By Javad Heirannia

Mattis leaving will not change U.S. approach toward Iran: former Senator

September 25, 2018

TEHRAN – Bennett Johnston, an American politician in the Democratic Party and lobbyist who represented Louisiana in the United States Senate is the opinion that “Mattis is very well regarded by both democrats and republicans, so to fire him would be an unpopular thing and would probably be harmful to republicans in the midterm elections.”

“Mattis leaving will not make a great deal of difference in his approach toward Iran,” Johnston, The Chairman of the American-Iranian Council, tells the Tehran Times.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: According to some reports, Trump plans to oust Defense Secretary James Mattis after the congressional election. What are the reasons for this?

A: There are many reports that Mattis has, in effect, not followed the orders of the president.  Whether this is the real reason, or whether there is any animosity between the two is unknowable. The apparent relationship between them is friendly, but by most indications Mattis will be gone by the second term. 

Q: Why would Trump postpone this decision until after congressional elections? And how important are these elections for him?

A: Mattis is very well regarded by both democrats and republicans, so to fire him would be an unpopular thing and would probably be harmful to republicans in the midterm elections.  So, they would want to wait until after it, if he is to be fired.  

The congressional elections are very important for Trump because if the democrats take over then they have the power of investigation and the power of subpoena, and so, as frequently happens in American politics the party out of power may have the House, and therefore the ability to make life miserable for the president. 

Q: Some analysts argue that Trump’s approach to Iran will intensify after the congressional elections if Defense Secretary Mattis is ousted, since Mattis is a moderating force on foreign policy. What is your opinion?

A: Well, the president has taken a strong position already on Iran.  And Mattis - if he disagreed with the president, which we think he did –wasn’t able to dissuade the president.  So, I don’t know what more the president will do than he already has done putting on these strong sanctions.  I think an attack on Iran would be unthinkable.  My guess is that Mattis leaving will not make a great deal of difference in his approach toward Iran.

Q: Trump is scheduled to chair a meeting at the United Nations Security Council about Iran. We can imagine what charges he will make regarding Iran. From a political point of view (not a legal one), should the country that has violated the nuclear deal have authority to preside over this meeting?

A: Well, I do not believe that the president will preside over that meeting. I think it would highlight the difficulties with our allies, France, Germany, England, etc, and so I think he will rethink that question.  It is clear it is not a good thing to do and will not occur in my opinion.

Q: Do you have anything else to add about the upcoming elections?

A: The midterms will change things a lot.  They won’t necessarily change Trump’s mind, but the theatrics will be changed completely.  My guess is that the Muller investigation report will not come out until after the midterms and if as expected the democrats take over the House, then the question of what is contained in the Muller investigation will become central and the House will then have to make its decision on whether to call for impeachment.  My guess is that the House will not impeach unless there is a very strong case revealed by the Muller investigation.
 

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