U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the news media while gathering for a briefing from his senior military leaders, including Defense Secretary James Mattis (L), in the Cabinet Room at the White House.(REUTERS)
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the news media while gathering for a briefing from his senior military leaders, including Defense Secretary James Mattis (L), in the Cabinet Room at the White House.(REUTERS)

US defence secretary James Mattis quits amid clash with Donald Trump over Syria pullout, India loses a champion

James Mattis announced plans to resign after a face-to-face meeting with Trump in which they aired their differences, a senior White House official said.
By Yashwant Raj | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON DEC 21, 2018 10:06 AM IST

US secretary of defense James Mattis, a towering American icon and unparalleled supporter of ties with India, resigned on Thursday, day after the Trump administration abruptly announced the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, and told the president in a resignation letter he deserved someone at the Pentagon “whose views are better aligned with yours”.

Mattis, like many other Trump aides and advisers, had opposed the pullout and tried one last time to persuade the president to reverse his decision at a meeting at the White House in the afternoon. But he failed, as the president was not only in no mood to relent but had dug in and was punching back even at close allies who were opposing him on the pullout.

Mattis has been the most enthusiastic and influential supporter of ties with India in the Trump administration, according to several Indian and US officials who spoke to Hindustan Times off the record over the past many months.

“His departure is a loss, we lost a champion,” said an Indian official.

“This is through and through a Greek tragedy,” wrote Ashley Tellis, an Asia expert with think tank Carnegie, in an email response to a request for comments. “His departure is a big loss for the country: He was a towering center of sanity and the source of reassurance for America’s friends and allies.”

“With him goes the last great champion of strong US-India ties in this administration.”

Mattis had emerged as the strongest supporter of relations with India, specially after he urged lawmakers at a congressional hearing to amend a US law to grant India a waiver from sanctions targeting buyers of significant volumes of Russian military hardware.

The lawmakers agreed and changed the law — Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, better known by acronyms CAATSA — but a decision is still awaited.

Not for Secretary Mattis though. It was settled issue for him. “We’ll sort out all those issues here today, and in the days ahead,” he told reporters during defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit recently and added, later, “We’ll work everything out, trust me.”

Later that day, Secretary Mattis hosted Minister Sitharaman at Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Asian Art for dinner that officials said was marked by personal touches from him that bore “testimony to his belief” in the relationship.

It was on Mattis’s watch that the Pacific Command of the US military was rechristened Indo-Pacific Command in a nod to growing ties with India and an acknowledgement of the increasing significance of India on the world stage and in America’s world view, with China as a shared challenge.

Benjamin Schwartz, a former Pentagon official who dealt with ties with India, cautioned, however, against overestimating the impact of Mattis’s exit on ties with India. “Mattis was a strong backer for sure, but the geopolitics of Asia incline most US officials responsible for national security to see India as an important partner,” he wrote in an email response.

Trump announced Matti’s departure shortly after the defense secretary’s failed pitch for pullout reversal in a tweet. “General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years.” He went on to describe some of the secretary’s contributions and that he will leave i February. But he sought to portray his departure as retirement, when it was anything but. Mattis, a four-star Marine corps general retired long time ago.

This time, Mattis, 68, was resigning. The Pentagon set the record straight by releasing Mattis’s resignation letter shortly. “One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships,” Mattis wrote.

“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.” That’s a resignation, and over differences.

The two men had differed on an entire range of issues, from banning transgender troops to Trump’s Space Force to a French Bastille-Day style military parade. Earlier, when they were still on good terms, Mattis would simply slow-deal issues that he did not agree with. That was the time when the men met frequently, sometimes over dinner at the White House — over hamburgers and briefing books.

Mattis had then formed a group of senior Trump officials who were called the men in the room, who brought order and discipline to Trump’s chaotic administration, with former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a long-time CEO of ExxonMobil, and John Kelly, another US military general who was secretary of homeland secretary. And then they began falling out of favor.

Tillerson was thrown out in March, while he was on an official visit to Africa, and Kelly was fired earlier this month as chief of staff. Many more went on their own or were forced out, in between, before and since — cabinet secretaries Tom Price and Scott Pruitt, ambassador to UN Nikki Haley, attorney general Jeff Sessions, National Security Adviser H R McMaster and interior secretary Ryan Zinke, And some, such as homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, are said to be standing in the doorway, waiting to be tipped over.

Turnover in the Trump administration has been high, record breaking, in fact. Brookings, a leading US think tank, said in an October analysis, ”President Trump is breaking records.”

“Ten (or 83%) of the most senior-ranking White House advisers have departed, sparking a cascade of turnover in the junior ranks as well.” At this stage of the presidency, two years down, President Ronald Reagan (1981 to 1989) had 59% turnover; George H W Bush (1989-1993) 17%; Bill Clinton (1993-2001) 58%; George W Bush (2001-2009) 17%; and Barack Obama (2009-2016) 41%, according to the study.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
China was moving forward with plans to buy up oil for its emergency reserves in April of last year, people familiar the plans said at the time.(Reuters)
China was moving forward with plans to buy up oil for its emergency reserves in April of last year, people familiar the plans said at the time.(Reuters)

China plans expansion in Arctic region with push for building 'Polar Silk Road'

PTI, Beijing
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 04:24 PM IST
  • China has made clear its intention to expand in the Arctic region and published a white paper on this in early 2018 calling for its transformation into a “Polar Silk Road”.
Close
The US is expected to closely adhere to a 1991 chemical weapons law and follow-up with a second, more extensive round of sanctions unless Russia meets certain conditions.(AP)
The US is expected to closely adhere to a 1991 chemical weapons law and follow-up with a second, more extensive round of sanctions unless Russia meets certain conditions.(AP)

US, UK weigh Russia sanctions over use of chemical weapons, possibly target debt

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 04:03 PM IST
The Biden administration announced its first sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, punishing the Kremlin for the poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.
Close
At a press briefing to mark the end of the WHO visit to Wuhan, mission head Peter Ben Embarek appeared to rule out the possibility that the virus leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)(AP)
At a press briefing to mark the end of the WHO visit to Wuhan, mission head Peter Ben Embarek appeared to rule out the possibility that the virus leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)(AP)

World no closer to answer on Covid-19 origins despite WHO probe: Expert

Reuters, Shanghai
UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 03:52 PM IST
  • In January, a team of scientists picked by the World Health Organization visited hospitals and research institutes in Wuhan, in search of clues about the origins of Covid-19.
Close
In picture - The first batch of Covid-19 vaccine boxes unloaded from a Pakistan's air force plane after arriving from China at the Nur Khan military airbase in Islamabad.(AFP)
In picture - The first batch of Covid-19 vaccine boxes unloaded from a Pakistan's air force plane after arriving from China at the Nur Khan military airbase in Islamabad.(AFP)

Pak govt not planning to buy Covid-19 vaccines; to rely on herd immunity

PTI, Islamabad
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 02:56 PM IST
NHS Secretary Amir Ashraf Khawaja said that the government has no plan to buy vaccines anytime soon and aims to tackle the Covid-19 health challenge through herd immunity and donated vaccines.
Close
While the emissions growth was below the 3.3% average rate in the past decade, it raises concern about the nation’s ability to meet its 2060 carbon neutrality pledge, research firm Rhodium Group said.(AFP)
While the emissions growth was below the 3.3% average rate in the past decade, it raises concern about the nation’s ability to meet its 2060 carbon neutrality pledge, research firm Rhodium Group said.(AFP)

China's emissions grew 1.7% in 2020, only major economy to see increase: Report

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 02:45 PM IST
China’s emissions grew by 1.7% from the previous year to the equivalent of 14,400 million metric tons of CO2, the group said in a report.
Close
Water vapour rises from a cooling tower of a China Energy ultra-low emission coal-fired power plant.(REUTERS / File Photo)
Water vapour rises from a cooling tower of a China Energy ultra-low emission coal-fired power plant.(REUTERS / File Photo)

China’s emissions increased by 1.7% in 2020: Report

Posted by Kunal Gaurav | Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 02:32 PM IST
While the emissions growth was below the 3.3% average rate in the past decade, it raises concern about the nation’s ability to meet its 2060 carbon neutrality pledge, the report said.
Close
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker receives the Johnson and Johnson coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination at Khayelitsha Hospital near Cape Town, South Africa, February 17, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo(REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker receives the Johnson and Johnson coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination at Khayelitsha Hospital near Cape Town, South Africa, February 17, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo(REUTERS)

South Africa says in talks with African Union for vaccines for 10 million people

Posted by Harshit Sabarwal | Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 02:22 PM IST
Sandile Buthelezi, Department of Health director-general, said the government was seeking to conclude an agreement with the AU, Afreximbank and the Serum Institute of India over AstraZeneca vaccine doses it is selling to other African countries.
Close
Pope Francis prepares to leave from Fiumicino's International airport Leonardo da Vinci, near Rome, for Baghdad, Iraq.(AP)
Pope Francis prepares to leave from Fiumicino's International airport Leonardo da Vinci, near Rome, for Baghdad, Iraq.(AP)

