Defense Secretary Mattis: “Israel has an Absolute Right to Defend Itself”

Referring to the downing of an Iranian drone that encroached on Israeli airspace and the Israeli Air Force’s subsequent strikes against government and Iranian targets located in Syria on Saturday, the United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters on Sunday that “Israel has an absolute right to defends itself.”

Mattis had been asked if the U.S. has been involved at all in the Israel response and about the risk Iran’s presence in Syria posed.

The secretary said that the U.S. played no role in the events between Israel and Iran on Saturday.

When addressing the drone and the Iranian threat to Israel, Mattis said, “It is interesting that everywhere we find trouble in the Middle East, you find the same thing behind it. Whether it be in Yemen or Beirut, or in Syria, in Iraq, you always find Iran engaged.”

Mattis then expanded on this point, explaining why allies of the U.S. would see Iran as a threat, “If you live in the region, there’s no doubt what Iran is doing.  If you’re in Bahrain, and the police there have captured explosives and that sort of thing, clearly from Iran; if you’re picking up debris in Saudi Arabia of Iranian missiles; or you’ve got explosive boats, remote-controlled boats, out in the Red Sea, you can see where Iran is — is either producing the wherewithal for the fight or actually leading the fight, in some case.”

He also pointed out that wherever Iran’s Qods Force was – in Iraq, or in Syria – it was channeling weapons to Hezbollah.

“Israel has an absolute right to defend themselves,” Mattis said, apparently referring to the downing of the Iranian drone, “They don’t have to wait until their citizens are dying under attack before they actually address that issue.”

A day earlier, Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway said, “Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people.”

Also on Saturday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert asserted in a statement that the United States “strongly supports Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself.” She added, “Iran’s calculated escalation of threat and its ambition to project its power and dominance, places all the people of the‎ region — from Yemen to Lebanon — at risk.‎ The U.S. continues to push back on the totality of Iran’s malign activities in the region and calls for an end to Iranian behavior that threatens peace and stability.”

[Photo: Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs]