Despite reality, Trump insists 'we've taken the oil' in Syria

"We've taken the oil," Trump said this morning, referring to Syrian oil fields. It's one of his favorite claims, but it's not true.
Image: A U.S. soldier sits atop an armoured vehicle during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds against Turkish threats at a US-led international coalition base on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain town in Syria's Hasakeh province near the Turkish border
A U.S. soldier sits atop an armored vehicle at a US-led international coalition base on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain town in Syria's Hasakeh province near the Turkish border on Oct. 6, 2019.Delil Souleiman / AFP - Getty Images file

As part of his latest strange press conference, Donald Trump told reporters at an event in India today that U.S. forces have taken Syrian oil.

"We've done a great job. We've taken our soldiers essentially out of Syria, except for little hot spots that we've figured, you know, we'll do, that develop. We've taken the oil, and the soldiers we have there are the ones guarding the oil. We have the oil."

The president certainly seems to enjoy saying this. As regular readers know, Trump started boasting months ago that the United States has "taken" Syrian oil and he's prepared to "militarily stop" those who try to claim it.

Reflecting on the Syrian oil's value, Trump went on to say in October that the United States "should be able to take some," adding, "[W]hat I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly." (In context, "it" appeared to refer to extracting oil.)

There's no real defense for this -- it's illegal for a country to send troops into another country to take its natural resources -- but the president continued to echo his message, boasting at a series of campaign rallies about "keeping" Syrian oil.

When Trump spoke at the Economic Club of New York in November, Trump said, in reference to Syrian oil fields, "We kept the oil. You know, we kept the oil." Soon after, sitting in the Oval Office alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump echoed the line, boasting, "We're keeping the oil."

Eventually, a Pentagon spokesperson felt compelled to explain that the United States is not, in reality, keeping Syrian oil for ourselves.

And yet, he just keeps saying it.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, all of this reinforces some awkward questions. For example, does Trump know what the Trump administration's position is? Does he intend to change it?

Have White House officials, eager to placate the easily confused president, told Trump that the United States is keeping Syrian oil, knowing full well that we won't do anything of the kind?

Or does Trump know the facts and prefers to simply lie uncontrollably because he thinks taking another country's resources makes him appear "strong" in the eyes of his most rabid followers?