TRUMP: “We have a tremendous amount of captured fighters, ISIS fighters over in Syria. And, they’re all under lock and key, but many are from France, many are from Germany. Many are from UK. They are mostly from Europe.” — remarks with French President Emmanuel Macron.
MACRON: There are “very large number of fighters … ISIS fighters coming from Syria, from Iraq and the region.” Those from Europe are “a tiny minority of the overall problem.”
THE FACTS: Trump is incorrect to say the Islamic State fighters who were captured and held by the Kurds in Syria are mostly from Europe.
Of the more than 12,000 IS fighters in custody in Kurdish areas, only 2,500 are from outside the region of the conflict, some from Europe, some from other parts of the world. Most of the captured fighters — about 10,000 — are natives of Syria or Iraq.
European nations have indeed been reluctant to take detainees who came from Europe, frustrating Trump. But such detainees are far fewer than the majority he frequently claims.
TRUMP, on protecting oilfields in Syria: “We have the oil, and we can do with the oil what we want.” — remarks with Stoltenberg.
THE FACTS: That’s not true. The oil in Syria belongs to Syria and the US can’t do anything it wants with it.
As secretary of state, Rex Tillerson reviewed whether the US could make money off the oil-rich areas and concluded there was no practical way to do so, said Brett McGurk, Trump’s former special envoy to the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State.
“Maybe there are new lawyers now, but it was just illegal for an American company to go and seize and exploit these assets,” McGurk told a panel on Syria held in October by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Stephen Vladeck, a national security law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said there is no solid legal argument the Trump administration could make if it sought to claim Syria’s oil.
While Trump has said he will withdraw the bulk of roughly 1,000 American troops from Syria, he’s made clear he will leave some military forces in the country to help secure the oil from any Islamic State resurgence.
The Pentagon has said it is committed to sending additional military forces to eastern Syria to “reinforce” control of the oil fields and prevent them from “falling back to into the hands of ISIS or other destabilizing actors.”