WASHINGTON — In a recent interview with the Washington Post, U.S. President Donald Trump publicly stated that his administration’s Middle East policy – including the illegal U.S. military occupation of nearly a third of Syria, the administration’s adoption of aggressive Iranian sanctions, and Trump’s response to murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi — is not driven by his country’s interest in oil but instead to benefit the interests of the state of Israel.
Trump made the comment when asked by Post reporter Josh Dawsey about whether or not he supports tougher sanctions against the Saudi government for allegedly being responsible for the death of Khashoggi in early October. Trump responded by stating that he would “listen” to those calling for increased sanctions and then adding that the Middle East is a “dangerous, rough part of the world.” Trump continued, stating that Saudi Arabia has been a “great ally,” adding that “without them, Israel would be in a lot more trouble. We need to have a counterbalance to Iran.”
Trump’s statements here seem to support the claims made in recent reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was responsible for Trump’s decision to stand by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) during the fall-out from Khashoggi’s death, which several governments and U.S. intelligence have claimed was planned in advance with MBS’ approval. Netanyahu told the White House that MBS was a “strategic ally” and should be supported regardless of his alleged involvement in the death of the former Post columnist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
However, as Trump continued to discuss the region, he revealed that Israel is not just the reason for his continued support for the Saudi government despite the fallout from Khashoggi’s death but also the reason why the U.S. continues to be so heavily involved in the region. He stated:
It’s very important to have Saudi Arabia as an ally, if we’re going to stay in that part of the world. Now, are we going to stay in that part of the world? 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 produced. So, you know, all of a sudden it gets to a point where you don’t have to stay there.”
In this statement, Trump makes the case that the U.S. national interest in Middle Eastern affairs is weakening, as oil – traditionally cited for the U.S.’ long history of intervention throughout the region – is no longer a major factor in guiding his administration’s policy in this geostrategic area of the world. As Trump notes, the U.S. is currently producing a record amount of oil domestically and is likely to continue its rapid increase until production is estimated to peak in 2025.
Israel driving the U.S. bus
Instead, Trump states that the driving reason for the U.S. continuing intervention in the region is the state of Israel. Though Trump’s actions since he came into office have been markedly pro-Israel, this statement is the first public admission that his administration’s Middle East policy – such as the continuing military occupation of Syria, its aggressive stance towards Iran, and preservation of ties with Saudi Arabia at all costs, among others – is guided by the interests not of the United States but a foreign nation. Given that Trump was elected in large part due to his promise to put “America First,” his claim that the U.S.’ entire Middle East policy is guided by the national interests of another country is telling.
Yet, for those that have closely followed the actions of the Trump administration in the Middle East, it has been clear for some time that most, if not all, of the administration’s policies have been carried out with Israel in mind.
For instance, the U.S.’ continued occupation of Syria is of great benefit to Israel, as Israel — which helped plan and execute the now winding-down Syrian conflict — had hoped to use the resulting instability in Syria to push for the country’s partition. Israel’s push for the partition of Syria is aimed at a broader, regional plan that would see Israel expand well beyond that territory in order to more widely exert its influence and become the region’s “superpower.”
This ambition is described in the Yinon Plan, a strategy intended to ensure Israel’s regional superiority in the Middle East that chiefly involves reconfiguring the entire Arab world into smaller and weaker sectarian states. This has manifested in Israel’s support for the partition of Iraq as well as Syria, particularly its support for the establishment of a separatist Kurdish state within these two nations. Currently, the U.S. is occupying the area for this potential future state and supports the Kurdish separatist militia group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Though some reports released on Wednesday have now claimed that the U.S. troops in Syria will soon be withdrawn due to the end of Washington’s bombing campaign against ISIS, the Trump administration shifted its Syria policy away from combating ISIS to containing Iran — a move promoted first by the Israeli government, which has long used alleged “Iranian influence” to justify hundreds of unilateral airstrikes within Syrian territory.
If U.S. troops do leave northeastern Syria, the U.S. military occupation of northeastern Syria may end, but the administration’s policy on containing Iran in Syria through other means would still be operational.
Indeed, NBC News reported in October that the administration was developing a “new” Syria policy that would forgo a U.S. military presence in the country and would instead “emphasize political and diplomatic efforts to force Iran out of Syria by squeezing it financially,” and would “withhold reconstruction aid from areas where Iranian and Russian forces are present” in addition to imposing “sanctions on Russian and Iranian companies working on reconstruction in Syria.”
In addition, the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and its unilateral reimposition of sanctions on Iran were also carried out with Israel’s interests in mind, given that the move was pushed by both Netanyahu and Trump’s most influential donor, Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is also the owner of Israel’s largest newspaper and Netanyahu’s largest financier.
Past reports have shown that Adelson’s influence also pushed Trump to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to replace former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with John Bolton, a pro-Israel Iran hawk with a well-known penchant for war.
After his recent statements, Trump has now publicly admitted that – when it comes to U.S. military involvement and covert intervention in the Middle East – he is putting Israel, not America, first. This should serve as a stark warning to all Americans, particularly given that just last year a top U.S. commander stated that U.S. troops were “ready to die” to defend Israel for whatever reason, and that the deployment of U.S. troops to Israel would be made not by the American military but by the Israel Defense Forces.
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.