Retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis will be appointed as US Secretary of Defense. The president-elect Donald Trump hand-picked picked Mattis to run the Pentagon, after he led operations in the Middle East but retired four years ago.
In order to be appointed, Mattis will need Congress to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law stating that defense secretaries must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years. Congress has granted a similar exception just once, when Gen. George C. Marshall was appointed to the job in 1950.
Mattis, 66, is known as one of the most influential military leaders of his generation. Mattis wants tougher measures against US adversaries abroad, especially Iran.
The general, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in April, believes the Iranian regime is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East”.
Trump confirmed on Thursday that he has chosen retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, who has said that responding to “political Islam” is the major security issue facing the United States, to be secretary of defense.
“He’s our best,” Trump said, as he announced his pick in a speech in Ohio.
“In terms of strengthening America’s global standing among European and Middle Eastern nations alike, the sense is that America has become somewhat irrelevant in the Middle East, and we certainly have the least influence in 40 years,” Mattis said.
Mattis said the next president “is going to inherit a mess” and argued that the nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration last year may slow Iran’s ambitions to get a nuclear weapon but will not stop them.
But he added that “absent a clear and present violation,” he saw no way out, because any unilateral sanctions issued by the United States would not be as valuable if allies were not on board.
Using the call sign “Chaos,” he commanded a division of Marines during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and returned there the following year to lead Marines in bloody street fighting in the city of Fallujah.
Mattis co-authored the US military’s new counterinsurgency manual with then-Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus.