US President Donald Trump said in an interview published Monday that he might authorize military action to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but was less willing to go to war to protect global oil supplies.
“I would certainly go over nuclear weapons and I would keep the other a question mark,” Trump said in a Time magazine interview Monday. Asked directly if he was considering military action against Iran, he responded: “I wouldn’t say that. I can’t say that at all.”
Although Trump and American administration officials blamed Iran for attacks last week in which two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were hit by explosions, the US president played down those and previous attacks blamed on Iran, saying their impact was not great.
“So far, it’s been very minor,” Trump said.
Trump appeared to be toning down previous American comments and actions since the US ordered additional naval and air forces to the region last month against the backdrop of soaring tensions with Iran, including a decision Monday to deploy 1,000 additional troops. Last month, reports indicated the White House had been reviewing a plan to send as many as 120,000 US troops to the Middle East if Iran accelerated its uranium enrichment or attacked American targets.
In the Monday interview, Trump said that although Middle East petroleum was important to other countries, it is not strategically critical to the US given America’s current oil self-sufficiency.
“Other places get such vast amounts of oil there,” Trump told Time. “We get very little.”
American is “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,” Trump said.
While he agreed that Iran was behind recent attacks, the president said Tehran had toned down its hostility toward America since the Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015.
“If you look at the rhetoric now compared to the days when they were signing that agreement [the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Trump withdrew from], where it was always ‘death to America, death to America, we will destroy America, we will kill America,’ I’m not hearing that too much anymore,” Trump said. “And I don’t expect to.”
Iran on Monday announced that it will surpass the uranium-stockpile limit set by the nuclear deal in the next 10 days, raising pressure on Europeans trying to save the accord a year after the US withdrawal lit the fuse for the heightened tensions now between Tehran and Washington.
Hours later the United States said it had approved the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East.