Sputnik – Former Defence Secretary James Mattis declined to carry out orders from President Trump or otherwise limited his options in order to manage the escalation of tensions with North Korea, Iran and Syria, a report from The New Yorker has suggested.
“The president thinks out loud. Do you treat it like an order? Or do you treat it as part of a longer conversation? We treated it as part of a longer conversation”, a former senior national security official told The New Yorker, adding that they had “prevented a lot of bad things from happening”.
According to the report, in 2017 following a series of North Korean ballistic missile tests, Trump ordered the Pentagon to begin removing the spouses and children of military personnel from South Korea, where the US military has a base. An administration official told the magazine that “Mattis just ignored” the order.
Another example the official told The New Yorker was in the fall of 2017, as White House officials were planning a private meeting at Camp David to develop military options for a possible conflict with North Korea. Mattis allegedly ignored a request from then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster to send officers and planners and stopped the meeting.
The defence chief also sought to ward off possible conflicts in the Middle East. As Iraq was preparing for parliamentary elections in late 2017, McMaster was worried about any meddling from Iran and asked the Pentagon to give options to counter such a move. A former McMaster aide said Mattis later sent a Pentagon official to the White House without any options in hand.
“I asked him what happened to the options”, the former aide told The New Yorker. “He told me, ‘We resisted those.’ You could feel everyone in the meeting go, ‘Excuse me?'”
Mattis also reportedly prevented Gen. John Nicholson, then head of US forces in Afghanistan, from meeting Trump.
Gen. James Mattis, the head of U.S. Central Command, takes questions after delivering a lecture to the London think tank Policy Exchange in London, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011.
After Bolton replaced McMaster, he asked the Pentagon for multiple options in April 2018 regarding the Syrian conflict. Mattis gave only one option, a limited strike with cruise missiles, which angered Bolton.
According to the official, Mattis was likely attempting to limit information to Trump so he could not make “ill-advised decisions”.
“There are a lot of people in the administration who want to limit the president’s options because they don’t want the president to get anything done”, a former senior administration official said.
Mattis resigned from his Pentagon position last December, one day after Trump announced that he would withdraw troops from Syria, a decision Mattis opposed. In his resignation letter, Mattis said he made his decision because President Trump had “the right to have a secretary of defence whose views are better aligned” with his own on issues including a commitment to US alliances and the war against Daesh.