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US troops are staying in Middle East ‘for Israel,’ stresses Trump

With oil becoming less of a factor, Israel is one of the main reasons that U.S. troops are still in the Middle East, U.S. President Donald Trump tells “The Washington Post.”

U.S. President Donald Trump. Credit: Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa via Flickr.
U.S. President Donald Trump. Credit: Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa via Flickr.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the American ‎presence in the Middle East should be reduced, adding that Israel ‎is one of the main reasons U.S. troops remain in the region. ‎

In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump floated the idea of ‎removing U.S. troops from the ‎Middle East, citing the lower price of ‎oil as a reason to withdraw.‎

“Now, are we going to stay in that part of the world? One reason ‎to ‎is Israel,” said Trump. “Oil is becoming less and less of a ‎reason ‎because we’re producing more oil now than we’ve ever ‎produced. ‎So, you know, all of a sudden it gets to a point where ‎you don’t ‎have to stay there.”

Since being elected in 2016, Trump has stated several ‎times that he would like to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, saying ‎he would do so only after the Islamic State group was defeated. ‎More recently, he said he would remove U.S. troops from Syria on condition that Iran withdraws its forces from the war-torn ‎country.‎

Commenting on the murder last month of Saudi journalist Jamal ‎Khashoggi, ‎Trump questioned the CIA’s assessment that Saudi Arabian Crown ‎Prince Mohammed bin Salman ‎ordered the assassination, and ‎defended his decision to maintain close ties with the oil-rich Persian ‎Gulf kingdom.‎

While intelligence assessments are rarely ironclad, the CIA based its ‎overall conclusions on Mohammed’s role on several pieces of compelling evidence, including intercepted ‎communications and surveillance from inside the Saudi ‎Consulate ‎in ‎Istanbul, where Khashoggi was killed, as well as its ‎analysis of the prince’s control over the ‎Saudi ‎government, the Washington Post said.‎

“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but he denies ‎it. And people ‎around him deny it. And the CIA did not say ‎affirmatively he did it ‎either, by the way. I’m not saying that ‎they’re saying he didn’t do ‎it, but they didn’t say it affirmatively,” said Trump.‎

Trump said he may meet with the crown prince‎ on the sidelines of ‎the G-20 summit, though according to the Post, no ‎formal meeting has been ‎scheduled.‎

On Putin, aggression, climate change …

Trump also said he might cancel ‎his ‎scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at the ‎G-‎‎20 summit in Argentina later this week over Russia’s maritime ‎clash ‎with Ukraine.

Asked whether he thought Putin was within his rights to ‎capture ‎three Ukrainian ships and their crews in the Black ‎Sea on Sunday, ‎Trump said that he was awaiting a “full report” from his ‎national ‎security team.

“That will be very determinative,” said the president. ‎‎“Maybe I won’t have the meeting. Maybe I won’t even have ‎the ‎meeting.”‎

Asked whether Russia’s aggression is a cause for concern for ‎the American people, Trump told the Post, “I don’t like that ‎aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all. Absolutely. And by ‎the way, Europe shouldn’t like that aggression. And Germany ‎shouldn’t like that aggression.”

He also dismissed a federal report released ‎last week saying global warming was wreaking havoc on the United ‎States. ‎

“I don’t see” climate change as man-made, he said. ‎‎“One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very ‎high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers. ‎You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record ‎clean.”

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