tv General James Mattis on Middle East Security Challenges CSPAN April 25, 2016 1:30am-2:36am EDT
say, this is the second in a series we have been hosting. i am trying to understand the new power geometry in the gulf. the nuclear agreement has changed the landscape. on our third session, we will have lisa anderson who is the former president of the american university in cairo. the get the announcement do you as well. i don't want to waste your time and keep you from hearing gen.
mattis. he was the executive secretary at the time when i was the comptroller, and people do not know the executive secretary, ,hat is the lymphatic system the parallel circulatory system and the pentagon. andlly under appreciated -- it's the glue that holds us together. thewas the architect and master of keeping the executive both for working secretary kerry and secretary cohen. we have had many opportunities since then and i am delighted and honored that he is here. ands on his way to the gulf he gave us the privilege of stopping off for a little bit of time to talk with us to try to understand what is going on. it feels very jittery to me to
have kind of a certain -- a new kind of parallelism between iran and saudi arabia and all of ading allies sudden being put side by side with countries that have been opponents for quite a while. it is a curious time. we need to listen carefully to a man is wise as jim mattis. i ask you with your warm applause to say thank you to jim mattis for coming here to be with us today. [applause] mattis: thank you. to be here today with you ladies and gentlemen, with two former deputies and secretaries of defense in the room obviously can be intimidating, except marines are taught to be intimidated by nothing. so i will go through this. thank you.
ok. rebecca is in charge here as you all have just noticed. we're talking about the middle east added in an action point and i would just point out right now that among the many iallenges the mideast faces, think around is for and it appears in washington we have forgotten how to keep certain issues foremost. remember a couple months ago we cannot pick up the newspaper without iran and the headlines. and now you cannot find it. you have to wonder how that happens. s, two thinkcsi quite focused on coming up with good recommendations. pray that someone good is listening to the good
recommendations that come out of here. i am routinely copying things down that they put out and shifting my own thinking. they do not just make assertions, they include discussions where you come out with something that is perhaps a little better each time you go through a cycle. i want to speak to the challenge. front of put right up what i want to convince you of. the iranian threat is the most enduring threat to stability and peace in the middle east. qaeda's mention everywhere right now, they are an immediate threat. suddenly, what aside is spewing out is serious. palestinian-israeli issue
continues to bubble. but i do not think anything is as serious in terms of stability, prosperity, and hope for a better future for the young people out there than iran. let's go back to 1979 when the -- whenh he coming the the ayatollah khomeini threat came in. they took over our embassy, and held the diplomats hostage for over one year in somewhere it is argued by different folks with varying levels of knowledge that 19 77-1983, iten is obvious when they blow up the embassy in beirut. attract -- attacked the
peacekeeper barracks, killing hundreds. and it continues. in 1984, during ronald reagan's administration, secretary shirts -- scholz declares them. in 2012, the administration state department notes that the current administration's state department assessment of iran's support of terrorism first established in our government in 19 84 as a matter of fact. that,orward to my and china, france, germany. or theout the jc pa joint plan of action, otherwise known as the iran agreement.
purposeo talk about the of that agreement and characterize it since it went into effect and talk about why we went into it. the purpose of the agreement is pretty well understood although i kind of think isis made it a better argument than the current administration. it goes back to 2002 when they ,etermined the nuclear program for all the denial and deceit it is a nuclear weapons program that it took presidents when they recognized iran could actually develop a nuclear weapon. the strategic goal was simple. delaying the program and starting in 2010, it came forward again. pressure andmic
the goal was very bluntly to force iran to come to the negotiating table and two, under an internet supervised nonnuclear program. romani wasesident elected, supposedly a moderate. i am hard-pressed to use that you -- that word. his government negotiated the interim nuclear agreement and the jcp away is the result. it began at mid-january of this year. they've removed the uranium, center dot of the country. thenow that will stop united nations it seven prior counsel resolutions that imposed economic sanctions.
supposedly the removal was subject to immediate imposition in the event of significant non-for arm by iran. so the release was given based program butn one the money they were given could go into a number of other programs. and now we find out why in the region from tell aviv to abu dhabi we have a disagreement on the view. iran has five military threats. one is the latent threat of the nuclear weapons program. another is the weapons program. minds in the water. counter program. the next is the ballistic missile threats which they have been very obvious about.
improving their ballistic missile capability. there is also the cyber threat which we talked about three, 4, 5 years ago. it toi would liken children playing with light bulbs filled with nitroglycerin and one of these days they're going to do some very serious. then there is one that we call qmsp and only the military could come up with it. qods force, jerusalem force. in other words mois, the surrogates and proxies, you know them as lebanese hezbollah and others. further, our country's view of iran was summed up in state department's 2012 report that i just mentioned to you earlier that they've actually increased the tempo of operations. when we relieved them of the economic sanctions in a number of areas, that money was not only going to stop going to the
nuclear weapons program, they made very clear they would continue their foreign policy. it is the american administration's argument was an iranian nuke was such a dangerous game-changer we had to subordinate everything else to delay on the nuclear program. they have not changed the way they go about business on their side. the israeli tourists who were murdered in bulgaria here some years ago, the attempt to kill the ambassador less than two miles from where we're sitting on a saturday night in georgetown and they would have pulled it off but for one fundamental mistake. they made a mistake and so they messed it up.
so basically how do we delay it? it came down to two options. there was the military option, probably could have delayed it for a year or two before we would have to take more military action, or there was the diplomatic option where they were aiming to delay it much longer. we are talking about a decade or more. without the pause and despite iran's denial and deception, it was clear that iran could get a weapon. this is what our intelligence agencies believed, and that would jeopardize our security interests. it would risk the global economic blackmail if they were to interrupt the oil lines of
communication there in the gulf, and it would endanger the survival of allies, both israeli and arab partners. so our objective was that we had to stop this. the previous uncrs rescinded also were stated in there that they couldn't test ballistic missiles in the past, okay? under the new wording in a late concession in the negotiation for the iran agreement, what we said was they could not test ballistic missiles developed expressly to carry nuclear weapons. quite simply, they could say they're not designed to carry nuclear weapons so we can now test them, so we were caught on that one. those ballistic missile tests that occurred some time ago were characteristic of iran's response to the agreement.
down its plutonium reactor. i think they poured cement in the core. enriched uranium, 25,000 pounds, but it remains the single most belligerent actor in the middle east in does the commander in centcom with countries like syria, lebanon, iraq, pakistan, afghanistan, he yemen. every morning i will govern the first three questions i had had to do with iran and iran and iran. they're consistent behavior since 1979 through today shows no sign of changing and in fact i think the state department has characterized to 12 when they said they have actually accept their tempo. beingllistic missile test one. they have also conducted cyber attacks on the united states resulting in seven united states
indictments. they have doubled down on support to assad's murderous regime, and they are very much aware will stop they are keenly aware that a facade falls, that's the biggest or setback in mullahs inr the tehran. they have increased the flow of arms, ladies and gentlemen, into saudi arabia, explosives into bahrain, and arms into yemen. in fact, in the last three months, february, march, and april, the french navy, the stralaustralian navy, the u.s. navy have all seized arms shipments. when you see the vessels on sea, smuggling is going on, the idea we're catching all the arms shipment is a flight of fantasy. we're not catching them all and there's nobody in the navies that would say so. the republican guard commander is openly boasted of tehran's control over four capitals, beirut, damascus, baghdad, and sanaa, and i think it was an oops on sanaa because then saudi arabia and the united arab emirates led the gcc forces in there and clearly that has not
gone according to plan. hopefully the u.n. brokered negotiations in kuwait will put an end to that but also will ensure iran is kept out of there and the chokepoint coming into the red sea. bahrain and jordan have been specifically targeted, publicly targeted by the qods force commander, sole manny, who is calling for the annexation of bahrain and bahrain to many in iran is not just the island, it's also the eastern province of saudi arabia. the republican guard general proposes erasing israel off the map. sounds familiar. it is because it's what they've been saying for a good many decades. and the supreme leader summed it up very well when he said those who say the future lies in negotiation not in missiles are either ignorant or traitors. that is the supreme leader. i think we should take him at his word, that's what he believes. and when president obama trying to keep this effort
alive, when president obama characterized iran regime's responses to the jcpoa as respecting the letter but violating the spirit of the agreement, the chief of staff of the iranian armed forces contemptuously said, "we studied the details of the nuclear agreement, and we don't have any information about its spirit." that's about as an abrupt a slap in the face to any effort on our side to try to be fair brokers on this as you could come up with and i would say -- i can go on, by the way. i don't want to bore you here, but that ends i think for now any moderate iranian response. so where is the u.s. right now?
