Monday, March 4, 2024

Ex-US Secretary of Defense secretly involved in Yemen war: Report

Retired US Marine General James Mattis was hired in 2015 to advise the United Arab Emirates about the Saudi-led war on Yemen, the Washington Post has reported. Mattis did not publicly disclose the gig when he became secretary of defense in 2017.

The Post looked into Mattis as part of an investigation into the Persian Gulf state hiring retired US military officers and obtained previously undisclosed documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi at the time, had struck up a friendship with Mattis in 2011, when the Marine general was head of the US Central Command. When Saudi Arabia launched its campaign against the Houthis in Yemen, Mohamed reached out to Mattis, who had recently retired from the US military.

In June 2015, Mattis applied for permission from the State Department and the Marines to advise the UAE on “the operational, tactical, informational and ethical aspects” of the campaign against Yemen.

“I will be compensated,” he wrote by hand on the form submitted to the US Marine Corps on June 4, 2015, with the amount to be determined after US government approval.

Robert Tyrer, a senior executive at the Cohen Group – which currently employs Mattis – told the WaPo that Mattis never accepted money from foreign governments, except the standard travel expenses. According to Tyrer, Mattis put in the compensation claim so his paperwork would receive “the most rigorous level of review”.

Documents reviewed by the Washington Post show that his application was approved by the USMC after just 15 days, while the State Department gave its blessing on August 5. The process that usually takes “several months, and sometimes years”, lasted just two months, the outlet added. By contrast, the US government took two and a half years to disclose the general’s paperwork to the Post.

In 2017, when Mattis was nominated by then-President Donald Trump to head the Pentagon, he did not publicly reveal his UAE consulting job in his work history and financial disclosure forms. He did not mention it in his 2019 memoir, either. Several Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee told the Post they did not recall the disclosure coming up during his confirmation hearings, though a committee staffer said it was included in a confidential memo.

In his application, Mattis stated he wanted to “bring American military experience in warfighting and campaigning to bear in terms of strengthening UAE’s efforts”. The Saudi-led coalition spent almost eight years trying to beat the Houthis – with intelligence and aerial refueling support from the US – before admitting defeat and suing for peace.

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