US Defense Secretary's Departure

The Story:

The US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, has resigned from that office in a letter to President Trump December 20, a letter released the day after the President announced a decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.

Background:

Secretary Mattis has disagreed with administration policy before. For example, he opposed POTUS’ decision to pull the United States out of a deal with Iran regarding that country’s nuclear weapons program. He also has taken up what, within this administration, is a distinctive position on climate change. He has said that it is “impacting where troops are operating today and is a national security challenge.”

But the catalyst for Mattis’ departure was the Syria announcement. His resignation letter said that he had to depart because he is “cleareyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors.” The President — this is the letter’s strong implication — is not so cleareyed, neither about the malign (ISIS) nor about the strategic threats (Russia).  

The Thing to Know:

Mattis thus becomes the first cabinet official to resign over an issue of national-security policy in nearly 40 years, since Cyrus Vance quit the cabinet of President Jimmy Carter over his handling of the Iran hostage crisis.  

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