'Coherent strategy' with allies needed on Iran: Former Defense Secretary Mattis

James Mattis resigned from the administration last December.

September 22, 2019, 12:38 PM

Iran is "continuing to do what they've done for nearly four decades now," former Defense Secretary James Mattis told ABC's "This Week," and the Trump administration needs to "build trust that we have a coherent strategy" on Iran following the country's alleged Sept. 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities.

"They want to look like the leader and they're trying to craft a foreign policy that pushes others around. And this is the same thing they've been doing for many, many years," Mattis told ABC's "This Week" Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz Sunday.

"This is the way (Iran's) regime conducts its policy … they (attacked) our embassies, they've attacked other people's diplomats, they've murdered the former prime minister of Lebanon. This is their modus operandi," he added.

PHOTO: General James Mattis, U.S. secretary of defense, speaks during a news conference with Tomomi Inada, Japan's defense minister, not pictured, in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017.
General James Mattis, U.S. secretary of defense, speaks during a news conference with Tomomi Inada, Japan's defense minister, not pictured, in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017.
Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Reiterating his calls for multilateralism, Mattis said on Sunday, "We need our allies, our partners and -- when you need them -- you have to build trust that we have a coherent strategy … this is a situation whose best possible outcome will come from a coalition of nations that want a stable the Middle East, and that has to be our goal to stabilize this situation as soon as possible."

Mattis resigned from the administration last December, writing in a letter to President Donald Trump that he should have a defense secretary "whose views are better aligned" with his own.

During his time in office, Mattis often found himself at odds with Trump on policy, including on the subject of Iran. Against the former defense secretary's recommendations, the president withdrew the United States from the multilateral Iranian nuclear agreement in 2018.

Since then, the U.S. has significantly increased economic sanctions on Iran. Meanwhile, the country has also increased its nuclear capabilities, announcing in July that it surpassed the internationally agreed upon limit on its stockpiles of weapon-grade uranium.

The president's administration has blamed Iran for the attack on the Saudi oil installation, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling the raid an "act of war."

In an earlier interview on Raddatz, Pompeo said, "We do want a peaceful resolution to this. That is our objective."

He added, "But make no mistake about it, if we are unsuccessful in that, and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Donald Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives."

Speaking to CNN earlier this week, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif denied that Iran was behind the Saudi attack, and said a retaliatory strike on Iran by the U.S. or Saudi Arabia would result in "all-out war."

Since the attacks, Trump has escalated pressure on Iran, announcing additional sanctions on the country. On Friday, the Pentagon also approved the deployment of additional U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Promoting his new book "Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead," Mattis has been hesitant in critiquing his former boss, telling The Atlantic in September, "There is a period in which I owe my silence. It's not eternal. It's not going to be forever."

Speaking to Raddatz on Sunday, Mattis said, "The most important thing that you have to have to be a good leader, is you have to have the ability to build trust, and that starts with listening."

The former defense secretary has used the promotion of his book to criticize the political division in the country.

Asked what he meant in his book writing about "internal divisiveness," Mattis told Raddatz, "A democracy cannot work without compromise. And we're going to have to learn to listen to one another, really understand, learn from one another, accept the fact that, once in a while, the people we disagree with might actually be right."

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