On Wednesday, The Washington Examiner posted an article about Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, a book written by General James Mattis about his time as leader of U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013, overseeing military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia. Some parts of the book do not portray President Obama in a positive light.
The article reports:
“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,” he writes. “Iran was by far the more deadly of the two threats.”
That’s not how the president under whom Mattis served saw it, though, and Barack Obama eventually fired the storied Marine general for what Mattis believes were his insistent warnings about the Iranian threat.
Mattis says Washington didn’t even inform him when Iran committed an “act of war” on American soil.
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, including Saudi Arabia’s ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir.
As Mattis writes, “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.”
The article concludes:
Mattis says his reaction to the Cafe Milano bomb plot contributed towards Obama’s decision to fire him abruptly.
“While I fully endorse civilian control of the military, I would not surrender my independent judgment. In 2010, I argued strongly against pulling all our troops out of Iraq,” Mattis writes. (Earlier in the book, he recounts a discussion he had on the subject in Baghdad with Vice President Joe Biden, who was in charge of Iraq policy but “ignoring reality” and uninterested in the considered opinion of the general in charge of operations there.) “In 2011, I urged retaliation against Iran for plotting to blow up a restaurant in our nation’s capital. In 2012, I argued for retaining a small but capable contingent of troops in Afghanistan. Each step along the way, I argued for political clarity and offered options that gave the Commander in Chief a rheostat he could dial up or down to protect our nation.”
The commander in chief chose another option: fire the CENTCOM leader.
“In December 2012, I received an unauthorized phone call telling me that in an hour, the Pentagon would be announcing my relief,” Mattis writes. “I was leaving a region aflame and in disarray.”
And the biggest threat in the region, Mattis says, then as now, was Iran. He predicted the Obama administration’s reluctance to punish Tehran for its bad behavior while the two sides negotiated a nuclear deal would come back to haunt the U.S. He concludes that “the Iranians had not been held to account, and I anticipated that they would feel emboldened to challenge us more in the future.”
Unfortunately I think that in the future we will see more situations where President Obama put his own search for a diplomatic victory ahead of the safety of Americans.