the u.s. is in a strategy-free mode. washington is confused, i believe, and not invested in strategy. we are shiftings our focus from one region or subregion to another. remember the pivot to the pacific that left our friends in the middle east and europe very concerned. that kind of word is seldom used in strategy. it might make good operational thinking, but i don't think it's a good idea on a strategic level for a country with worldwide responsibilities. you remember we were very concerned about crimea. we're not concerned about it anymore. now it's the eastern basin in eastern ukraine. we have been attacking isis in iraq a little bit, then we shifted to syria, then we're gradual escalation right now. the
-- we have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time and it appears we're going with a hit and miss approach that has us constantly shooting behind the duck. so the jcpoa, coming back to the arms agreement, that's all it was. it was designed to increase stability and decrease proliferation to improve our global standing in the process. but the outcome is an increase in a regional arms race. saudi arabia just recently passed russia as the third largest spender on military weapons in the world. our secretary of defense was sent out, some called it the secretary of reassurance, right after the agreement was signed to the israeli and arab capitals in order to make certain they knew we were willing to sell them more weapons because we recognize the increase danger as the money that had been released by the unscrs and the lack of economic sanctions, that money was now going to go in maybe not to one program, at least not for a year or two.
the nuclear one. but there was nothing to indicate that the money was not going to continue to flow to the other threats. the impression in the region was that the u.s. was withdrawing. the best case ---ist just in ist was just in the region a couple weeks ago. i head back tomorrow. the best case in the mind of many of the people in the region is that the u.s. is simply indifferent to the challenge of dealing with iran if you live next door to it. the worst case is in some people's minds that we have made actually common cause with iran, russia, and assad, and that you have to keep beating down, but in a region that's rife with conspiracy, it is something that has to be addressed and it's best addressed right up front. that's not our intent. isis right now, by the way, i consider isis nothing more than an excuse for iran to continue
its mischief. iran is not an enemy of isis. they have a lot to gain from the turmoil in the region that isis creates and i would just point out one question for you to look into, what is the one country in the middle east that has not been attacked by isis? one. and it's iran. now, there's -- that is more than just happenstance, i am sure. i think, too, that with the u.s. congress, there was a sense in the u.s. in what the u.s. was doing where the congress was pretty much absent for all of their saying they didn't like the agreement and taking steps to demonstrate that, they have done nothing to strengthen any stand-by economic sanctions that should iran cheat that we could put in place. they have not touched that. maybe because they don't believe europe would be with us that that should not prevent the congress from passing a spirit of the congress saying here's
where we stand. they have not increased the intelligence budget to collect on iran, something which i think is necessary for us to do. and we have not seen any authorization for the use of military force against isis which would, again, demonstrate american stability and focus on the region. if they don't like the one that the president sent them, there's nothing wrong with that, they can pass an aumf that they believe in their heart is the right sort of thing to do and show the unity of the congress. in fact, they appear to be more willing to sit outside and criticize the president than to put themselves on the line and say, here's where we stand. the bottom line on the american situation, though, i think is quite clear that the next president is going to inherit a mess. that's probably the most diplomatic word you can use for it. so you got to ask why would the u.s. take such a gamble with this agreement? number one, the president could be proven right. the mullahs may want it both ways and they mae find it doesn't work that way. what do i mean by both ways? if you look at the control north korea has over their people, they would like to be north
korea. looking at the economic vitality the south has, that could help keep the mullahs in power. they want it that way. there's a built-in contradiction of opening your country to the world and at the same time trying to keep close control and so they may lose that and over the midterm to longer term then you could see iran moving more into the actions of a responsible nation and not just a revolutionary cause as is written into their constitution. but as revealed in the recent interview of jeff goldberg president obama is a very different sort of president seeing the actions in a different light and certainly some people in the administration have a remarkable act to absolve themselves of responsibility for anything. i would just say that for a sitting u.s. president to see our allies as free loaders is nuts. and you know what? what's happening, i was telling dr. hamre upstairs, i was working out one morning, i was on my machine and i saw this goldberg article come across. i hit my print button, got back and was working out and i was going through my e-mails and i started reading just real -- kind of scan you do before you do something with a highlighter . at first i thought there is my administrative incompetence that was demonstrate sod clearly to
secretary perry and secretary cohen long ago. i how got something trump said struck inside president obama said and it wasn't trump. it was the president saying that our allies were free riders and that sort of thing. and i would just tell you that i'm going to be surprised if prime minister cameron would ever speak to our president again, but i would also say i'm going to be surprised if president obama is proven right in his trying to make this effort work with a regime that's holding hostage the iranian people, and i think that somehow people -- we all live on hope. we're all men and women, we all hope for something better tomorrow, better for our children, but i think that thinking or hoping that iran is on the cusp of becoming a modern, responsible nation is simply a bridge too far and if nothing else we need to have an insurance policy here. but why would we sign up snt another reason would be maybe it's the best we could get? i was in a meeting late one night in -- with one of our partners in the gulf, and when it was done he asked for the
staff to leave and he and i sitting alone, and he said to me, ladies and gentlemen, he said it must be a very long table. i'm looking at him wondering what he's talking about here. he said, well, general, i keep hearing that the military option is on the table. this is a couple years before the agreement. and he said it must be a very long table because i am squinting and i couldn't see it on the table so i got my binoculars out, so it must be a very long table because i cannot see the military option. he was joshing me, and i knew him well enough from many, many years in the region that we could be that open with one another. but the bottom line is i think from washington to brussels, from london to tehran, from abu dhabi to tel aviv, the idea that the u.s. would go into one more fight in the middle east at this point in time was maybe not in the cards. maybe if we just were in that kind of a situation, maybe this agreement was the best we could come up with. a third possible reason is maybe the folks in the american administration think that the
moderates can win. i think you have to be careful on that. it goes back to whether or not the economic self interest can grow strong enough, but remember at the same time the security forces are going to be getting stronger as well with the infusion of money. and they have proven themselves quite capable, the coercive forces, of keeping the people in line using beatings, imprison imprisonment imprisonment, rape, and other things that we have witnessed them using here in the recent past, and i think too that the time it would take for the economic policies to take root and to turn over kind of a new mood in tehran amongst the leaders may take quite some time. so, again, why do we need an insurance policy to get through this period? i think that the imperfect yet intrusive u.n. iaea inspection regime, it's not perfect, but it is intrusive, and i have read the agreement twice. 156 pages long, 159, something like that. 30-some pages are just names of people who are pulled off the sanction list, not all that intimidating actually, but if you read through that, it is very clearly drawn up the expectation that
iran will cheat. i mean, when you read this, that's the sense you get from the other nations that forced those issues. so if nothing else, we'll have better targeting data should it come to a fight at some point in the future. but i think that 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. so on a way ahead, we're just going to have to recognize that we have an imperfect armed control agreement. second, that what we achieved was a nuclear pause, not a nuclear halt. we're going to have to plan for the worst. the old military adage, hope for the best but plan for the worst comes to bear. other --ght of the
and, in light of the other four threats i mentioned and a 12-year delay of the nuclear program, each is going to have to be addressed in action and in planning. in other words, if we're going to have to do something about missile defense, we're going to have to do something about signer monitoring that cost aramco tens of millions of dollars, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars. we're going to have to do something about their maritime efforts and the u.s. 5th fleet is critical to that. and we're certainly going to have to counter the terrorist activities. we do have some time i think to get our act together. i think iran has a lot to gain for the next 18 months to 2 years of playing it by the rules and not taking too many chances if any significant chances as they try to get the economic benefits. at one point i thought secretary of treasury lew was pretty firm that there would be no access to the american financial institutions, and now i hear that's not as firm perhaps, and so i don't know where that stands. obviously that would have a big impact on slowing iran's benefiting economically if we were to hold the line on that. there is nothing, by the way, i have re-read it, there's nothing in the agreement that forces us to do that. that again is the
spirit of the agreement. well, if they're unwilling to live up to the spirit of the agreement and go by the letter, i think we should take some counsel from that and be slow to give something for nothing based on an alleged spirit that we cannot see operant from tehran. i think too, we're going to have to be very careful about red lines in the middle east. if we give one in the future, we're going to have to make good on it. so let's be careful what we're going to do and ensure that we keep israel and its overmatched situation, that in the region we work with our partners in the gcc whether it be on ballistic missile defense integration which secretary clinton tried very hard to get initiated some years ago. certainly to work on the other efforts and the navy should be maintained at a very robust strength in that region because navies can be very stabilizing in what they're doing and they carry fewer of the penalties of having ground forces stationed out there which is challenging in itself. we're going to have to work better with our allies as well. we can't have the leaders of our partners out there picking up newspapers and reading about what it is we've been doing diplomatically in private talks with their adversaryies and actually our adversaries as
