Mattis showing his diplomatic skills with allies
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reaffirmed "the strong U.S.-Iraq defense partnership in the fight against ISIS" during a phone call with his Iraqi counterpart, a Pentagon spokesman announced Wednesday.I am not surprised that Mattis is doing a good job of reassuring allies. Tillerson is also reaching out to smooth over ruffled feathers that might have been caused by Trump blunt New York style. As more of Trump's cabinet gets in place people will get to understand the quality of the appointments.
Phone calls between defense officials are nothing new, but Mattis has played a remarkably diplomatic role in the early days of his tenure atop the Defense Department. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is under pressure from political rivals who want him to retaliate against President Trump's executive order revoking most Iraqi visas to the United States. Iraqi frustration with the order was exacerbated by their ongoing effort to drive ISIS out Mosul, the second-largest city in the country.
"Secretary Mattis congratulated [Iraqi Defense Minister Arfan al-Hayali] on his new position and praised the Iraqis' hard-won gains against ISIS — most recently in eastern Mosul," Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in the readout of the call.
That's the latest example of Trump's Cabinet team reaching out to American allies recently offended by the president's unconventional style, thereby reassuring Trump's Republican allies and even some of his congressional critics. "Mattis just went to Japan and Korea and did a great job, talked about the commitment that we have to them," Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., who has criticized Trump repeatedly, told reporters on Wednesday. "It was very important, because it is well known the president's respect for [Secretary] Mattis."
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, also praised Mattis' skills as an emissary. "Go look at the press in Korea and Japan," he told the Washington Examiner. "It's nonstop coverage of Mattis' trip, all very positive. And he was strong. He knew what he was doing there."
Mattis reiterated that the United States would deploy an anti-ballistic missile system to counter North Korean nuclear weapons and pledged that the U.S. would defend Japanese-held islands claimed by China. "Some people think the Senkaku [Islands] statement is saber rattling — it's actually stabilizing," Sullivan said. "It's building out what President Obama did, to his credit. And you know, you draw a clear line in the sand and you are serious about enforcing it, that's a stabilizing move, not a destabilizing move."