Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis on Friday took the Obama administration to task over the White House’s nuclear development deal with Iran, but expressed zero desire to take his own shot at the Oval Office.
Mr. Mattis, a former U.S. Central Command chief known for his blunt, plain-spoken command style, took that same tact in levying his strong criticisms of the Iran deal during a speech at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday.
He characterized the deal struck between Washington and Tehran as an “imperfect” agreement that does not eliminate, but simply delays, Tehran’s efforts to become a nuclear power.
“It [was] not a friendship treaty,” the retired four-star general said. “It’s an arms control agreement that fell short.”
President Obama inked the deal with Iran’s government and other world leaders last July, in which Tehran agreed to freeze its efforts to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for the rollback on some of crippling sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies against Iran.
But given Iran’s regional ambitions to become the Shi’ite bulwark against Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia in the Mideast, it is only a matter of time before Tehran will violate the terms of the deal to achieve that goal, Mr. Mattis said.
“Iran will cheat … that’s the sense you get when reading” the terms of the nuclear agreement, he said, adding Iran is “not a nation state, but a revolutionary cause intent on mayhem.”
Mr. Mattis suggested Congress create an oversight committee, consisting of members from the intelligence, foreign affairs and armed services panels, to ensure Iran continues to comply with the deal. He also suggested Washington bolster its ties with regional intelligence agencies, like those in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to ensure American officials are fully informed on Iran’s nuclear activities.
While it remains to be seen if the White House will adhere to Mr. Mattis’s recommendations, the retired general was adamant that he did not want to be the one who would make that decision.
Mr. Mattis, revered in military circles, has reportedly been suggested as a potential GOP presidential candidate. The purported grassroots effort to get Mr. Mattis on the Republican ticket has placed the retired general into the political arena.
But on Friday, Mr. Mattis seemed to put those presidential rumors to rest, telling the audience, “I have not given any thought to it.”
When pressed by reporters about the whisper campaign to get him to enter the presidential race, Mr. Mattis replied: “People like you would know more about it than I do.”