General James Mattis: Dealing With The Middle East Has 'Halfway Driven Me To Drink'

BERKELEY, Calif. — Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis believes Arab states will be the key to countering what he calls Iran’s “muscular bullying.”

At a lecture at the University of California-Berkeley on Thursday evening, the former leader of Central Command offered remarkable insight, relying on his 40+ years in the military along with a rich understanding of the history and culture of the region.

“Understanding and dealing with this region can be very, very frustrating. I’m the first to admit its halfway driven me to drink, to tell you the truth,” said Mattis, to some audience laughter.

While many see a potential for conflict between Iran and Israel, the general noted many other Arab states — Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Qatar, and others — are not happy with their neighbour to the east.

“With the fear of Iranian nukes, Iranian terrorism, and their ‘muscular bullying’ out there,” Mattis said, noting maritime, cyber, missile, and nuclear weapons threats. ” … the potential exists for a coalition of such we have not seen before.”

Likening a potential partnership between Arab states to that of the emergence of NATO after World War II, Mattis said there was a “confluence of interests” that could prove effective, in addition to massive arms purchases taking place in the Arab states he mentioned.

“They are buying combat-tested weapons and they are going to defend themselves,” said Mattis. ” … What’s going on in Iran now is binding together the foreign policy of a number of countries.”

Mattis touched on one example happening in the Gaza strip to illustrate his point.

“Now you’ve got Egypt and Israel both working together,” said Mattis, bringing up the massive rocket barrage that hit Israel last week from a Palestinian militant group. An Egyptian-brokered plan later led to the group halting its attack.

While definitely tough on Iran, Mattis was careful to separate the leadership from the country’s citizens.

“When it comes to Iran, the challenge … is not with the Iranian people,” Mattis said. ” … The Iranian people are a great people. They are held hostage by this regime, these Mullahs.”

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