Like Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster before him, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has fallen out of favor with the President for opposing key parts of his Sheldon Adelson-directed Middle East policy
Like Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster before him, Secretary of Defense James Mattis – one of the longest-serving members of the Trump cabinet – may soon be out of a job. Just as was the case for the former secretary of state and the former national security adviser, media reports are now asserting that Mattis has been shut out of major White House decisions for months and is increasingly “out of the loop.”
According to NBC News, Mattis was shut out of major administration decisions such as President Trump’s decision to tear up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (better known as the Iran nuclear deal), Trump’s call to militarize outer space, and his decision to cancel war games near North Korea during recent negotiations with that country’s leadership.
The Secretary of Defense’s “fall from grace” is a dramatic departure from the early days of the administration, when Trump – out of respect for Mattis – kept him informed of key decisions even when they had disagreed. Now, however, the report notes that Trump relies heavily, if not exclusively, on the advice of two administration officials: John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, the very men who replaced McMaster and Tillerson.
Overall, the report mirrors those that had preceded the firings of both Rex Tillerson from the top post at the State Department and H.R. McMaster from his position as national security adviser. In each of those instances, first Tillerson and then McMaster were described by administration officials as being “at odds” with the President over key decisions such as North Korea and the Iran deal.
The similarities, however, between Mattis’ fall from favor and those experienced by his former allies in the administration don’t end there.
The price of crossing Sheldon
The firings of Tillerson and McMaster were notable for the involvement of powerful pro-Israel figures — particularly Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is currently the largest donor to both Trump and the Republican Party. Both of those figures had opposed major policy objectives that were of great interest to Adelson, especially the destruction of the Iran deal.
In addition to trying to save the Iran deal, Tillerson had further earned the ire of Israel hard-liners by demanding that Israelreturn millions in U.S. military aid last year that had exceeded the figure agreed upon under the Obama administration. However, McMaster’s reference to Israel as an “occupying power” and his acknowledgment of Palestine as a state not only angered the Israel lobby but also prompted groups like the Zionist Organization of America and even Adelson himself topave the way for McMaster to be replaced with Iran war-hawk and Adelson confidante John Bolton.
Now, with both McMaster and Tillerson gone, Mattis seems to be on the chopping block for a similar reason, especially given the fact that he had not been consulted on the destruction of the Iran deal – a deal that Mattis supported. In addition, Mattis, though he never went as far as McMaster or Tillerson in upsetting the Israel lobby, did notably oppose Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a policy move that had been directed by Adelson himself. Mattishad worried that the decision would increase unrest in the region.
Furthermore, prior to becoming Secretary of Defense, Mattis had criticized Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, asserting that it could lead to an “apartheid state,” and had claimed that the U.S.’ pro-Israel bias had alienated the U.S. from “moderate Arabs” in the Middle East.
A fly in the ointment on Kushner’s “peace” plan?
Yet, it is not surprising that talk of Mattis’ lack on influence and an imminent departure from the White House accompanies the White House’s upcoming “peace plan” for the Israel-Palestine conflict. Indeed, Jared Kushner, the administration’s Middle East peace envoy, recently wrapped up a trip to the region and asserted on Monday that the plan would be ready “soon.”
Given Kushner’s own Zionist background as well as his support for illegal settlements and recent receipt of $30 million from a top Israeli financial institution, experts have warned that Kushner’s “peace” plan would likely call for the continued military occupation of the West Bank, would offer no right of return, and would not give Palestine East Jerusalem as part of a future state.
Such a plan is likely to be rejected by Palestinians and lead to increased protests. With Mattis’ past and more recent history raising concerns that such policies would lead to a more insecure Middle East and harm the U.S.’ regional objectives, the imminent release of the Kushner plan may be the perfect excuse for the Trump administration to show Mattis the door.