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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.

Go deeper: Pentagon releases additional photos alleging Iran behind oil tanker attacks

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.