Mattis: Obama Failed To Respond to Iran's 'Act of War'


James Mattis has a strained relationship with conservatives. The former Marine Corps general is revered by many on the right as a no-nonsense warrior and leader, but his relatively short tenure as secretary of defense under President Donald Trump did not go as well as many had hoped.

The release of the retired officer’s new book may go a long way in redeeming Mattis with conservatives. A portion of the recently released “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead” confirms what many on the GOP side have been saying for years: former President Barack Obama was shockingly weak on foreign policy and his handling of Iran was particularly alarming.

The right has long suspected that Obama was more interested in making nice with the Iranian regime than taking it seriously as a threat. Yet according to Mattis, the former president was so incompetent that he risked a major terrorist attack that nearly killed hundreds of Americans.

“Mattis says Washington didn’t even inform him when Iran committed an ‘act of war’ on American soil,” the Washington Examiner explained.

That act was a 2011 plot by two Iranians to detonate a bomb at the upscale Cafe Milano restaurant in Washington, D.C. — and it was apparently backed by the Iranian government itself.

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“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.’ The Qods were the Special Operations Force of the Revolutionary Guards, reporting to the top of the Iranian government,” Mattis wrote.

He has no doubt that the plot was directly linked to Iran. “I saw the intelligence: we had recorded Tehran’s approval of the operation,” the former secretary of defense said.

“It would have been the worst attack on us since 9/11. 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 continued in his book. “Had that bomb exploded, it would have changed history.”

The involvement of an agent from the Drug Enforcement Agency foiled the plot, but Mattis — then the commander of the United States Central Command — urged Obama to act decisively against the Iranian regime for its role in a planned terrorist attack just around the corner from the White House. Obama didn’t listen.

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“We treated an act of war as a law enforcement violation, jailing the low-level courier,” Mattis said.

And what was the reason for such a weak response? In his view, it was because the Obama administration was trying to befriend Iran instead of punishing it.

“The administration was secretly negotiating with Iran, although I was not privy to the details at the time,” he said. That negotiation turned into a formalized nuclear deal with Iran, an Obama-era concession which Trump ended when he became president.

Mattis is a level-headed man, but his frustration and outrage with Obama is clear in the chapter dealing with the incident.

“In my military judgment, America had undertaken a poorly calculated, long-shot gamble,” the former general said.

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“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,” he continued.

And while Obama may be out of the White House, the threat of Iranian-backed violence against the American homeland should not be ignored.

“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 cautioned.

If these recollections are accurate, then the United States may have dodged more than a few bullets during the Obama years. There are important lessons here, and no matter your opinion of Mattis, it would be wise to at least take his warnings seriously.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.