Regime change will be necessary before the U.S. and Iran can have substantially positive relations, according to Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
“Until the Iranian people can get rid of this theocracy, these guys who think they can tell the people even which candidates they get a choice of. It’s going to be very, very difficult,” Mattis told the Mercer Island High School Islander in a rare and special interview with high schooler Teddy Fischer.
Improving relations with Iran will be particularly difficult, according to Mattis. He noted that any potential rapprochement would be difficult because Iran is not really a democracy.
“It’s the supreme leader [who] decides who gets to run in,” said Mattis. “It would be like having the current American president decide who gets to run in the next campaign, and by the way, when they come in he stays in the White House and the others just kind of rotate through.”
Mattis noted that the Iranian regime was his “biggest problem” while he commanded U.S. Central Command. The former has had no qualms about confronting the Iranian regime in the past, having once pursued a retaliatory strike on the country after it supplied rockets to Iraqi insurgents fighting U.S. troops in 2011, killing several. Mattis’ strike never happened, as his proposal was shot down by the Obama administration.
Today, he said everyone in the Middle East, from Tel Aviv to Cairo, has told him Iran continues to be a major problem. He added that the country’s malign influence has helped keep Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, in power, has escalated the conflict in Yemen by supplying ballistic missiles to Houthi rebels and continues to murder its own people.
“Iran is certainly the most destabilizing influence in the Middle East,” Mattis told the Mercer Island High School Islander.
Iran acts more like a “revolutionary movement” than a functional country looking out for the interests of its people, according to the secretary. It’s remarkably young population is known to have a less belligerent attitude toward the U.S. and the West, compared to the zealotous religious leaders who dominate the country’s governance.
“The Iranian people are not the problem,” said Mattis.”The Iranian people are definitely not the problem, it’s the regime that sends agents around to murder ambassadors in Pakistan or in Washington D.C. It’s the regime that provides missiles to Lebanese Hezbollah or the Houthi in Yemen.”
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