Vivek Ramaswamy said the U.S. military should close its remaining bases in Iraq and Syria in response to terrorist attacks on American troops, calling their presence "trip-wires for major regional conflict."
"If [terrorists are] hitting us on bases that we shouldn't have been in in the first place, we're creating the opportunities for escalation into larger scale regional war that doesn't advance our interest," said Ramaswamy, in an interview with Piers Morgan this week. "So I would bring them home."
Ramaswamy’s comments come as nearly two dozen U.S. troops have reportedly been injured in attacks from Iran’s terror proxies in Syria and Iraq in the past month. The comments also reflect Ramaswamy’s isolationist views, which he has become more vocal about as he has dropped in the polls. His positions have drawn rebuke from his opponents, including former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, who has overtaken Ramaswamy as the third-place candidate in the race.
Last week, Ramaswamy came out against U.S. military aid to Israel in its war against Hamas. He also opposes U.S. military support to Ukraine, telling Morgan that he would strike a deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin that would give Russia control of Ukrainian territory it has seized in the war.
In the interview, Ramaswamy questioned the need for a U.S. military presence in the Middle East. The United States has 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq as part of scaled-down operations against ISIS.
"Why do we have troops in Syria? Why do we have troops in Iraq? We have sitting targets and now we’re going to create more sitting targets," Ramaswamy said.
Morgan pushed back against the candidate, noting that the "whole purpose of being there is to try and maintain some sort of order."
"I think it's been unsuccessful," responded Ramaswamy. "I don't think that that serves any strategic purpose to the country."
The United States has kept a small military presence in Iraq and Syria, largely for intelligence-gathering, with the aim of preventing a resurgence of ISIS and supporting Kurdish allies who have been instrumental in fighting the terrorist group. Their presence is also a counter to Russian and Iranian influence in the region.
Ramaswamy told Morgan that he would strike a deal to end the war in Ukraine, which would include giving Russia territory that it captured—a proposal that drew a shocked response from Morgan.
"What? You would give Putin what he stole?" asked Morgan.
"I would freeze the lines of control. These are Russian speaking territories that are occupied today," Ramaswamy said.