Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) sparred with CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Monday, arguing that there was “peace breaking out” in the Middle East under former President Trump.
Waltz urged the Biden administration to take stronger action on Iran after three service members were killed in a drone strike in Jordan over the weekend, saying President Biden’s “Middle East policy is failing” in an interview on CNN. He said the U.S. should “make Iran pay,” suggesting that the U.S. should target Iran’s operatives in Iraq and Syria instead of “empty warehouses.”
“The president said Friday, ‘Iran has gotten the message.’ Clearly, they have not and now we have three service members dead because of it,” Waltz said on CNN. “So I’m looking on this administration to do a 180 and set politics aside.”
“Just a few years ago, under the previous administration, ISIS was defeated. Iran was broke. And we had, literally, we had peace breaking out in the Middle East with the Abraham accords under President Trump,” he added.
When Keilar pressed him on Trump’s decision to take out Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a 2020 strike, Waltz suggested that the strike was successful in deterring future attacks on U.S. troops. However, Keilar noted that U.S. service members were killed in a rocket attack by Iranian-backed militia groups months after Soleimani was killed.
“No, they launched some missiles and that was it,” Waltz, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said before Keilar jumped in.
“No — service members died. Service members died,” she said.
“Who died post-Soleimani strike?” he responded as Keilar attempted to interject.
She described the March 2020 attack that killed two U.S. service members in northern Iraq, which was about two months after a U.S. strike took out Soleimani. She then asked Waltz what could be done to deter future attacks on U.S. troops, who responded with suggesting the U.S. targets “actual operatives,” like Trump did with Soleimani.
Keilar pointed out again that service members were killed in March 2020 as the two continued to talk over each other.
“And beyond that, we had we had no more attacks, and we certainly didn’t have the hundreds of attacks that we have now,” Waltz said before Keilar interjected with, “That’s not true.”
“My point is just if all of the families of the service members who have passed away due to Iranian backed proxies deserve answers, then all of them deserve answers and that is just the point that I was making,” Keilar said before concluding the interview.
When reached for comment on the exchange, a spokesperson for Waltz’s office referred The Hill to a Monday post on X, formerly Twitter, from the congressman.
“No one is saying the Middle East turned into Switzerland. Trump short-circuited the cycle of escalation. Large-scale attacks on our embassy, international shipping, and refineries (Saudi Aramco) stopped,” Waltz wrote on X. “Compare that to today.”
Updated: 5:18 p.m.