US President Donald Trump has vowed to use military force against Iran if it acquires nuclear weapons, but doubts that he would take the same course of action over the recent attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Trump made his comments in an interview with the US-based Time magazine yesterday. Events so far, including the tanker attacks, he added, have been “very minor”.
With regard to oil supplies, according to Trump America’s new-found lack of dependency on oil from the Middle East and its development of other energy sources means that the US actually buys “very little” oil from the region. “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.”
Last week, two oil tankers from Norway and Japan were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, following attacks on four other vessels and oil installations in May. The US and Britain, along with some of their allies in the region, have blamed the attacks on Iran and its proxies.
As the Time interview was taking place, Acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan declared that he had authorised an additional 1,000 troops to be sent to the region for “defensive purposes.” Shanahan said in a statement that, “The recent Iranian attacks [sic] validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behaviour by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region.”
Trump’s statement on his willingness to use military force against Iran over nuclear weapons comes after a year of tension between the US and the Islamic Republic following America’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal. Since then, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has been upheld by Iran and the other signatories — China, France, Russia, Britain and Germany, plus the European Union — but has been under threat of breaking down after months of increased US sanctions on the government in Tehran, which coincidentally announced yesterday that it will pass the limit of enriched uranium imposed by the agreement within ten days.