Records Reveal Mattis Secretly Advised Arab Monarch on Yemen War

Credits: Al Arabiya

Following the commencement of airstrikes by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Yemen in 2015, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de facto ruler of the UAE, sought assistance from retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis. At the time, the UAE was part of a coalition involved in the Yemeni civil war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

However, the coalition’s bombing campaign was causing civilian casualties and proving ineffective against the rebels. To address these challenges, Sheikh Mohamed asked Mattis, who had retired in 2013, to serve as a military adviser.

Mattis Advising Arab Monarch on War Issues (Credits: Common Dreams)

In an unconventional move, Mattis applied for permission to advise the UAE on the Yemen conflict’s operational, tactical, informational, and ethical aspects, as revealed in documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by The Washington Post. Mattis, a legendary four-star Marine, sought to work for a foreign head of state as a personal consultant during an ongoing war.

Complicating matters, the U.S. military was already involved in the conflict, supporting the Arab coalition’s air forces with aerial refueling and intelligence. Despite concerns about civilian casualties, U.S. officials promptly approved Mattis’s request. However, they later attempted to conceal his advisory role and work for Sheikh Mohamed.

The Post filed a lawsuit in 2021 for records of retired U.S. military personnel employed by foreign governments, leading to a delayed release of information about Mattis’s involvement. Upon his return to the Pentagon as secretary of defense in the Trump administration in January 2017, Mattis did not publicly disclose his consulting job for the UAE.

This information was omitted from his public work history, financial disclosure forms, and 2019 memoir. While he confidentially reported it to the Senate Armed Services Committee, several senators claimed they were not informed. Additionally, Mattis maintained silence about the scope and duration of his work for Sheikh Mohamed, declining interview requests from The Post.

Conflicting accounts exist regarding whether Mattis received payment for his foreign service. While documents from The Post indicate compensation from the UAE for advising on the Yemen war and a $100,000 honorarium for a post-administration speech, Mattis’s spokesman stated that he worked without pay.

The past decade has seen retired U.S. military personnel frequently working as consultants and contractors for foreign governments, leveraging their expertise gained during years of conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

A 2022 Post investigation revealed that the UAE, despite its small size, employed more U.S. veterans than any other country, often offering lucrative salaries. Mattis’s service to the UAE was highlighted in this investigation.

The FOIA lawsuit prompted federal agencies to release records about retired U.S. military service members employed by foreign governments, but many details about Mattis’s role remained shielded.

The Post continued legal efforts to reveal additional information, emphasizing the need for transparency to assess potential conflicts of interest upon Mattis’s return to the U.S. government.

The recently released records shed light on Mattis being personally hired by Sheikh Mohamed to advise on the Yemen war, unveiling further details about his ties to the UAE.

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