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Trump on US troops in the Middle East: “We’re producing more oil now”



James Mattis
Secretary James Mattis.


  • President Donald Trump suggested the US military’s
    presence in the Middle East is tied to the region’s oil in an
    interview with The Washington Post published on
  • The idea, which he repeated on several occasions,
    reportedly earned him a rebuke from his national security
  • Trump has teased the idea of allied nations
    compensating the US for its military presence.

In an exclusive interview with
The Washington Post
, President Donald Trump suggested the US
military’s presence in the Middle East is tied to the region’s
oil, an assessment that reportedly earned him a strong rebuke
from his national security advisers last year when he mentioned
it on a different occasion.

In a lengthy interview with the newspaper, Trump indicated the
continued presence of US troops in the Middle East would depend
on movement in the price of oil.

“Now, are we going to stay in that part of the world,” Trump
asked. “One reason to is Israel. Oil is becoming less and less of
a reason because we’re producing more oil now than we’ve ever

“So, you know, all of a sudden it gets to a point where you don’t
have to stay there,” Trump added.

The US became the world’s largest producer of
 this year after rolling back drilling regulations
and rebuilding its oil-producing infrastructure since 2011.

leads this charge and may soon produce more oil than
Iraq or Iran, shrinking the US’s reliance on foreign oil.

Goldman Sachs predicts the US will become energy independent —
exporting more than it imports — by 2019, and oil independent in
2021, according to
, which also reported that progress toward energy
independence had slowed under Trump, following a decade-long
sprint that began during the Obama administration.

Trump has reportedly associated US military presence in the
Middle East to oil on numerous occasions. During a phone call
with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in 2017, multiple
source confirmed that Trump raised the idea of having Iraq
reimburse the US for its war efforts.

Read more:
South Korean officials seek clarification after reports suggested
Trump was considering pulling US troops out of the

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump.
Photo/Steve Helber

“It was a very run-of-the-mill, low-key, meeting in general,” a
source familiar with the call said in an
Axios report
. “And then right at the end, Trump says
something to the effect of, he gets a little smirk on his face
and he says, ‘So what are we going to do about the oil.'”

“What do you mean,” al-Abadi asked, according to Axios’ source.

“And Trump’s like, ‘Well, we did a lot, we did a lot over there,
we spent trillions over there, and a lot of people have been
talking about the oil,” the source added.

After another phone call with al-Abadi in which Trump repeated
his request, then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster rebuked
Trump for tarnishing the US’ reputation: “We can’t do this and
you shouldn’t talk about it. Because talking about it is just
bad,” McMaster said, according to a source.

Trump’s interest in the Middle East’s oil had also reportedly
vexed his defense secretary, James Mattis, who reportedly
asserted it would be physically impossible, violate international
law, and demoralize allies.

Throughout his presidency, Trump has publicly teased the idea of
allied nations compensating the US for its military presence.
However, in closed-door meetings, Trump reportedly cited
inadequate trade deals and was seriously mulling the idea of
drastic withdrawal of US troops from countries like
South Korea

“We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect
them,” Trump said in March, referring to South Korea. “So we lose
money on trade, and we lose money on the military.”

“We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North
and South Korea,” Trump added. “Let’s see what happens.”

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