simple message for the people of Iraq during his first visit to the country as defense secretary: The U.S. isn't here to take your oil.
"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 am sure we will continue to do so in the future," Mattis said during a meeting with reporters Sunday night, according to a report in The Washington Post.
Many saw oil as the real reason behind the U.S. war in Iraq under President George W. Bush that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Huseein and led to years of chaos in his country.
President Trump repeatedly criticized the Iraq war in his presidential campaign, and also spoke of how the U.S. should have taken control over that country's oil.
Mattis, a veteran military leader confirmed in a bipartisan 99-1 Senate vote, appears set on reassuring Iraq - and U.S. allies around the world - about the administration's motives.
The U.S. military is now aiding Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Iraqi forces have launched an effort to retake the city of Mosul, which was seized by ISIS in 2014.