April 14, 2024
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Trump’s State Secretary Nominee: ‘Friend of Israel’ and Iran Hawk

President Donald Trump fired U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week, while announcing that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would replace him at the State Department.

“Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” Trump tweeted. “He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!” Tillerson was not officially notified about his dismissal prior to the president’s tweet, according to CNN.

The sudden, but not-so-surprising firing of Tillerson—a longtime former CEO at Exxon-Mobile—comes after a rocky, 13-month tenure at the helm of the State Department, during which he and the president disagreed on a number of issues, most notably on Trump’s decisions to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal.

In comments shortly after the announcement, Trump specifically pointed to the Iran nuclear deal as a factor in Tillerson’s ouster.

“Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. We got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things,” Trump told reporters after the announcement. “When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was OK…So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well,” he added.

“I worked with Mike Pompeo for quite some time,” Trump told journalists following his decision. He added that he was “always on the same wavelength” with the former CIA director, and praised his “tremendous energy” and “tremendous intellect.”

The biggest shakeup of Trump’s cabinet since he took office more than a year ago, which the president announced on Twitter, came as the administration prepares for an unprecedented meeting with the leader of North Korea. A senior White House official said Trump works well with Pompeo and wanted him in place before the U.S. president’s planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and trade negotiations.

Reports had suggested that Tillerson, along with U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, had urged Trump to remain in the Iran nuclear deal as it was believed that pulling out would harm America’s global standing, as well as its leverage to persuade allies to put more pressure on Iran.

Nevertheless, Trump announced in January that he would no longer renew a sanctions waiver on Iran—effectively ending U.S. participation in it—and gave U.S. and European negotiators a 120-day deadline to implement changes to beef up the deal. Currently, both sides are working on a solution that may include a demand to end Iran’s ballistic missile testing, allow nuclear inspectors to Iran’s military sites and end sunset clauses in the deal.

Replacing Tillerson at the State Department is former Republican Kansas House of Representatives member and CIA director Mike Pompeo, who has long been known for his hawkish views on Iran and warm ties to Israel.

During his 15-month tenure at the CIA, Pompeo reportedly had good working relations with his intelligence counterparts in Israel, according to Haaretz. At the same time, Pompeo also worked to maintain ties between the Trump administration and the Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence forces.

In the past, Pompeo’s positions on Israel have reflected an appreciation for the Jewish state’s role in maintaining stability in the Middle East. According to former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, Pompeo has a very positive disposition toward Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported. Oren’s comments were based on interactions with Pompeo when the latter served as a congressman representing Kansas.

Oren explained to the Post that Pompeo breaks the mold of many State Department career employees and appointees, whom he says pursue an Arabist worldview in their positions at the agency. Oren cited as examples of this posture former Secretaries of State John Kerry, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright.

By JNS Staff and combined sources

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