Shortly before Donald Trump’s choice for defense secretary was announced, Jim Lobe wrote: Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis is the odds-on favorite for Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of defense. It’s worth exploring his views on Iran particularly in light of the ultra-hawkish positions of both National Security Adviser-designate Gen. Michael Flynn and CIA director-designate Mike Pompeo, both of whom have made no secret of their desire to destroy the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Mattis’s most comprehensive public statement on these subjects came at an hour-long presentation he gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) last April 22. It was entitled “The Middle East at an Inflection Point,” but it was really all about Iran. With the exception of the Military Times, the media entirely ignored his talk.
Recall that Mattis was essentially let go as chief of the U.S. Central Command, in which capacity he served from August 2010 to March 2013, largely because the Obama administration felt that he was too hawkish toward Iran. That hawkishness certainly comes through in his CSIS presentation. He sees Iran as the “single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East,” “the single most belligerent actor in the Middle East,” and as “not a nation state. Rather, he argues, it’s a revolutionary cause devoted to mayhem” that has not modified its hostility toward the U.S., Israel, and its Arab neighbors since the revolution. (It would be very hard to imagine Mattis supporting any effort to integrate Iran into a new regional security structure, although he didn’t explicitly address that issue in his talk.)
Nonetheless, unlike Flynn and Pompeo, Mattis makes clear that Washington should abide by the JCPOA, which he sees as an “imperfect arms control agreement,” because any withdrawal, especially in the absence of support from its allies, would put Washington and the region “on a road to perdition.” [Continue reading…]
The Forward reports: Late last month, when it first emerged that Trump was considering Mattis for the job, the Zionist Organization of America said it would oppose the pick, citing a 2013 appearance at the Aspen Security Forum shortly after he retired as chief of the U.S. Central Command.
“I paid a military-security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel,” Mattis said then of his job, which involves interactions with America’s Arab allies.
He also warned that the United States urgently needed to press the Israelis and the Palestinians to advance to a two-state solution.
“Either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country,” Mattis said. [Continue reading…]