well. we would never do that if it was in europe. i don't think we would do that with japan or south korea when dealing with north korea and yet our partners in the middle east too often have had to pick up the newspaper to find out we've just done something else that put them in their mind in a more difficult situation. i think one point i want to make though is there's no going back. absent a real violation, i mean, a clear and present violation that was enough to stimulate the europeans to action as well, i don't think that we can take advantage of some new president's, republican or democrat, and say we're not going to live up to our word on this agreement. i believe we would be alone if we did, and unilateral economic sanctions from us would not have anywhere near the impact of an allied approach to this. i think too we're going to have to hold at risk the nuclear program in
the future. in other words, make plans now of what we do if, in fact, they restart it, and, again, go back to congress and say we need an it should have people from the intelligence committee, the foreign affairs committee, and the armed service committee together and it should be something that maintains oversight of this agreement and keeps the issue high and under the oversight of the legislative branch to make is certain that the executive branch is, in fact, maintaining the priority it deservings, and i think too we have to broaden and deepen our links to the anti-iran spy agencies in the region with all of our friends and make sure we're all working together to to keep an eye on what it's up to. a cyber monitoring center i think could catch iran red-handed because, again, they're not that good at it, and we can catch them when they try
to mess around in the cyber arena. we've caught them before. i think too radio farsi has to be dusted off and we need to go back at it. the iranian people need to know up front every day we have no argument with you. our concern is with the mullahs, this revolutionary cause that does not have your best interests in place. if you go back to radio free europe and the cold war, it was very, very effective, and it's as if we don't know how to take our own side in a fight on radio, tv, twitter, facebook, and others right now. i think in our future talks with iran they should be like our talks with the ussr before gorbachev. in other words, keep our allies fully informed, recognize iran as not a nation state, rather a revolution cause devoted to mayhem, and also make certain that we don't end up with real high expectations from any talks with iran. just keep it a little modest
there. the middle east, the future is going to be ghastly. it is not going to be pleasant for any of us, and we're going to have to return to a strategic view such as we had years ago because we know that vacuums left in the middle east seem to be filled by either terrorists or by iran or their surrogates or by russia. recognize that the violent terrorists, two different brands. the sunni is the al qaeda, okay. that's one that's clear and present. we've hit them from the fatah and afghanistan, pakistan to where the french are treating them roughly in mali. a lot of effort focused on them but so far to date the iranian branch have basically been left untouched by our
counterterrorism effort. so in the future just recognize that in order to restore deterrence, we're going to have to show capability, capacity, and resolve. recognize this is an international arms control agreement and not a very good one although there are some advantages, recognize the advantages as well. but it's not a friendship treaty, and some people have tried to make it into a friendship treaty say it's worthless. as a friendship treaty it would be worthless but it's an arms control agreement that fell short of a lot of hopes but it's not completely without some merit. we have allies out there. we have allies who want to rally to our side. i don't forget sitting with the king of jordan one day. we were working on his syrian refugee problem and i have seen refugees all around the world from the southeast asia to africa to the dalmatian coast. i have never seen -- i have been up in the
refugee camps. i have never seen refugees as traumatized as those coming out of syria. i was told by our ambassador to work with the king on what we could do to help in those camps to reduce the chance of cholera and that sort of stuff. just the two of us, we got done and i asked him what's it like to be a king. i have never been a king. kind of interested in it and don't draw anything from that, by the way, and he said, well, you know, working on this, working on that and he said, by the way, i hear the french and british had to pull out of afghanistan. i said, yes, your imagine majesty, domestic political concerns, they couldn't sustain the campaign. he said rest assured, general, there will be a jordanian soldier in afghanistan until the
last american soldier comes home. ladies and gentlemen, you cannot buy allies like that. you cannot buy them. and if we're going to want allies to stand by us in our time of trouble, then we're going to have to stand by them when they face trouble as well. and when iran says jordan, you're next, we should take them at their word. don't patronize iran and say they don't really mean that. yes, in fact, they do mean what they say. my next stop, by the way, that trip was the country that we in central command call little sparta because they stand by us through thick and thin, deser shield, somalia, dalmatian coast, bosnia, they have always been there. the united arab emirates. i was talking to the crown prince and he said i understand the french and british are pulling out. what are you going to do? i said, i'm going to have to go back to the americans and ask for people to backfill. we are deep in the fight right
