Trump fires top diplo­mat Tiller­son, names Pom­peo suc­ces­sor

Ca­reer in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer Haspel nom­i­nated to head CIA


WASH­ING­TON: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day sacked his top diplo­mat Rex Tiller­son and named cur­rent CIA chief Mike Pom­peo to suc­ceed him, end­ing a rocky ten­ure by the Texas oil­man who had fre­quently been at odds with the US pres­i­dent.

The out­go­ing sec­re­tary of state, who re­turned overnight from a trip to Africa, did not speak to the pres­i­dent be­fore his sack­ing was an­nounced and was un­aware of the rea­son for his sud­den down­fall, ac­cord­ing to a top aide. A se­nior White House of­fi­cial said Trump wanted to reshuf­fle his team with a view to launch­ing talks with North Korea, fol­low­ing last week’s spec­tac­u­lar an­nounce­ment he plans to meet Kim Jong Un.

Trump thanked Tiller­son “for his ser­vice,” but had scant words of praise for the 65-year-old Texan, who had ef­fec­tively been side­lined on the world stage and was long ru­mored to be on the way out.

Be­fore leav­ing on a trip to Cal­i­for­nia, Trump spoke openly of his di­ver­gences with the for­mer Exxon chief — in­clud­ing over the Iran nu­clear deal — as he ex­plained the ra­tio­nale for the lat­est de­par­ture from his chaotic White House.

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

“When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was ter­ri­ble, he thought it was OK,” Trump said. “So we were not re­ally think­ing the same.”

“I wish Rex a lot of good things,” the pres­i­dent added. “I think he’s go­ing to be very happy. I think Rex will be much hap­pier now.”

An­nounc­ing Tiller­son’s sack­ing in a tweet ear­lier on Tues­day, Trump lav­ished praise on Pom­peo, a for­mer US army of­fi­cer and con­gress­man who led the CIA for nearly 14 months, say­ing he would do a “fan­tas­tic job!”

“He will con­tinue our pro­gram of restor­ing Amer­ica’s stand­ing in the world, strength­en­ing our al­liances, con­fronting our ad­ver­saries, and seek­ing the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula,” Trump added, call­ing him “the right per­son for the job at this crit­i­cal junc­ture” and urg­ing his swift con­fir­ma­tion.

To suc­ceed Pom­peo at the CIA, Trump nom­i­nated Gina Haspel, a con­tro­ver­sial ca­reer in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer who would be­come the first woman tapped for the post.

Tiller­son had a tu­mul­tuous ten­ure at the State De­part­ment.

He was re­peat­edly forced to deny he had fallen out with Trump — vow­ing to re­main in the post de­spite a sen­sa­tional re­port that he once dubbed the pres­i­dent a “mo­ron.”

A re­spected fig­ure in the oil busi­ness, his ten­ure drew scorn from Trump’s op­po­nents, from for­mer diplo­mats and from the Wash­ing­ton pol­icy elite. Dur­ing his time in the post, he was faced with an ex­tra­or­di­nary ar­ray of for­eign pol­icy chal­lenges, from North Korean nu­clear threats to Rus­sian sub­ver­sion to at­tacks on US diplo­mats in Cuba.

But his ef­forts were of­ten over­shad­owed by Trump’s undiplo­matic style and his streams of taunt­ing tweets stir­ring in­ter­na­tional ten­sions.

Tiller­son was thou­sands of miles away on a tour of African coun­tries when Trump made the snap de­ci­sion to meet Kim, and sus­pended his sched­ule on grounds he was “un­well” be­fore cut­ting short his trip.

In a cruel twist of fate, one of Trump’s most pub­lic clashes with Tiller­son came last Oc­to­ber when the pres­i­dent tweeted that his top diplo­mat was “wast­ing his time” pur­su­ing con­tacts with North Korea.

Un­der­sec­re­tary of State Steve Gold­stein, in a state­ment, made clear Tiller­son was caught off guard.

“The sec­re­tary had ev­ery in­ten­tion of re­main­ing be­cause of the tan­gi­ble progress made on crit­i­cal na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues. He es­tab­lished and en­joyed re­la­tion­ships with his coun­ter­parts,” Gold­stein said.

“We wish Sec­re­tary-Des­ig­nate Pom­peo well,” he added.

How­ever, Gold­stein’s com­ments ap­peared to con­tra­dict the White House ver­sion of events and he was also sacked on Tues­day fol­low­ing those com­ments.

“This has been the honor of a life­time and I am grate­ful to the pres­i­dent and the sec­re­tary for this op­por­tu­nity. I look for­ward to get­ting some rest,” the US State De­part­ment’s most se­nior of­fi­cial told AFP.

A re­spected fig­ure in the oil busi­ness, Tiller­son’s ten­ure drew scorn from Trump’s op­po­nents, from for­mer diplo­mats and from the Wash­ing­ton pol­icy elite. (Shut­ter­stock)

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