Trump Calls Alleged Iranian Oil Tankers Attack «Very Minor», Admin’s Actions Show Otherwise
By Staff, Agencies
US President Donald Trump, who is facing a twin challenges in the Gulf, said in an interview with TIME Monday that he might take military action to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but cast doubt on going to war to protect international oil supplies.
“I would certainly go over nuclear weapons,” Trump said when asked what moves would lead him to consider going to war with Iran, “and I would keep the other a question mark.”
Just hours earlier, Iran announced an escalation of its nuclear program, saying that within 10 days it will breach the limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium that was set under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Last week, US officials blamed Iran for attacks against Norwegian and Japanese oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Trump described those and other recent alleged attacks attributed by administration officials to Iran as limited. “So far, it’s been very minor,” Trump said, according to the TIME.
Trump’s comments struck a different tone than the public stance of the Pentagon and other Republicans in Washington. They also cut against a series of recent diplomatic and military moves that his Administration has made amid escalating tensions with Tehran.
While Trump was speaking to TIME, Acting Secretary of War Patrick Shanahan announced he had authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for “defensive purposes” in the region.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has insisted the US is “considering a full range of options” in response to the recent attacks. When asked on CBS Sunday if that included a military response, he responded, “Of course.” On Tuesday, Pompeo is going to visit US Central Command, the Tampa-based headquarters which oversees all military operations in the Middle East.
In the Time interview, Trump argued that the Gulf of Oman is less strategically important for the United States now than it used to be, citing China and Japan as nations that still rely on the region for significant proportions of their oil. “Other places get such vast amounts of oil there,” Trump said. “We get very little. We have made tremendous progress in the last two and a half years in energy. And when the pipelines get built, we’re now an exporter of energy. So we’re not in the position that we used to be in in the Middle East where … some people would say we were there for the oil.”
Many of the 1,000 new troops will be deployed for security and intelligence gathering, US officials say. The move is part of a larger deployment to deter what the Trump Administration calls “malign behavior” by Iran intended to damage the United States and its allies. A squadron of 12 jet fighters, several spy planes, Patriot missile batteries, a B-52 bomber task force, the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and other military assets have already been dispatched to the region.
Trump hasn’t been shy in voicing his aversion to overseas military entanglements, but advisers such as Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton have staked out more hawkish positions. “The president will consider everything we need to do to make sure — right? But what has the president said? We don’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo said Sunday.
When asked Monday whether he was considering military action against Iran, Trump told the TIME, “I wouldn’t say that. I can’t say that at all.”