Former Defense Secretary James Mattis has a book coming out in which he is harshly critical of President Obama. Among other things, he recalls his dissent from Obama’s decision to pull troops out of Iraq prematurely, which had nearly-disastrous consequences. But this less well-known story about Iran is also noteworthy:
Mattis says Washington didn’t even inform him when Iran committed an “act of war” on American soil.
Mattis was CENTCOM commander at the time, responsible for our military posture vis-a-vis Iran.
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.
I had dinner at Cafe Milano not long ago, which gives this story a personal aspect.
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.”
“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. 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,” he writes. “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.”
Within the Obama administration, Mattis argued forcefully that the president needed to inform the public of this act of war and mobilize opinion in favor of strong action against Iran. But his advice went unheeded.
“Washington was not interested in my Zimmermann [telegram] analogy. We treated an act of war as a law enforcement violation, jailing the low-level courier,” Mattis writes.
Mattis later learned why Obama had gone so easy on the mullahs:
“In my view, we had to hold Iran to account and strike back when attacked. But 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.”
Those negotiations would lead to the Iran nuclear deal, signed in 2015. Mattis is critical of the agreement, which President Trump withdrew from last year. “In my military judgment, America had undertaken a poorly calculated, long-shot gamble. 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,” Mattis writes. “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.”
It is painful to think how much hilarity the mullahs in Teheran must have enjoyed at the expense of the incompetent President Obama.