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Former US Defense Secretary Attacked Over Suspected Ties with the UAE

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James Mattis, the ex-Secretary of Defense of the United States, faced significant criticism from both political spheres and media outlets in America due to concerns about his ties with the UAE and its controversial involvement in the Yemen conflict.

Media reports uncovered that Mattis provided advisory support to Emirati President Mohammed bin Zayed on Yemen before he was appointed Defense Secretary, a fact largely unknown to many American officials and citizens.

Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general and former Central Command commander recognized for his assertive demeanor and admiration for the UAE, assumed a consulting role in 2015 to counsel bin Zayed on the Yemen conflict. This occurred during the UAE’s involvement as part of a Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthis.

My responsibilities will involve evaluating the military strategy of the United Arab Emirates, with an initial emphasis on the Yemen operation, to offer military counsel,” Mattis stated in a June 2015 federal disclosure form, unveiled by The Washington Post as part of a comprehensive three-year inquiry. This disclosure was made through Mattis Consulting.

“The objective of this role is to utilize American military expertise in warfare and military campaigns to enhance the endeavors of the United Arab Emirates,” Mattis articulated.

According to the Washington Post, although Mattis informed the US Marine Corps and the US State Department at the time, US officials kept his work for the UAE secret.”

Several U.S. senators on the Armed Services Committee that reviewed his nomination for Secretary of Defense two years later were not informed directly, as the committee was informed confidentially, meaning the senators had to research the information themselves

The Washington Post uncovered documents that federal officials had reportedly withheld from journalists for an extended period, providing only partial information and redacting details concerning James Mattis’ compensation. These documents were eventually released last autumn following a court order mandating their disclosure.

Mattis, nicknamed “Rapid Dog” since the 2004 Battle of Fallujah in Iraq, has faced ongoing criticism from those against US military involvement in the region. Known for his lifelong single status and avid reading habits, he is recognized as a resilient and vocal military personality. Notably, Mattis chose not to mention his consultancy for the UAE in his 2019 memoir.

According to The Washington Post, he also overlooked consultations regarding his public work history and financial disclosure forms that he submitted to the Office of Government Ethics after his nomination for the position of Secretary of Defense in December 2016 by former US President Donald Trump.

According to US law, Mattis is required to disclose all paid and unpaid positions and roles he held outside the US government for the past two years.

According to The Washington Post, two members of the US Senate Armed Services Committee responsible for approving Mattis’s nomination were secretly informed about his work for the UAE, but they did not disclose it publicly.

During that period, Democrats Tim Kaine and Richard Blumenthal, who were members of the US Senate committee, informed The Washington Post that they were not made aware of his consultations. Additionally, The Washington Post reported that two senior American diplomats stationed in the Middle East at the time of Mattis’s request to consult with the UAE on Yemen were not informed of his affiliation with a Gulf ally of Washington.

Mattis was recruited to work for the UAE in 2015. At that time, Mohammed bin Zayed was the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in the Emirates.

The UAE engaged in intense fighting with the Houthis as part of the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which aimed to restore the internationally recognized Yemeni government.

During that period, the Obama administration supplied logistical, aerial, and intelligence assistance to the coalition. Despite Saudi Arabia and its allies conducting numerous airstrikes, they were unable to defeat the Houthis, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and a significant humanitarian crisis.

Presently, the Houthis hold control over northeastern Yemen and have initiated attacks on commercial vessels in support of Palestine.

Saudi Arabia has engaged in peace talks with the Houthis, aiming to extricate itself from the war. Meanwhile, the UAE continues to exert influence in Yemen through its allies in the south.

To work for a foreign government, Mattis required approval from US national security officials.

 In his 2015 application to the US Marine Corps, later reviewed by the State Department, he disclosed that he would receive compensation for his work.

 “The amount will be determined after the US government allows me to respond favorably,” Mattis wrote.

The co-president of The Cohen Group, a Washington consulting firm where Mattis holds a senior advisory role, informed The Washington Post that Mattis did not receive payment for his services. Mattis purportedly mentioned that he would receive compensation to subject himself to “additional scrutiny” from US officials.

However, documents revealed by The Washington Post suggest that the former US Secretary of Defense’s application was fast-tracked. The counterintelligence evaluation of his request was completed in five days, a process that typically takes weeks, as reported by The Washington Post.

The ex-commander of US forces in the Middle East obtained State Department clearance for employment in the UAE within 15 days of applying. However, the matter of Mattis’ compensation resurfaced in 2018 when he stepped down as Secretary of Defense in objection to Trump’s Syria troop withdrawal.

He returned to work mainly in the UAE, where he was selected to address a conference on US-Abu Dhabi relations.

In the foreign government employment questionnaire, Mattis stated that he would receive $100,000 and accommodation for attending the speech. The Washington Post reported that it obtained the unredacted document after a three-year legal battle with the US Marine Corps.