US President-elect Donald Trump has announced that retired Marine General James Mattis, an outspoken critic of the Iran nuclear agreement, will serve as his secretary of defense.
“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defense. But we’re not announcing it until Monday so don’t tell anybody,” Trump told a rally on Thursday in Cincinnati, the first stop on a post-election “thank-you tour.”
“They say he’s the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have and it’s about time,” he added.
Mattis, 66, served more than four decades in the Marine Corps. The retired four-star general, known as “Mad Dog” and the “Warrior Monk,” had been involved in several key military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In November 2001, he led Marines that carried out a raid in helicopters on Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, giving the US military a new foothold against Taliban militants after the October 2001 American-led invasion of the country.
In 2003, Mattis commanded a division of Marines during the Iraq war, and in 2004 he led Marines in bloody street fighting in the city of Fallujah.
Like Trump, Mattis is also an opponent of the Iran nuclear agreement, which was reached last year between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Under the deal, Tehran agreed to limit some aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for removal of sanctions.
According to The Washington Post, Mattis favors a tougher stance against the countries which Washington considers its foes. He particularly holds anti-Iran views.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in April, Mattis called Iran “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”
He further said that “America has become somewhat irrelevant in the Middle East, and we certainly have the least influence in 40 years,” in the region.
Mattis served as the commander of the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) from August 2010 to March 2013.
But President Barack Obama purportedly decided to remove Mattis — about five months earlier than expected — from his National Security Council over his confrontational military strategy with regard to Iran.
The retired general was considered very close to Israel and certain Arab regimes. According to his one confidant, Steven Simon, Mattis made several trips to Israel and its Arab neighbors in a bid to build up an Israeli-Arab alliance against Iran.
Simon, who worked with him at CENTCOM, said Israelis and Arabs “respected Mattis because they saw him as a straight shooter and a good listener.”