February 4, 2019
US President Donald Trump said it was important to keep a US military presence in Iraq so that Washington can keep a close eye on Iran, according to a CBS interview to be broadcast on Sunday.
Trump said the United States spent a fortune on a base in Iraq. “We might as well keep it. One of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem,” he said in excerpts from a CBS “Face the Nation” interview.
Asked if that meant he wanted to be able to strike Iran, Trump said, “No, because I want to be able to watch Iran.”
“All I want to do is be able to watch. We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq.
It’s perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up.”
Trump defended his decision to withdraw troops from Syria but refused to provide a timetable for the pullout, which was criticized by members of his own Republican Party and caused concern among some allies in the region.
He said some of the forces moving out of Syria will go to the base in Iraq and “ultimately some will be coming home.”
Speaking on the crisis in Venezuela, Trump said that sending the military there was “an option” and that he had turned down President Nicolas Maduro’s request for a meeting.
“Certainly, it’s something that’s on the — it’s an option,” Trump said.
Trump said Maduro requested a meeting months ago and he turned down the Venezuela leader.
“I’ve turned it down because we’re very far along in the process,” he said. “So, I think the process is playing out — very, very big tremendous protests.”
Tens of thousands of people have thronged the streets to protest the Maduro government, wearing the yellow, red and blue of the Venezuelan flag.
As domestic and international pressure mounts on Maduro to step down, a senior air force general disavowed him in a video that circulated earlier on Saturday, expressing his allegiance to parliament head and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido.