US President Donald Trump has indicated that he will be nominating CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be the next US Secretary of State. He will be replacing Rex Tillerson who had fallen out of the president’s favour after disagreeing with him on key foreign policy issues. How will this affect the world?
Rex Wayne Tillerson is an American civil engineer and former energy executive who rose to serve as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016.
He was appointed by President Trump as the Secretary of State on 1st February 2017. At one point he was considered to be the most trusted person in the Trump administration. However, the relationship between the two men has remained tense for months. According to the Washington Post, Trump and Tillerson have rammed heads over major policy issues, including the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, and small annoyances, like the Secretary's habit of not returning Trump's phone calls.
Trump has also been irritated by the fact that Tillerson has advocated for a more traditional approach to foreign policy, the Post has reported in the past. The Secretary of State suggested a more diplomatic approach to North Korea and has voiced support for the U.S. to remain a party to the Iran nuclear deal – both of which have been ignored by Trump whose rhetoric has been populist at its core.
At one point, Tillerson had signalled that the U.S. should use direct lines of communication with North Korea. Trump took to Twitter to openly disagree with the nation’s top diplomat noting that Tillerson was "wasting his time" trying to open up a dialogue with Pyongyang.
In October 2017, reports emerged that Tillerson had allegedly called Trump a “moron” after one of his meetings. It has also been reported that Tillerson had to be talked out of resigning in July 2017 and Vice President Mike Pence had to step in. At the time, Tillerson had to call a press conference to refute rumours of a rift with Trump, and said, "I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that." He, however, did not deny outright that he had not made that alleged remark.
On March 2018, US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to announce that he had fired Rex Tillerson from his position and would be appointing current CIA Director Mike Pompeo to the post instead. A specific reason was not provided for the firing and Tillerson in his exit statement confirmed that he had not been given a reason by the president for his decision. The announcement came just a day after Tillerson condemned the alleged role played by Russia in the UK nerve agent attack.
The focus has now turned to Mike Pompeo, America’s next Secretary of State. Pompeo is a businessman turned politician who is known to be highly conservative. He was the member of the United States House of Representatives for Kansas's 4th congressional district from 2011 to 2017; and part of the Tea Party movement that sprung up in the late 2000s. In January 2017, he was appointed as the Director of the CIA.
Trump spoke about Pompeo to reporters noting, “Tremendous energy, tremendous intellect, we’re always on the same wavelength. The relationship has been very good, and that’s what I need as Secretary of State.”
On matters of Iran and North Korea, Tillerson advocated greater diplomacy. He spoke in favour of the Iran nuclear deal and expressed that it would be a mistake for the US to decertify. In contrast, Pompeo’s views mirror that held by the US President. Considered to be hawkish, he was critical of the nuclear deal and advocated a more aggressive approach when it came to North Korea.
“A lot of it is the tea party connection,” Michael Pillsbury, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, who worked with Pompeo on the Trump transition team, told NBC News. “Pompeo’s own views are sympathetic with or resonate with Trump’s campaign promises in a way that Tillerson’s did not.”
Pompeo’s conservative hawkishness has caused concern for some within Washington. “If he is a total partisan, then that’s not going to be good,” Sen. Bill Nelson D-Fla, told reporters. “The Secretary of State ought to be someone who has the interests of the United States first.”
Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn. also expressed concern that Pompeo would further push Trump to become more aggressive and combative when it comes to his foreign policy. "I know Mike, I like him, but he was not known on Capitol Hill as someone who was willing to champion American diplomacy over American military power," Murphy told NBC News on Tuesday. The hearings that will confirm Pompeo’s appointment will be held in April 2018.
Our assessment is that Pompeo’s appointment will immediately further endanger the Iran nuclear deal. Despite the support the deal has from the European Union as well as the IAEA, Trump has been highly critical of it. If the deal is dissolved, then there is a chance that Iran’s nuclear activities can no longer be monitored – this creates further tension in Middle East. It also remains to be seen if Pompeo’s hawkish tendencies would affect Trump’s upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.