Mattis reportedly isn’t sure if he can work with John Bolton, Trump’s new national security advisor

US President Donald Trump makes opening remarks as he holds a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on January 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (R) Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images
  • Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis reportedly said he would find it difficult to work with newly appointed national security advisor John Bolton, a noted foreign policy hawk.
  • Mattis was considered somewhat hawkish himself as a general in the Marine Corps, especially on Iran, but has since showed sings of believing more in the diplomatic process.
  • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is also reportedly unenthusiastic about Bolton’s appointment.

Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis is reportedly not happy about the new appointment of noted foreign policy hawk John Bolton as President Donald Trump’s national security advisor.

Mattis “told colleagues before the appointment was announced that he would find it difficult to work with Mr. Bolton,” according to the New York Times.

The reason, the Times reports, has to do with Bolton’s aggressive rhetoric when it comes to the US’s adversaries, especially Iran and North Korea.

As a general in the Marine Corps, Mattis himself was aggressive towards Iran – so much so that former President Barack Obama replaced him as CENTCOM commander. His selection as Trump’s secretary of defence led some to worry that he would bring that attitude to the White House.

But since Mattis’ appointment, he has seemingly reversed his course. He argued in support for the continuation of the Iran deal last October, something that Bolton has repeatedly said should be torn up.

The defence secretary joins prominent Democrats, as well as former Bush and Obama administration officials, who have reservations about Bolton’s hiring.

With the appointment of Bolton, Mattis looks even more like a moderate – and if the recent shake-ups in the White House are any indication, that may put him on the wrong side of the president.

Mattis was a close ally of now-fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, reportedly having breakfast with him every week. He has notably been reluctant to talk about military actions in North Korea.

“This is a diplomatically led effort,” Mattis told reporters asking for details on his plans regarding North Korea in early March. “So I do not want to talk about Korea at all. I’ll leave it to those who are leading the effort, the State Department and the NSC.”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is also said to be unenthusiastic about Bolton’s appointment, reportedly because he is worried that Bolton will “behave like a cabinet official rather than a staff member.”