(JTA) — President Donald Trump said the United States is keeping troops in the Middle East for Israel.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post, Trump also called Saudi Arabia a “great ally.”
Asked whether there should be tougher sanctions on Saudi Arabia over the killing of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi, Trump compared the U.S. ally to other countries in the region.
“(I)t’s a rough part of the world. It’s a dangerous, rough part of the world. But they’ve been a great ally. Without them, Israel would be in a lot more trouble. We need to have a counterbalance to Iran. I know him. I know him well, the crown prince,” Trump said, adding that he never did business with Mohammed bin Salman.
The crown prince has been implicated in Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Trump also said: “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.”
Trump also discussed the General Motors layoffs, the Federal Reserve, the recent clash between Russia and Ukraine, and climate change. He refused to talk about the Mueller investigation during the 20-minute interview at the White House.
The interview was first published Tuesday evening on the Post’s website.