Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Trump — in a TIME interview posted late Monday night — downplayed the alleged Iranian attacks against two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, calling them "very minor."
The backdrop: It published just hours after Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan announced U.S. is deploying an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East in response to "hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups."
The intrigue: "Trump argued that the Gulf of Oman is less strategically important for the United States now than it used to be," the magazine reports.
- “Other places get such vast amounts of oil there,” Trump told Time. “We get very little."
- Last Friday, he backed up Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's accusation that Iran is responsible for the attacks: "Iran did do it. You know they did it because you saw the boat, I guess one of the mines didn't explode and it's probably got essentially Iran written all over it."
Quick take: It's true that U.S. crude imports from the region have been plummeting for years as U.S. production has surged, as Bloomberg's Javier Blas notes.
- But roughly 18 million barrels per day — nearly a fifth of global demand — pass through the Strait of Hormuz.
The bottom line: Closure of the passage or a major conflict in the region would nonetheless send oil prices skyrocketing, affecting U.S. consumers and industries.