now. and he said, well, he said, to reduce your demand on the american forces, i'll send six more fighters in. i'll send another reinforced special forces company of 150 special forces, well trained, fully kited out ready to go fight under your command. again, ladies and gentlemen, you can't find allies like that if you don't stand by them in their difficulties. they may not be perfect. if we're waiting for perfect allies, we're going to be awfully alone in this world and from what i have seen in our own country, we're not perfect ourselves. let's figure a way to work together. let at the stop there and open time for questions here.... >> thank you very much for that presentation. i'm jon alterman, the senior vice president in global security and the director of the middle east program. i have a few questions before we go to the audience which is already champing at the bit. one question, you talked about iran's asymmetric threats in the region, its activities supporting terrorism, supporting
hostile states. was it a mistake to make a nuclear agreement and seem to take the focus off the other activities in the region because as you know, many of our gulf allies say the nuclear issue isn't our issue. as a former foreign minister in the gulf told me, if somebody already has a gun pointed at your head, it doesn't matter if they have a cannon pointed at your back. was the whole approach to put so much effort on the nuclear program and nonproliferation a mistake for u.s. interests in the middle east? gen. mattis: the short answer no, it was not a mistake. in this town we seem to have forgotten the tremendous effort that went into nuclear nonproliferation in decades
past, and to our -- i'm sure it's going to be to our regret and especially to our children's regret we did not maintain that focus. so i think in the case of iran it was not a mistake to engage on the nuclear issue even if we were to give it primacy. that i think is debatable, but even there i wouldn't say it's a mistake. the mistake would be to implement it in such a way that we appear to take our eye off the other ball. that is the mistake. and that is a choice. that is a choice we did not have to make, and so there's a way to balance this in terms of creating more stability in the region. unfortunately, we probably have not executed in that manner yet. is still subject to choice
every day by our government. >> about eight years ago a presidential candidate named hillary clinton suggested extending a nuclear umbrella to gcc allies against iran. do you think that's something we should consider and if so under what circumstances should we pursue it? gen. mattis: >> you know, it's interesting, i work with a gentleman by the name of george schultz out at hoover, and he calls -- he walks in every morning that we're out there and he calls us younger officers in and only at hoover would i be one of the younger officers. and he talks about what it was like coming home from world war ii as a marine in the pacific and that generation looking around and 50e, 60, 70 million dead, economic privation around the world and the greatest generation is called that for a
reason. they say we're part of this world whether we like it or not, no more going back pulling ballot on the league of nations. they create the united nations so we can talk. they create bretton woods so we don't have conditions that will drive us in depression and war again. three years after that terrible war against the nazis and the pacific marwar, the marshall plan is passed and we are helping our former foes recover. mean, could you do that today? i do not know. but most importantly the united states makes what the australian ambassador to washington told me one time here a couple years ago the single most self sacrificial act in the history of the word and i'm trying to think what is that? you have to look at it through a non-american's eyes. he said you could have turned your back on europe after two world wars and said we're going with the middle east and asia. we're going with south america. we're done with you guys. instead, the american presidents truman, eisenhower, democrat and republican, and the congress working together in a nonpartisan way, say we're going to commit 100 million dead americans in a nuclear war to keep western europe safe. today could we do that again over the middle east? i don't know that we have the political unity in our own
country to stand up for something like that in the same way. to thelieve the answer other questions to the audience. >> along those lines, the number one oil producer in the world now is the united states. do you think there is anything about the way the united states looks to the world. the way the u.s. thinks about global security, is there anything that's changed because our oil production has made us into a global oil super arrow. gen. mattis: i would just give three imperatives to stay engaged in the middle east. the first one is oil. we may not be tied to mid east oil so much. but believe me, from washington to new york, from san francisco to miami, our economy is tied to the world. and if the world's economy was to see the oil coming out of the gulf disrupted, 40% of the globally traded oil of this globally traded commodity, we would get a terrible impact, not only on the world economy, but it would
immediately impact here at home. so there is an economic reason to stay engaged out there. there is also a diplomatic reason. that is if we want these nations with us on so many other issues, we can't ignore them when they've got serious issues. a third would be security. are we really so long from 9/11 that we have forgotten what it was like to look over at the pentagon with smoke pouring out of it and i would suggest we're not that far removed from it. no nation on its own can provide security in this world. no nation in a globalized world ever, but certainly not today, can do this on its own. so if we are going to have them stand by us and we're going to try to stop maniacs from attacking us again, like on 9/11, then we better be working with the folks in the region, and look out for our own interests, go beyond the moral of the strategic again.
