Pentagon’s Mattis on Iran, US Defense Strategy

On January 19, Secretary of Defense James Mattis released the U.S. National Defense Strategy, the first in a decade. It builds on President Trump's National Security Strategy, which was released in December 2017. The unclassified summary said the United States would strengthen international partnerships to counter Iran, “the most significant challenge to Middle East stability.” Mattis discussed it at an event at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. "Rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran persist in taking outlaw actions that threaten regional and even global stability," the secretary said. "Oppressing their own people and shredding their own people's dignity and human rights, they push their warped views outward." The following is a video of the secretary's speech and excerpts from the strategy on Iran.



Iran continues to sow violence and remains the most significant challenge to Middle East stability.



Rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran are destabilizing regions through their pursuit of nuclear weapons or sponsorship of terrorism.

In the Middle East, Iran is competing with its neighbors, asserting an arc of influence and instability while vying for regional hegemony, using state-sponsored terrorist activities, a growing network of proxies, and its missile program to achieve its objectives.

Rogue regimes, such as North Korea, continue to seek out or develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) – nuclear, chemical, and biological – as well as long range missile capabilities and, in some cases, proliferate these capabilities to malign actors as demonstrated by Iranian ballistic missile exports. Terrorists likewise continue to pursue WMD, while the spread of nuclear weapon technology and advanced manufacturing technology remains a persistent problem. Recent advances in bioengineering raise another concern, increasing the potential, variety, and ease of access to biological weapons.



In support of the National Security Strategy, the Department of Defense will be prepared to defend the homeland, remain the preeminent military power in the world, ensure the balances of power remain in our favor, and advance an international order that is most conducive to our security and prosperity.

Long-term strategic competitions with China and Russia are the principal priorities for the Department, and require both increased and sustained investment, because of the magnitude of the threats they pose to U.S. security and prosperity today, and the potential for those threats to increase in the future. Concurrently, the Department will sustain its efforts to deter and counter rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran, defeat terrorist threats to the United States, and consolidate our gains in Iraq and Afghanistan while moving to a more resource-sustainable approach.

Defense objectives include:

  • Defending the homeland from attack;
  • Sustaining Joint Force military advantages, both globally and in key regions;
  • Deterring adversaries from aggression against our vital interests;
  • Enabling U.S. interagency counterparts to advance U.S. influence and interests;
  • Maintaining favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere;
  • Defending allies from military aggression and bolstering partners against coercion, and fairly sharing responsibilities for common defense;
  • Dissuading, preventing, or deterring state adversaries and non-state actors from acquiring, proliferating, or using weapons of mass destruction;
  • Preventing terrorists from directing or supporting external operations against the United States homeland and our citizens, allies, and partners overseas;
  • Ensuring common domains remain open and free;
  • Continuously delivering performance with affordability and speed as we change Departmental mindset, culture, and management systems; and
  • Establishing an unmatched twenty-first century National Security Innovation Base that effectively supports Department operations and sustains security and solvency.


Strengthen Alliances and Attract New Partners

Form enduring coalitions in the Middle East. We will foster a stable and secure Middle East that denies safe havens for terrorists, is not dominated by any power hostile to the United States, and that contributes to stable global energy markets and secure trade routes. We will develop enduring coalitions to consolidate gains we have made in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, to support the lasting defeat of terrorists as we sever their sources of strength and counterbalance Iran.

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Some of the information in this article was originally published on January 19, 2018.