Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a news conference at his hotel, which is under construction, in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016.
Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC

Donald Trump: ‘Knock the hell out of the oil’

Updated

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump suggested that he would destroy oil fields in the Middle East, claiming that they’re a primary source of income for terrorism groups such as ISIS.

In an interview with the New York Times published online on Saturday, the billionaire businessman argued that even though he was against the Iraq War, the government could have used that opportunity to seize the oil refineries. (In fact, there is no evidence that Trump was against the Iraq War until well after it began. Rather, he voiced support for the impending war in an interview with Howard Stern in 2002.)

His call now to “take the oil” would require deploying US troops on the ground, a move Trump has equivocated on in the past, but most recently has supported.

“I would say knock the hell out of the oil and do it because it’s a primary source of money for ISIS,” said Trump. “We have to destroy the oil. We should’ve taken it and we would’ve have it.”

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If elected, the GOP front-runner told the Times he might also halt the purchase of oil from Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, because they’ve been unwilling to send their troops in on the ground to fight against ISIS despite efforts by President Barack Obama to have them join a US-led coalition.

Hours after the interview was published, the former head of President Obama’s Auto Task Force, Steven Rattner, tweeted that Trump “has no idea how oil market works. We take only about 10 percent of what Saudi Arabia produces.”

When asked about his strategy to defeat ISIS in Syria, Trump said the approach of fighting the terror group and the country’s President Bashar Assad simultaneously is “madness, and idiocy.”

“Our far bigger problem than Assad is ISIS, I’ve always felt that,” he said.  “Assad is, you know I’m not saying Assad is a good man, ‘cause he’s not, but our far greater problem is not Assad, it’s ISIS.”

When asked during the 100-minute interview what would merit humanitarian intervention under a Trump presidency, Trump suggested that it would be determined based on how “friendly” a country has been towards the US.

“I’d have to see what’s going on in the region and you just cannot have a blanket. The one blanket you could say is, ‘protection of our country,’” he said.  “That’s the one blanket. After that it depends on the country, the region, how friendly they’ve been toward us.”

Trump stopped short of being specific with his foreign policy proposals, saying that he “wouldn’t want [other countries and allies] to know what my real thinking is.”

This story has been updated at the top to correctly reflect Trump’s original position on the Iraq War, and to correctly reflect his position on sending troops to Iraq and Syria.

Donald Trump and Foreign Policy

Donald Trump: 'Knock the hell out of the oil'

Updated