Mattis: Obama's inaction 'emboldened' Iran

Friday, September 6, 2019
Michael F. Haverluck (

Barack Obama 1

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is blaming former President Barack Obama's foreign policy stance of inaction and looking the other way for Iran's aggression and defiance today.

"Mattis says he predicted years ago that Iran would escalate its provocations against the U.S. – and he partly blames the Obama administration's anemic reaction to an Iranian plot to bomb a restaurant in Washington, DC," the Washington Examiner reported.

Appeasement over protection

As revealed in his book released this week, Mattis explained how his warnings about Iran's militancy were ignored while serving as leader of U.S. Central Command and overseeing military operations in Central Asia and the Middle East under the Obama administration from 2010–2013.

"From my first day at CENTCOM, I knew we faced two principal adversaries: stateless Sunni Islamist terrorists and the revolutionary Shiite regime of Iran – the most destabilizing country in the region," Mattis wrote in his book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. "Iran was by far the more deadly of the two threats."

The military leader said his incessant warnings to Obama – who did not agree with Mattis' assessment of Iran – about the terrorist-harboring Islamic Republic's ongoing threat to U.S. security were what eventually got him fired.

"Mattis says Washington didn't even inform him when Iran committed an 'act of war' on American soil," the Examiner's Kelly Jane Torrance recounted. "The duty officer at his Tampa, Florida, headquarters on Oct. 11, 2011, told him that the attorney general and FBI director had held a press conference to announce the arrest of two Iranians who had planned a bomb attack on Cafe Milano – a high-end restaurant in Washington that was a favorite of the rich and famous."

The serious nature of the attack against the U.S. commandeered by the jihadist Iranian regime was relayed by America's top cop.

"Attorney General Eric Holder said the bombing plot was 'directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government and, specifically, senior members of the Qods Force,'" Mattis recounted. "The Qods were the Special Operations Force of the Revolutionary Guards, reporting to the top of the Iranian government."

Many pundits refused to credit the Islamic nation for such an audacious attack – even with Iran's track record of terrorism and sponsoring overseas assassinations.

"I saw the intelligence: we had recorded Tehran's approval of the operation," Mattis retold. "Had the bomb gone off, those in the restaurant and on the street would have been ripped apart, blood rushing down sewer drains. It would have been the worst attack on us since 9/11."

He said Iran was emboldened because it sensed America's weakness.

"I sensed that only Iran's impression of America's impotence could have led them to risk such an act within a couple of miles of the White House," Mattis recounted. "Absent one fundamental mistake – the terrorists had engaged an undercover DEA agent in an attempt to smuggle the bomb – the Iranians would have pulled off this devastating attack. Had that bomb exploded, it would have changed history."

The decorated Marine insisted Obama needed to warn the public about the Iranian threat.

"I believed we had to respond forcefully," he writes. "First, though, the president had to go before the American people and forcefully lay out the enormous savagery of the intended attack. The American public – and the global public – had to understand the gravity of the plot."

Making his case, he recalled the effectiveness of President Woodrow Wilson getting America behind war efforts against Germany for World War I.

"In March 1917, President Wilson received, via British intelligence, a copy of a telegram sent by German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to the president of Mexico," Mattis explained – noting how Germany offered an alliance that would give parts of Texas and other states to Mexico if it helped against the U.S. "Outraged, Wilson publicized the telegram to alert and mobilize the public."

Mattis argued Obama should have demonstrated a similar backbone with Iran.

"As President Wilson had done, so too should President Obama go before the American public, lay out the evidence, denounce the Iranian regime, and hold it to account," Mattis contended. "Washington was not interested in my Zimmermann analogy. We treated an act of war as a law enforcement violation, jailing the low-level courier."

But Obama refused to take a strong stand against Iran when provoked.

"The provocations were not unlike those of this year, as Iran has stepped up its bad behavior in the region in an attempt to get Europe to salvage the nuclear deal [when] the regime seized a British Royal Navy small craft in June 2012, declaring it sets the rules in the Strait of Hormuz," Torrance reminded. "A few months later, an Iranian fighter aircraft tried to shoot down an American drone in international airspace over the Persian Gulf."

Mattis suggested an aggressive response.

"I proposed to Washington that we launch another drone on the same track, position a few F-18 aircraft out of sight, and shoot down the Iranian aircraft if it attacked the drone, [but] the White House refused to grant permission," Mattis recalled. "I wanted calculated actions, to restrain the regime so it couldn't thrust us into a war. If you allow yourself to be goaded and trifled with, one of two things will happen: eventually a harder, larger fight will explode, or you will get moved out of the neighborhood."

Mattis indicated that making an Iran nuclear deal was more important to Obama than America's safety.

"In my view, we had to hold Iran to account and strike back when attacked, [b]ut there was a reason for the administration's restraint – the administration was secretly negotiating with Iran, although I was not privy to the details at the time," Mattis recalled about the deal he condemned, which was signed in 2015 and scrapped by President Donald Trump in 2018.

At the risk of endangering the entire Middle East with a nuclear Iran, it is argued Obama chose to try and play diplomatic peacekeeper.

"At the same time, the administration was lecturing our Arab friends that they had to accommodate Iran as if it were a moderate neighbor in the region and not an enemy committed to their destruction," the former SecDef added. "As long as its leaders consider Iran less a nation-state than a revolutionary cause, Iran will remain a terrorist threat potentially more dangerous than Al Qaeda or ISIS."

Mattis also mentioned Obama's failed Arab Spring effort that many argue spawned the rise of ISIS, saying he urged "quiet diplomacy to urge inclusive government" in America's ally, Egypt.

"When the Arab Spring came to Egypt in 2011 … Obama instead called for Hosni Mubarak to resign," National Review noted.


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