Trump calls alleged Iranian attack on oil tankers "very minor"

Last week, U.S. officials blamed Iran for attacks against Norwegian and Japanese oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Trump described those and other recent attacks attributed by administration officials to Iran as limited. “So far, it’s been very minor,” Trump told TIME.

Trump’s comments, made in a nearly hour-long interview with TIME, struck a different tone than the public stance of the Pentagon and other Republicans in Washington. They also cut against a series of recent diplomatic and military moves that his Administration has made amid escalating tensions with Tehran…

Speaking to TIME, Trump argued that the Gulf of Oman is less strategically important for the United States now than it used to be, citing China and Japan as nations that still rely on the region for significant proportions of their oil. “Other places get such vast amounts of oil there,” Trump said. “We get very little. 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.”

Trump said he agrees with the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Iran was behind the attacks, saying, “I don’t think too many people don’t believe it.” But he also downplayed Iran’s aggression, arguing that the country has adopted a less hostile posture towards the United States since he became president.