jon alterman: one last question before i go to the audience. get your questions ready. as you know, everybody is in washington is talking about budget constraints. is there anything we're doing in the middle east now, in the security field that you think we can afford not to do any more? you've talked a lot about plussing up, building relationships, is there anything we can stop doing that we're doing now? mattis: you know, worth more than ten battle ships or five armored divisions is the sense of american political resolve. and i think the more resolution we show, the more unity we show with our allies, certainly we have to do some ourselves.
even a farm boy or farm girl knows if you want to pump water out of a water pump, you have to put some priming water in to get an air lock to bring it up. the idea we tell others, you do the fighting, we'll be above, we'll give you intelligence, fly overhead with restrictive rules of engagement and you do all the dirty work, probably isn't going to work. i think we could probably get more from our allies, instead of grudgingly or belately doing things that need to be done, but being more forthcoming on it, and holding constant high level discussions, remember, any coalition against the kind of enemy we're up against takes two pieces. a political peace and a military fees. the political is dominant. the military piece is subordinate, and hopefully acting in accordance with that political agreement. and right now, i think lacking that kind of political co her rens at the top, we're having to do some things that we probably wouldn't have to do if we could show more firmness and more conviction in what we're doing. all the troops on the ground, they're just a front for what stands behind them.
and without a unified congress, a unified american position with our allies, that is a much weaker front than it would be with that sort of support. alterman: so there is a syria, a way to apply that to our strategy in syria right now? gen. mattis: yes. i think get the political coalition put together up front and make clear where we stand on it. that doesn't mean 100,000 troops for ten years or doing nothing. strategy and go forward. >> thank you very much. and thank you, general, for your remarks. i'm john gizy from news max and newsmax television. i guess i'll point to the elephant in the room. general, you have been mentioned so often, very much like your
fellow scholar soldier, james gavin, to run for president either as a republican or as an independent. have you given any thought to it and how serious are the rumors about it? mattis: no, i haven't given in thought to it. >> how serious are the rumors? >> i think people like you know that better than i do. >> sir? in the blue shirt. >> thank you very much, general. i amis the second time listening to you. i am dr. desay. there is a lot of criticism inside usa as well as there is criticism about this nuclear deal, even inside iraq. inside iran. and could you tell us, what was the compulsion that they had to come up with a deal with so many loopholes and if the deal collapses, what happens
next? mattis: i think if the deal were to collapse today, it would depend on whether or not the economic sanctions would be reinstituted in a compelling manner. the amount of effort that the state department put into those many years ago was extraordinary. we're now at a point where people are clamoring to get into the iranian market. if you were unable to reimpose the economic sanctions, then i think you would be basically on a road to perdition. the lines of effort inside tehran are so arab states around it, it would lead to a collision, and how you would define the collision, whether it would be open war or a much higher level of terrorism, whether it would be economic blockades, i mean, as you know, saudi arabia has recently said that no ship that has made a port of call in its last three ports in iran can carry any saudi oil. so there are a number of things going on right now that might give us a hint of what would be coming, but i think we would be an unchartered territory at that point, with probably only bad
things to happen. >> all the way in the back, next to the light stand. >> mohammed with television. will you please tell us something about the military relation with egypt and do you recommend the resumption of the bright star exercise? >> would you recommend the resumption of the bright star exercise? gen. mattis: yeah. you know, egypt is a very, very interesting case. one-third of the arab people live there. it has been in ally.
