by Dana Levinson
Last night, Rachel Maddow reported that Donald Trump’s ‘take their oil’ salvo has now been translated into Arabic and has been broadcast across the Arabic speaking world. The Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider Al-Abadi, had a press conference this week in which the Iraqi press actually asked him whether or not American troops were in Iraq to plunder their resources. Prime Minister Al-Abadi’s response was “Iraq’s oil is for Iraq”. This is yet another case of President Trump lacking the understanding that his words now have international implications; International implications that have far reaching consequences across the globe not just for us at home, but also for our troops and diplomats overseas.
We have US forces still stationed in Iraq right now. Those forces are collaborating with Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS. In the battle to retake Mosul, a US soldier, hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, and thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed and thousands have fled as refugees. This operation not only takes real coordination between US Special Forces and Iraqi forces, but the realpolitik of the situation dictates that Prime Minister Al-Abadi has to continually sell continued US presence in Iraq to his war weary electorate as civilian casualties mount. President Trump’s rhetoric surrounding Iraqi oil makes this job harder and elevates suspicion among the very forces our soldiers need to collaborate with. But this issue is even deeper. This kind of rhetoric, along with the recent executive orders banning all Syrian refugees and barring entry to anyone from seven Muslim majority nations from entering our country even as a tourist, play directly into ISIS’ hands.
Where ISIS’ ideology differs from Al-Qaeda is in their idea of themselves as a ‘state.’ In their death cult rhetoric, what they are preparing for is the epic battle between East and West. They talk about this conflict as a new crusade and a battle against a new ‘Rome’. They believe that they are the agents of the end of days and that the defeat of this new ‘Rome’ in Dabiq, Syria, will usher in a new era of ‘pure Islamic rule.’ They’ve made no secret that their interpretation of the word ‘Rome’ in their interpretation of Islamic prophecy, is what we could think of as the modern West: The United States and Western Europe. They believe that all of the world’s Muslims have a responsibility to pledge fealty to the ‘caliphate’ and that the world must be separated into ‘us’ and ‘them.’
Antagonizing the world’s Muslim population by talking casually about plundering the natural resources of a majority Muslim nation, and by painting Muslims as our enemies, plays directly into ISIS’ hands and makes their propaganda far more effective. It’s much easier to tell the world’s Muslims, ‘join us because the West is your enemy’ when the leader of the free world is openly saying the same thing. Not only does it make the rhetorical fight against radicalism far more difficult, but it makes it much harder for Muslim majority nations to be willing to collaborate with us in their fight against terror. Despite what President Trump thinks, other Muslims have been the greatest American ally in our ongoing battle. President Trump is alienating those most well positioned to further American interests and to make us safer.