THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you all for being here and joining the first Cabinet meeting of 2019. It’s going to be a very exciting year. I think it’s going to be a very good year. Some people think it’ll be controversial and tough, and it probably will, but we’re going to get a lot done. I think we can work with the Democrats, actually, and get quite a bit done. And we’re looking at infrastructure, we’re looking at many things that can happen and I think that both sides want.
Q Mr. President, you used the word “slowly” when you were describing withdrawal from Syria.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I never said fast or slow. Yeah, I just —
Q What’s your timetable? When do you want troops to be out?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know — somebody said four months, but I didn’t say that either. I’m getting out — we’re getting out of Syria.
Look, we don’t want Syria. Obama gave up Syria years ago when he didn’t violate the red line. I did, when I shot 59 missiles in, but that was a long time later. And when President Obama decided not to violate his statement that never crossed the red line, and then they did, and he didn’t do anything about it — you know, making a threat is okay but you always have to follow through with the threat if you’re going to make that threat. You can’t make a threat and then do nothing.
So Syria was lost long ago. It was lost long ago. And besides that — we’re talking about sand and death. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about, you know, vast wealth. We’re talking about sand and death.
Now, the Kurds, it’s very interesting — Turkey doesn’t like them, other people do. I didn’t like the fact that they’re selling the small oil that they have to Iran. And we asked them not to sell it to Iran. But the Kurds — our partners — are selling oil to Iran. We’re not thrilled about that. Okay? I’m not happy about it at all.
At the same time, they fight better when we fight with them. You know, when we send 30 F-18s in front of them, they fight much better than they do when we don’t. And you’ve seen what’s happened. But we want to protect the Kurds, nevertheless. We want to protect the Kurds. But I don’t want to be in Syria forever. It’s sand and it’s death.
And when we kill ISIS, if we don’t — now, everyone says, “Oh, then they’ll come to our country.” Well that’s possibly true, a very small percentage. But you know where else they’re going? To Iran, who hates ISIS more than we do. They’re going to Russia, who hates ISIS more than we do. So we’re killing. And then I read, when we pull out, “Oh, Russia is thrilled.” Russia is not happy. You know why they’re not happy? Because they like it when we’re killing ISIS, because we’re killing them for them, and we’re killing them for Assad, and we’re killing ISIS also for Iran.
And just while we’re on Iran — because, you know, people don’t like to write the facts — Iran is a much different country than it was when I became President. Iran — when I became President, I had a meeting at the Pentagon with lots of generals. They were like from a movie. Better looking than Tom Cruise, and stronger.
And I had more generals than I’ve ever seen, and we were at the bottom of this incredible room. And I said, “This is the greatest room I’ve ever seen.” I saw more computer boards than I think that they make today. And every part of the Middle East, and other places that was under attack, was under attack because of Iran. And I said to myself, “Wow.” I mean, you look at Yemen, you look at Syria, you look at every place. Saudi Arabia was under siege. They were all. I mean, they wanted Yemen because of the long border with Saudi Arabia, and that’s why they’re there, frankly. But every place was under siege.
And I actually asked a question: “How do you stop these people? They’re all over the place.” They have plenty of money. President Obama had just given them $150 billion. He just gave $1.8 billion in cash. I’m still trying to figure that one out, Mick. Gave $1.8 million in cash. Planeloads of cash. I mean cash from five different countries. You know why from five different countries, Jeff? Because we didn’t have enough cash in the Tri-State Area to give them $1.8 billion. So they had to use the currency of other countries. That’s the real reason.
So with all of that, with all of that being said, I did something called terminate the horrible Iran Nuclear Deal — which, by the way, in eight years, gives Iran the legal right to have nuclear weapons. Okay? I did it. Iran is no longer the same country. Iran is pulling people out of Syria. They can do what they want there, frankly. But they’re pulling people out. They’re pulling people out of Yemen.
Iran wants to survive now. Iran was a power in the Middle East. They were going to take over the whole Middle East. They were going to take over everything. That was what they wanted to do — and destroy Israel while they’re at it.
Iran is a much different country right now. They’re having riots every week, in every city — bigger than they’ve ever had before. Their currency is under siege thanks to us. A lot of bad things are happening. When we do all of the things that we’ve done monetarily to Iran, Iran is in trouble. And you know what? I’d love to negotiate with Iran. They’re not ready yet, I don’t think. But they will be. But Iran is a much different country right now, Jeff, than it was when I took over.
When I took over two years ago, Iran was going to take over the Middle East and who knows where, and they were going to have all the nuclear weapons they wanted in a very short period of time, because of that stupid deal. When I terminated that deal and then did what I had to do, Iran is a much different country today than it was 19 months ago. That I can tell you.