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Trump predicted Bin Laden - and seven more questionable takeaways from the Baghdadi presser

From the IS leader's last moments to Syrian oil deals, the US president raises as many questions as he answers in 48-minute conference
US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on Sunday (AFP)

After about 70 minutes in the air, US special forces were in Barisha, the village in northwest Syria to which they had finally tracked down Abu Bakr Baghdadi.

They blasted holes into the Islamic State group leader's compound, surprising those inside and killing many of his companions in an exchange of gunfire.

And now, they chased Baghdadi, who was "in total panic and dread", down a dead-end tunnel where he would ignite his explosive vest, killing himself and three children he took with him.

At least, that's what US President Donald Trump told reporters on Sunday morning.

"He was screaming, crying and whimpering," Trump said during a news conference at the White House.

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"And he was scared out of his mind."

But exactly how Trump obtained those details was not clear. As the New York Times and others have highlighted, the video of the raid that Trump would have watched in the Situation Room – "as though you were watching a movie," he said - didn't have audio.

It's possible the president spoke to commanders on the ground, his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told ABC News on Sunday, before quickly changing the subject. But with a dog apparently leading the chase, it's also unclear how close any human was able to get to Baghdadi before he died.

Here are seven other eyebrow-raising takeaways from Trump's press conference:

Oily deals

Yes, Trump may have said he was pulling US troops out of Syria earlier this month, but since then, he has deployed hundreds more troops to "secure the oil", he explained on Sunday.

Oil, he said, "fueled ISIS, number one. Number two, it helps the Kurds, because it's basically been taken away from the Kurds. They were able to live with that oil. And number three, it can help us because we should be able to take some also," he told reporters. 

It was a narrative the president started test-driving last week, but which took a more concrete form on Sunday in what, to some ears, could sound like war profiteering.

"What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an Exxon Mobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly," he said.

"Right now, it's not big. It's big oil underground, but it's not big oil up top, and much of the machinery has been shot and dead. It's been through wars."

Both Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp declined to comment to Reuters on Trump's remarks.

Iraq should pay the US for its war

Trump also offered reporters his own take on where the US went wrong in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, inspiring one of two third-person references to himself at the press conference.

"If you read about the history of Donald Trump - I was a civilian. I had absolutely nothing to do with going into Iraq, and I was totally against it," he said.

"But I always used to say, 'If they're going to go in' … I'm sure you've heard the statement, because I made it more than any human being alive - 'If they're going into Iraq, keep the oil.' They never did. They never did."

The US would have been "paid back" for the billions of dollars it spent in the war, he said, if it had kept the oil. "If you did that, Iraq would be a much different story today because they would be owing us a lot of money. They would be treating us much differently."

But at least, he said, Iraq "was very good with respect to the raid" on Baghdadi.

Leaks and tennis

While he let Senate Republicans Richard Burr and Lindsey Graham, both members of the intelligence committee, know about the operation, Trump said he hadn't told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because he feared she would leak the details and endanger lives.

"I wanted to make sure this [was] kept secret. I don't want to have men lost - and women. I don't want to have people lost," he said.

Pelosi fired back, saying the Russians had been notified in advance about the mission before congressional leaders who are typically informed about operations, regardless of party politics.

On the other hand, a tweet Trump posted just after 930pm on Saturday in Washington, DC - saying only "Something very big just happened!" - was meant to ensure that instead of "playing golf or tennis", they would be at the press conference 12 hours later, he told reporters.

Woof woof

For a president who has broken the unofficial tradition of keeping man's best friend at the White House, a canine theme ran through Sunday's press conference.

Baghdadi, he said twice, "died like a dog".

The IS leader and "the losers who worked for him"? "Very frightened puppies," said Trump.

And no affirmation was spared for the dog injured during the raid. While the special forces call him a K-9, the president said, "I call it a dog, a beautiful dog, a talented dog".

"It's incredible that nobody was killed - or hurt. We had nobody even hurt. And that's why the dog was so great."

Where Baghdadi excelled

From day one in office, Trump said he was on the hunt for Baghdadi.

Over the 48-minute news conference, the US president called the IS leader sick, depraved, vicious, violent, a brutal killer, a thug, and a gutless animal.

However, he did offer a small bit of praise for Baghdadi and his IS fighters.

"You know, these people are very smart. They're not into the use of cell phones anymore," the president said.

"They’re very technically brilliant. You know, they use the Internet better than almost anybody in the world, perhaps other than Donald Trump."

OBL predictions

Osama bin Laden? If anyone had bothered to listen to Trump - or read what he described as his "really, very successful" book published about a year before 9/11 - maybe they would have seen the threat the al-Qaeda leader truly posed, he said.

"I'm saying to people, 'Take out Osama bin Laden', that nobody ever heard of. Nobody ever heard of. I mean, al-Baghdadi everybody hears because he's built this monster for a long time. But nobody ever heard of Osama bin Laden until, really, the World Trade Center.

"To this day, I get people coming up to me, and they said, 'You know what one of the most amazing things I've ever seen about you? Is that you predicted that Osama bin Laden had to be killed before he knocked down the World Trade Center.'  It's true."

Except it's not true, according to the Associated Press, which reported that Trump's 2000 'The America We Deserve' makes only a passing mention of bin Laden, to whom the CIA had already dedicated an entire unit by the mid-1990s.

Watch out, Fox News

In the middle of discussing the lethal raid and the future of the war in Syria, Trump took time to praise a media outlet, later identified by reporters as the right-wing Our America News Network (OANN).

Off camera, a reporter had asked whether the pullout of US troops in Syria was strategically tied to the raid.

"It's a great question. And you're doing a great job, by the way. Your network is fantastic. They're really doing a great job. Please let them know," he said.

OANN was launched at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference to provide another right-wing voice to accompany Fox News, one of the executives behind the project said at the time.

And it would appear to be getting just as much support from the president as Fox News does.

Earlier this month, Trump tweeted in praise of OANN's "fair coverage and brilliant reporting", comments the network then turned into a news story of its own.

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