Pope Francis departs Rome for risky, historic Iraq tour

Posted by Kunal Gaurav | Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 02:22 PM IST
Iraq is deploying thousands of additional security personnel to protect Francis during the visit, which comes after a spate of rocket and suicide bomb attacks raised fears for his safety.
Close
Women hold a portrait of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, during an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay, Myanmar, Friday, March 5, 2021. Protests continue in Myanmar against the Feb 1 military coup that ousted the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Despite daily operations by police to disperse the crowds, defiant protesters continue to return to the streets in parts of the country.(AP Photo)(AP)
Women hold a portrait of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, during an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay, Myanmar, Friday, March 5, 2021. Protests continue in Myanmar against the Feb 1 military coup that ousted the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Despite daily operations by police to disperse the crowds, defiant protesters continue to return to the streets in parts of the country.(AP Photo)(AP)

Situation on ground in Myanmar 'troubling': White House

Posted by Harshit Sabarwal | PTI, Washington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 02:18 PM IST
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference on Thursday that the Biden administration has taken sanction steps to send a clear message that the coup in Myanmar is unacceptable.
Close
Most Taiwanese people have shown no interest in being ruled by autocratic China.(Reuters)
Most Taiwanese people have shown no interest in being ruled by autocratic China.(Reuters)

China to deter Taiwan independence, seek peaceful ties and 'reunification'

Posted by Ayshee Bhaduri | Reuters, Beijing
UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 01:33 PM IST
  • China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has increased its military activity near the island in recent months, responding to what it calls "collusion" between Taipei and Washington.
Close
Delegates applaud as Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping (centre), arrive for the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2021. (AFP)
Delegates applaud as Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping (centre), arrive for the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2021. (AFP)

China’s top 20 businessmen-cum-lawmakers are worth a staggering $534 billion

By Sutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Nadim Siraj
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 01:22 PM IST
The wealthiest persons in the parliament and its advisory body, all billionaires, have grown richer over the last one year despite the economy performing badly due to the Covid-19 pandemic
Close
People watch for signs of a tsunami from a hill above Papamoa Beach, New Zealand, as a tsunami warning is issued Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP)
People watch for signs of a tsunami from a hill above Papamoa Beach, New Zealand, as a tsunami warning is issued Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP)

New Zealand says tsunami threat has eased, allows thousands to return home

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 01:20 PM IST
The nation had been on Tsunami alert all morning after a powerful magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck near the Kermadec Islands. It was the third large quake recorded north of New Zealand in a matter of hours.
Close
"The election committee will be entrusted with the new function of electing a relatively large share of Legco members and directly participating in the nomination of all candidates for the Legco,” Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said Friday during the annual session in Beijing. (Representative Image)(Kin Cheung / AP)
"The election committee will be entrusted with the new function of electing a relatively large share of Legco members and directly participating in the nomination of all candidates for the Legco,” Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said Friday during the annual session in Beijing. (Representative Image)(Kin Cheung / AP)

Pro-Beijing committee to elect some Hong Kong legislators

AP
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 01:10 PM IST
Wang added that the size, composition and formation method of the current election committee will also be adjusted, and that the chief executive will continue to be elected by the election committee.
Close
China is the second biggest spender of defence after the US. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)(AP)
China is the second biggest spender of defence after the US. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)(AP)

China hikes defence budget to $209 bn, 40% increase in army renumeration

PTI, Beijing
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 01:03 PM IST
  • Friday’s increase is over three times higher than India’s defence budget of about USD 65.7 billion (including pensions).
Close
Their removal comes during the bloodiest week so far of anti-coup protests, with 38 people killed on Wednesday, according to the United Nations, as security forces tried to crush rallies and used live rounds in some areas. (Representative Image)(AP Photo )
Their removal comes during the bloodiest week so far of anti-coup protests, with 38 people killed on Wednesday, according to the United Nations, as security forces tried to crush rallies and used live rounds in some areas. (Representative Image)(AP Photo )

YouTube removes five Myanmar television channels amid unrest

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 12:51 PM IST
The channels taken down include the state network, MRTV, (Myanma Radio and Television) as well as the military-owned Myawaddy Media, MWD Variety and MWD Myanmar, YouTube said.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP