Republican primary front-runner Donald Trump pledged Tuesday morning, in a factually-challenged screed, to send American troops to invade Iraq and Syria so as to “take the oil” in ISIS-controlled territories.
“I would go in and take the oil and I’d put troops to protect the oil. I would absolutely go and I’d take the money source away. And believe me, they would start to wither and they would collapse,” Trump said on CNN’s New Day. “I would take the oil away, I’d take their money away.”
Asked last month whether U.S. troops were needed to protect the oil, Trump said, “You put a ring around them. You put a ring.”
Ironically, Trump said he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, saying in May that he would “have never been in Iraq.” Some 200,000 troops were required for that invasion.
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the most hawkish members of the GOP presidential field, has called for between 10,000 and 20,000 troops to bolster the anti-ISIS campaign.
Trump’s word-salad foreign policy also fundamentally misunderstands the nature of ISIS. While it does make some money from oil sales, the so-called Islamic State does not derive its main source of revenue from oil revenue, as The New York Times points out. The vast majority of its operating resources in 2014 came from extortion, taxation, and theft.
The U.S.-led coalition has struck portions of ISIS’s oil infrastructure as recently as three weeks ago. On July 20, military airstrikes hit three ISIS crude oil collection points near the Deir Ezzor. A recent CNN article, citing military experts, points out that destroying oil infrastructure would be counterproductive to the future recovery of territories held by ISIS if and when the terrorist organization is expelled.
“You have to understand the issues a little bit better than just bombing things,” retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling told CNN.
Nor does Trump seem to understand the basic dynamics of the Middle East. “Believe it or not, Iran is funneling money to ISIS, too,” Trump said Tuesday morning. Iran’s government is a theocracy based on Shia Islam, while ISIS is a terror group based on a jihadist branch of Sunni Islam. They see each other as mortal enemies. In fact, Iran has been willing to offer Iraq an “open check” to fight the extremist group, Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily has said.
Trump also criticized the Iran deal negotiated by the Obama administration. His Iran deal would be “a hundred times better,” he told CNN. “They didn't read The Art of the Deal, obviously.” First Trump would have “doubled the sanctions,” demanded Iranian-held American prisoners back, and then “made a good deal.”
“It’s going to go down as one of the dumb deals of all time, and one of the most dangerous deals ever signed,” Trump said.
When challenged by CNN about how America’s allies weren't likely to go along with additional sanctions, Trump gave a bewildering answer. “I don’t care—that's part of leadership, you got to get the allies with you. You got to get them… The different people that are involved aren't going to be with you. You know why? Because they have no respect for our president.”
CNN host Chris Cuomo almost seemed like he was apologizing to Trump for asking tough questions about national security.
“Forgive me if it sounds if I’m teaching you about the world. You know it, and I know you know it. But I’m saying that there's a tendency to oversimplify situations, people buy into that, and you’re setting them up for disappointment,” Cuomo said.
“Sometimes oversimplification is a good thing. Sometimes we make it too complicated,” Trump said, before going on to call the Chinese currency the “wan.” It is called the yuan.