Trump dis­misses Rex Tiller­son as sec­re­tary of state Pres­i­dent ‘works well’ with re­place­ment Mike Pom­peo


The dis­missal of Tiller­son, and the ap­point­ment of Mike Pom­peo, the CIA di­rec­tor, as his suc­ces­sor, came af­ter a se­ries of pub­lic rifts be­tween the pres­i­dent and his top diplo­mat over hot-but­ton is­sues such as North Korea and Rus­sia — al­though the pres­i­dent yes­ter­day thanked the out­go­ing sec­re­tary of state for his ser­vice.

But it was their dis­agree­ment over the 2015 nu­clear deal with Iran, which Trump had pledged to scrap dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign, that the US leader re­ferred to when ex­plain­ing his de­ci­sion on Tues­day.

“We got along ac­tu­ally quite well, but we dis­agreed on things,” Trump told White House re­porters.

“When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s ter­ri­ble. I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to ei­ther break it or do some­thing and he felt a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently, so we were not re­ally think­ing the same.”

Jonathan Cris­tol, a fel­low at the World Pol­icy In­sti­tute think tank, said that af­ter Tiller­son’s re­moval, the ad­min­is­tra­tion might crack down on Iran and a nu­clear deal on which Trump is ex­pected to make his fi­nal de­ci­sion in mid-May.

“This may be the death knell for the Iran deal,” Cris­tol told Arab News.

“Tiller­son was one of the lead­ing voices in the ad­min­is­tra­tion for rene­go­ti­at­ing the pact. With him gone, and Pom­peo mov­ing things to the right, at the very least we can ex­pect harsher lan­guage against Tehran.”

Robert Mal­ley, pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group, echoed this on Twit­ter, say­ing: “The writ­ing seems even more clearly on the wall as to the fate of the Iran deal” fol­low­ing the State De­part­ment re­or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The reshuf­fle may also sig­nal a shift on US pol­icy on the Qatar cri­sis. The UAE, Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain and Egypt cut travel and trade ties with Doha last June, ac­cus­ing it of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism and Iran. Qatar de­nies the charges.

While Trump ac­cused Doha of fund­ing ter­ror­ism at a “very high level,” Tiller­son tried to ease ten­sions by sign­ing an anti-ter­ror fi­nanc­ing deal with Qatar the fol­low­ing month and was work­ing on a Camp David rap­proche­ment sum­mit of Gulf lead­ers in May.

That pol­icy di­ver­gence last sum­mer came at the same time that Tiller­son was re­ported to have pri­vately called Trump a “mo­ron” af­ter the US leader sug­gested a 10-fold in­crease in the US nu­clear arsenal.

Steven Cook, an an­a­lyst at the New York­based Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, said Tiller­son’s sack­ing will be wel­comed in the UAE and Saudi Ara­bia, which wanted US sup­port to lever­age ma­jor pol­icy shifts in Qatar.

“I am guess­ing that the folks in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are pretty happy right now. Tiller­son was re­garded as pro-Qatar,” Cook said.

Cris­tol agreed, but said that Tiller­son was not a lone voice in the ad­min­is­tra­tion seek­ing to main­tain sta­bil­ity in the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil.

“US De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis will en­sure that there are no changes and that the US re­mains com­mit­ted to Qatar re­gard­less of what the pres­i­dent tweets,” said Cris­tol, while at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence in Doha.

“It was widely un­der­stood that Tiller­son did not have good re­la­tions with Trump and was on bor­rowed time, so his ac­tual in­flu­ence on pol­icy was ques­tionable. While we may see a move to the right, Mat­tis and the Pen­tagon may en­sure pol­icy is rea­son­ably sta­ble.”

The big­gest shakeup of Trump’s Cab­i­net since he took of­fice more than a year ago was an­nounced on Twit­ter, and came as the ad­min­is­tra­tion pre­pares for key meet­ings on North Korea and the Mid­dle East.

A se­nior White House of­fi­cial said Trump asked Tiller­son to step down on Fri­day, but did not want to make the dis­missal pub­lic while he was on a trip to Africa. Trump’s an­nounce­ment came only a few hours af­ter Tiller­son landed in Wash­ing­ton when the trip was cut short.

The of­fi­cial said Trump works well with Pom­peo, a for­mer Repub­li­can con­gress­man from Kansas, and wanted him in place be­fore planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and trade ne­go­ti­a­tions.

NEW YORK: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to sack Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son may sig­nal hard-line for­eign pol­icy shifts on Iran and the Qatar dis­pute, an­a­lysts told Arab News.

The dis­missal of Tiller­son came af­ter a se­ries of pub­lic rifts be­tween the pres­i­dent and his top diplo­mat over hot-but­ton is­sues such as North Korea and Rus­sia. (AFP/file photo)

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