it broke with the soviet union. it has been an ally since. it has fought alongside us in desert storm. it has maintained the security, the suez canal, a vital water way. you put it altogether, and israel has gone through very tough times. they did have a democratically elected president. morrissey. he was basically thrown out to i believe by a public a impeachment, and then president alsissy came in. obviously, we're concerned about any political system has to have a counterweight and whether or not will is a sufficient allowance for legitimate political dissent. with that said, right now, the only way to support egypt's maturation as a country with civil society, to support the president, we should have bright star reinstituted, perhaps not with tank battles, but with counterterrorism training, that sort of thing.
but i think when a president comes out to two years in a row at alazar university, calling for a revolution in rhetoric in order to reduce the number of negatives about the muslim religion, i think it's time for us to support him and take our own side in this. i am a strong believer that egypt is a critical nation in terms of the future for stability in the middle east.... east. >> thank you. >> right here on the aisle. >> general mattis, i'm want to ask you a question, sir. given what you mentioned about iran and influence four capitals, and given our engagement in iraq, how do you see us walking the rope between supporting the iraqi government with the significant iranian influence
over the fight against isis, sir? gen. mattis: that's a tough, a very tough situation. when i was once complaining about my job, as i did routinely, in the last -- as a matter of fact, i once was asked by the vice-president jokingly, do you know why you got the job, jim? no. because we couldn't find anybody else dumb enough to take it. i was complaining about it one time and a former prime minister in europe said if you can't ride two horses in the circus, then
get out of the mid east circus. one of my last visits to iraq, i heard the same message from a number of people in the government and it was help us avoid the suffocating embrace of iran. so i think there is a way to work with iraq, where we do not decide to just cast iraq off, because we've all read about it enough, heard about it enough, it has enough complexity, just be done with it. i think in this case, what we're doing right now in iraq, while it may not be sufficient, is certainly on the right path. >> i saw a hand all the way on the aisle at the end. yes, ma'am. >> thank you. question about u.s. presence in the region. you seem to indicate that more of a naval presence would be the way to go to reassure allies. i would just like you to elaborate on that and when you look at increasing a u.s. presence, whether at sea or on the ground, combined with more u.s. weapons going to allies in
the region, where do you see that heading? really, what's the worst possible outcome? gen. mattis: yeah, well, let me also add least address the best possible outcome. i can do it with an example. several years ago, i was reading again all the reports coming out tehran, mining the gulfs. remember that word? we have coastal defense cruise missiles. it was about mining. i called my fleet commander and i said u.s.
fifth fleet, i want you to put together an international anti-mine exercise. not an anti-iran exercise. here is why i want to point out why a maritime strategy is a way to stabilize an area, not bring it closer to crisis. if you have forward deployed forces, if you have to send them in that can be destabilizing. we have the fifth fleet out here. i thought we would get the usual suspects, france, britain, italy, saudi arabia, kuwait, something like this. in fact, the first year we ran it, we got 29 nations. 29 nations including nations like estonia, singapore, japan, not all bellicose nations. remember what i said earlier a , coalition has two elements, political and military. everyone of those navies, as a matter of fact, i was even looking for antarctica, i got all the continents aligned here,
you know. basically, all those navies worked together under the command and coordination of the only navy in the world that could have drawn all those nations together. and they all work together practicing clearing mines from the persian gulf. the end result was that after a couple of years, about a year later, they realized, i think in tehran, they were creating an international coalition against them. how much have you heard in the last year, ma'am, about mining in the waters out of tehran? now no no, i haven't either. had gone up 39 nations, in the anti-mine exercise. to answer your question, use that example and then you can apply it where ever, so long as what we're doing is trying to stabilize the situation. >> time for one more question. yes, sir. right there, yeah. >> yeah, mark thompson, time magazine. general, it's been more than three months since iran seized ten of our sailors and held them
overnight. a lot of americans have forgotten. the sailors came home safe. iran, of course, has used it for propaganda purposes. so, who won in that clash? well, i don't know. i don't know. i don't think it's clear either way, and i think the question is a valid one because out of such small incidents, comes an imagine of either stability or instability of compatibility for to be calling on, for example, our partners in the region, to find a way to share the neighborhood with iran, when the united states state department has declared a iran a state supporter of terrorism. it puts you in a difficult position when an incident like this happens, to determine just where we stood at that moment and where we stand as a result of what came
out of that moment. i think it would be speculative on my part, but obviously, it was not something that i could just chalk up to a win on the united states side. >> thank you very much. please join me in thanking general mattis and wishing him safe travels. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016]
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