Trump to name retired Gen Mattis for Pentagon
Transition team pondering new sanctions on Iran
Breaking once more from presidential custom, Donald Trump is turning to a military man to steer the US military, choosing retired Gen James Mattis, who will be the first career officer to lead the Pentagon since just after World War II.
Mattis, 66, is a Marine Corps general who retired in 2013 after serving as commander of the US Central Command, responsible for directing America’s wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Trump, who has referred to Mattis by his nickname “Mad Dog,” made the announcement of his choice for defense secretary at a postelection victory rally Thursday night in Cincinnati.
The selection raises questions about increased military influence in a job designed to ensure civilian control of the armed forces. Those traditional concerns revolve around whether a recently retired service member would rely more on military solutions to international problems rather than take a broader, more diplomatic approach. For Mattis to be confirmed, Congress would first have to approve legislation bypassing a law that bars retired military officers from becoming defense secretary within seven years of leaving active duty.
Mattis has a reputation as a battle-hardened, tough-talking Marine who was entrusted with some of the most challenging commands in the US military. In a tweet last month, Trump described him as “A true General’s General!” Mattis would be only the second retired general to serve as defense secretary, the first being George C. Marshall in 1950-51 during the Korean War. Marshall was a much different figure, having previously served as US secretary of state and playing a key role in creating closer ties with Western Europe after World War II.
But Mattis hasn’t been free of controversy. He was criticized for remarking in 2005 that he enjoyed shooting people. He also drew more recent scrutiny for his involvement with the embattled biotech company Theranos, where he serves on the board. Born in Pullman, Washington, Mattis enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1969, later earning a history degree from Central Washington University. He was commissioned as an officer in 1972. As a lieutenant colonel, he led an assault battalion into Kuwait during the first US war with Iraq in 1991.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s transition team is examining proposals for new non-nuclear sanctions on Iran, the Financial Times reported yesterday, citing congressional sources who have been in contact with the president-elect’s team. Officials with Trump’s team have been in touch with fellow Republicans in Congress, where they hold the majority, to discuss possible sanctions separate from last year’s Iran nuclear deal that could focus on its ballistic missile program or human rights, the sources told the FT. “They (Trump team members) are already looking closely at their options - and that very much includes non-nuclear sanctions,” a congressional official told the media outlet.
The deal that was reached last year between Iran, the United States and five other world powers lifted some sanctions against Tehran in return for restrictions on its nuclear program.
Retired Gen James Mattis