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Mattis: Obama ignored Iranian bomb plot of DC restaurant, ‘act of war’ due to nuke deal talks

Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defence Song Young-moo visit the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea during a visit to the Joint Security Area in South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. (US Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/Department of Defense)
September 06, 2019

In his newly-released book “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” Jim Mattis took shots at President Barack Obama for failing to act in response to a 2011 Iranian bomb blot in the U.S. due to secret nuclear deal negotiations that were underway at the time.

After two Iranian nationals were arrested in October 2011 for planning a bomb attack on the Washington, D.C. restaurant Café Milao, a site frequented by powerful figures like the Saudi Arabia ambassador, Mattis said he wanted a firm response to what he described as an “act of war,” but Obama was unwilling to do so as negotiations with Iran were ongoing, the Washington Examiner reported.

“I believed we had to respond forcefully. My military options would raise the cost for this attack beyond anything the mullahs and the Qods generals could pay,” Mattis wrote. “First, though, the President had to go before the American people and forcefully lay out the enormous savagery of the intended attack. The American public — and the global public — had to understand the gravity of the plot.”

Instead, “We treated an act of war as a law enforcement violation, jailing the low-level courier,” Mattis noted.

Mattis painted quite the picture of what the attack would’ve looked like – and how it could’ve impacted the nation.

“Had the bomb gone off, those in the restaurant and on the street would have been ripped apart, blood rushing down sewer drains. It would have been the worst attack on us since 9/11. I sensed that only Iran’s impression of America’s impotence could have led them to risk such an act within a couple of miles of the White House,” Mattis wrote.

“Absent one fundamental mistake — the terrorists had engaged an undercover DEA agent in an attempt to smuggle the bomb — the Iranians would have pulled off this devastating attack. Had that bomb exploded, it would have changed history.”

In Mattis’ eyes, the attack – which was found to be directed by Iranian government officials and approved by Iran’s special military operations, the Qods Force – could not go unanswered.

“In my view, we had to hold Iran to account and strike back when attacked. But there was a reason for the administration’s restraint. The administration was secretly negotiating with Iran, although I was not privy to the details at the time,” Mattis said.

However, Obama was reportedly uninterested in such a response.

Months later, Obama again “refused to grant permission” to deploy a drone near Iran that would shoot down an Iranian aircraft in the event of an attack. Mattis had proposed the plan after an Iranian fighter jet attempted to shoot down a U.S. drone in international airspace in the Persian Gulf.

Mattis had identified Iran as a deadlier threat than ISIS. He warned that inaction could encourage Iran to carry out more dangerous acts.

“The Iranians had not been held to account, and I anticipated that they would feel emboldened to challenge us more in the future,” he wrote.

He also urged the Obama Administration in 2010 to keep troops in Iraq, and in 2012 to keep troops in Afghanistan.

“Each step along the way, I argued for political clarity and offered options that gave the Commander in Chief a rheostat he could dial up or down to protect our nation,” Mattis noted.

Instead of heeding Mattis’ advice, Obama instead fired Mattis in December 2012. “I was leaving a region aflame and in disarray,” Mattis said.

Mattis also had referred to Obama’s “catastrophic” decision making, and referred to Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden as “ignoring reality” when it came to affairs in Iraq, including Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the country, a decision that paved way for the expansion of Al Qaeda and ISIS.