Former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke on the rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran, urging diplomacy rather than military aggression.
Mattis, who announced his resignation in December last year, struck a conciliatory tone, urging the two countries to work together to avoid a new war in the Middle East.
“The United States should buy time to keep peace and stability and allow diplomats to work diplomacy on how to keep peace for one more hour, one more day, one more week, a month or a year,” the general said Monday in the United Arab Emirates.
While in the UAE, Mattis also said that “Iran’s behavior must change.” The general said that unilateral action from the U.S. is not warranted at the time, noting that “military must work to buy time for diplomats to work their magic.”
Mattis resigned as Pentagon chief on principle after Trump decided to cut the presence of U.S. troops in Syria and Afghanistan, pointing out that his views did not align with those of the president.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have ratcheted up since the first anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from its nuclear deal with Iran. There has been a pressure campaign by the U.S. to target Iran’s finances in order to cripple its ability to fund foreign terror organizations and proxies in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.
In addition to new sweeping sanctions against Iran’s metals industry, The U.S. deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East earlier this month in response to what national security adviser John Bolton described as “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country would start violating the nuclear treaty by stockpiling enriched uranium. A rocket of the same model used by Iran exploded outside of the U.S. embassy in Iraq Sunday. Trump responded by declaring that a war would be “the official end of Iran.”
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Tuesday that U.S. military presence in the region has put the threat from Iran “on hold,” for now.
“Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate,” Shanahan said.