President Donald Trump in a new interview minimized Iran’s shooting down of U.S. drones over international waters, saying there was ‘nobody in it.’
Trump made the comment while defending his broader Middle East policy after being blasted by members of both parties for ordering a hasty pull-out from Syria and being accused of abandoning the allied Kurds.
Fox News host Sean Hannity told the president he was ‘was surprised’ he didn’t hit Iran after a June attack on a U.S. drone. Iran shot down a Global Hawk drone over what the Pentagon said were international waters, calling it an ‘intruding American spy drone.’
‘We have a lot of good will built up. They took down a drone, there was nobody in it. They took down a second drone, there was nobody in it. There’s a lot of good will,’ Trump told his interviewer.
GOOD WILL PUNTING: The president said he gained ‘good will’ by not ordering an attack on Iran after the shooting down of U.S. drones
The drone is valued at about $130 million.
He then described the drone attack, believed to have been carried out by Iranian proxies a few months later in September, on U.S. ally Saudi Arabia – prompting the U.S. to dispatch nearly 2,000 U.S. troops at a time when Trump continues to denounced ‘endless wars.’
‘They hit Saudi Arabia. We sent troops over to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s paying for it. You know that’s never happened before. We said, look you’ve got to pay and they’re paying it,’ Trump said.
‘They have nothing but money, nothing but cash. They’re paying. But we sent some troops over there, we’re going to give them good protection, and we built a lot of good capital up,’ the president continued.
Trump didn’t specify what additional attack on a U.S. drone he was describing, and the White House and Pentagon did not respond to requests for comment. On June 6, U.S. Central Command said Houthi rebels in Yemen shot down a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone.
Interviewer Sean Hannity told the president he was ‘was surprised’ he didn’t hit Iran after a June attack on a U.S. drone
U.S. Air Force maintainers prepare a U.S. military drone RQ-4A Global Hawk for takeoff at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, December 2, 2010. The drone shot down by Iran is valued at about $130 million
This picture taken on September 27, 2019 shows the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero as it leaves Bandar Abbas port in southern Iran. The British-flagged oil tanker, which had been held off the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas for more than two months, set sail on September 27 and reached international waters, the provincial maritime organization and its owner said
The purported wreckage of the American drone is seen displayed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran June 21, 2019
The British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero is docked in Dubai after sailing from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas where it was held for over two months, on September 28, 2019
A picture taken on July 21, 2019, shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards patrolling around the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero as it’s anchored off the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas
Trump defended the lack of a military response – which some policy experts say failed to deter Iran. ‘You know everyone thought that when I got elected – Hillary Clinton used to say, oh, you’ll have World War III. Well, I’m very tempered actually. A lot of people would have hit, but I built up a lot of capital.’
The Pentagon has not yet outlined how or in what manner Saudi Arabia was paying for the deployment of U.S. forces.
Hannity said on his show on June 20 after the drone incident that Iran had a small window otherwise, he said, Trump would ‘bomb the hell out of them.’
The U.S. blames Iran for a series of attacks on foreign-flagged oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz in May and June, amid the U.S. imposed ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran economically.
Hannity framed a question about Iran by saying: ‘Iran shot a drone out the air. They have taken tankers hostage. You mentioned energy independence, Straits of Hormuz
‘Well, they haven’t taken our tankers number one.’ In July Iran seized a British oil tanker, prompting the U.K. to warn of ‘serious consequences.’
Trump and Hannity agreed the shipping was less important to the U.S. due to gains in U.S. energy production that Trump took credit for achieving.
‘We have very few ships because since I came in we’re now energy independent,’ Trump said.
‘Right,’ said Hannity.
‘So, we have very few ships. In fact, that comment was made the other day they don’t see too many American ships anymore.’
Trump revealed in September the U.S. was ‘cocked & loaded’ to retaliate against Iran following the attack on a U.S. drone, but that ’10 minutes before the strike I stopped it’ after learning 150 people would die.