- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 22, 2019

President Trump on Saturday defended his strategy on Iran, saying he’s “getting praise” for his decision not to retaliate with deadly strikes after Tehran downed an unmanned drone.

“Everyone was saying I’m a warmonger. Now they’re saying I’m a dove,” Mr. Trump told White House reporters as he departed for Camp David.

Mr. Trump says he stopped a planned U.S. military strike 10 minutes before it was to be launched Thursday night, saying the likely Iranian casualties were “not proportionate” to Tehran’s shooting down of an unmanned Navy drone.

“Anything is a lot when they shoot down an unmanned” vehicle, Mr. Trump said Saturday.

Capitol Hill lawmakers and allies are skittish about increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, as the White House, which withdrew from President Obama’s international nuclear deal, puts maximum economic pressure on the Islamic Republic.

Mr. Trump said he maintains faith in National Security Adviser John Bolton, a hardliner who’s pushed for regime change in Iran.

“I have John Bolton, who I would definitely say is a hawk. I have other people that are on the other side of the equation. Ultimately I make the decision. The only one that matters is me. I listen to everybody. I want people on both sides,” he said.

For now, Mr. Trump is assuming an agile posture, saying military action remains on the table while preaching restraint and opening the door to Iran, saying their forces were “wise” not to shoot down a manned plane.

“They had it in their sights and they didn’t shoot it down. I think they were very wise not to do that. And we appreciate that they didn’t do that. I think that was a very wise decision,” he said.

Iran is pressing European nations to abide by the terms of the Obama-era nuclear deal. They’re threatened to enrich more uranium in violation of the pact as the U.S. cracks down, though Mr. Trump insists there is room for new negotiations.

“They’re not going to have a nuclear weapon. We’re not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon,” he told reporters. “When they agree to that, they’re going to have a wealthy country. They’re going to be so happy, and I’m going to be their best friend. I hope that happens.”

Mr. Trump said there are plenty of Iranians back home in New York City.
“They’re great people. I have friends that are Iranians,” he said. “They’re very smart, they’re very ambitious and tremendous high quality people. I don’t want to kill 150 Iranians.”

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