File picture of former US Defense Secretary James Mattis. In his talks entitled 'The Value of the UAE-US Strategic Relationship', Mattis urged Washington and its strategic partners, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, to Keep all lines of communications open to put together the international coalition against Iran. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Former US Defense Secretary James Mattis urged curbing hawks rushing towards conflict with Iran amid fears that hawkish senior advisers were leading the United States into an unwanted war.

“The United States should buy time to keep peace and stability and allow diplomats to work diplomacy on how to keep peace for one more hour, one more day, one more week, a month or a year,” Mattis told the majlis of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Mattis encouraged setting up an alliance of all nations to contain the Iran’s bad behavior and to tell the Iranian people to do what they have to do.

“We're going to have to work together as nations to respect each other's differences but throughout this terrorism that is growing, it is not going away; it's growing in the other direction, we see it spreading in North Africa, and we see what's going on now as it spreads deeper into South Asia.”

He said: "We're going to have to figure out how to do this. We don't have to be perfect nations, each one of us. We're going to have to protect what we have and we all work on our own nations to make them better. But I'm going to be spending a lot of time studying how do we get more nations to work together and see a way for the world with less disparity. If this terrorism continues, eventually there will be a time that the terrorists get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. And we must not let that happen.

“We're going to have to find a way to get at the root cause of terrorism. You can read it in the newspaper right now: Dubai has the lowest unemployment rate in the world right now. People who have hope. People who can see a way to get up in the morning and take care of their families, are less likely to go towards radicalism. So economics is going to be critical. We need you to continue what you're doing,” Mattis said.

In his talks entitled 'The Value of the UAE-US Strategic Relationship', Mattis urged Washington and its strategic partners, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, to Keep all lines of communications open to put together the international coalition against Iran.

‘We need to hold fast to each other. We need to engage more with each other,” Mattis said.

Admitting that ballistic missiles threat is real, Mattis said we can see the threat [ of ballistic missiles], but we have to listen to each other and see how to protect innocent people and contain Iran [at the same time].

His remarks came as the White House reviews military plans against Iran, including sending as many as 120,000 ground troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks US forces or accelerates nuclear work and President Trump on Sunday told Iran to never threaten the United States, warning the Islamic Republic that if it wants a fight, it would be “the official end of Iran”.

James Mattis quit at the end of February, telling President Donald Trump in a letter that a long-held “core belief” of his “is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.”

Without maintaining those alliances, he said, “we cannot protect our interests or serve” the role of an “indispensable nation in the free world.”

Mattis was among former US President Trump’s aides who tried to block him from tearing up the deal with Iran. Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster unanimously urged him not to blow up the deal, warning of the fallout.

Two years later, none of those advisers remain and the President has long since abandoned the Iran deal.

Now Trump and a new set of hawkish advisers are pursuing a full-throttle policy of exerting maximum pressure on Iran, dealing a severe blow to its economy that experts say has painted the country into a corner. The US this week found itself closer than it has in years to the prospect of armed conflict -- and instead of cautious aides, the President is now the one hitting the brakes.

But without a clear long-term strategy driving those actions, his current national security adviser, John Bolton, and other Iran hawks in the administration have found themselves in the driver's seat, pushing the US and Iran closer to a breaking point.

Mattis praised the UAE-US strategic relationship. “I salute what this country is all about … US-UAE strategic relationship is testimony to the wise leadership of this country that is strategically and economically savvy,” he said.

He termed the UAE-US military ties as ‘extraordinary” and economic ties as ‘very strong and live by the rules.

On humanitarian aid efforts, Mattis said the UAE had sent aid to the US and this is not forgettable.”

Asked to give advice to decision makers attending the Shaikh Mohammad’s majlis, Matis said: “ I know I don’t understand anywhere near what I would want to be able to give advice, but I can tell you this: the example of the UAE which found its way up from under colonialism; that example is precious in the world today. While many young people don’t realize how lucky they are, because they’ve grown up with this freedom. You should never lose sight of the fact that you could lose it. And if the world around you becomes bad enough, pretty soon you’ll give up some of your freedom. You know what I mean? You’ll have to adapt to the world around you. Somehow you always have to fight to always keep the UAE improving and consistent with those founding principles that serve you so well today. I mean, you fly in on Etihad Airways, and it’s the Year of Tolerance. How many countries in the world right now are having a year of tolerance? I don’t know of any. You’re an example, so hold fast to your traditions, hold fast to your values, hold fast to your friends, and if your friends are going in the wrong direction, talk to them more. But hold fast to who you are and your uniqueness. That uniqueness is very important in a world that seems to be veering in the other direction on tolerance, on economic responsibility, I could go on. “

The Ramadan series of lectures is part of Shaikh Mohammad’s efforts to spread the spirit of knowledge and learning in the UAE, by inviting renowned scholars, experts, officials and entrepreneurs to speak at his majlis at Al Bateen Palace in Abu Dhabi. The lectures are attended by Shaikhs, senior government officials, diplomats, business leaders and others.