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13 Mar, 2018 12:47

Trump fires Sec of State Tillerson, replaces him with CIA chief Pompeo

Trump fires Sec of State Tillerson, replaces him with CIA chief Pompeo

US President Donald Trump has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Gina Haspel has been appointed to Pompeo’s former position.

This is a major shake-up of Trump's cabinet. Tillerson was made to cut short his trip to Africa and return to Washington the day before the announcement, as preparations were underway for a meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Haspel was the deputy director of the CIA. She is the first woman to lead the US intelligence service.

Tillerson has recently taken an ambivalent stance towards North Korea. In mid-February, he said that he was “listening” to Pyongyang, adding that it is his job to “ensure” the North Koreans know that Washington keeps the negotiation channels open. At the same time, he also said that the US still prefers the policy of “large sticks” in relations with North Korea.

Pompeo seems to have taken a more hard-line approach. On Sunday, he said that Trump would make no “concessions” to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Speaking to Fox News, he also said that Pyongyang must stop its missile tests and “allow” the US to conduct military drills in the region. North Korea should also leave discussions for denuclearization on the table, he added.

Pompeo thanked Trump for the “opportunity to serve as Secretary of State” and said that he was “honored” to work as the head of the CIA.

Tillerson was also out of sync with the White House regarding the case of Sergei Skripal, the former double agent who was poisoned in the UK. Tillerson said he didn’t know whether the Russian government had any knowledge of the attack, but agreed with British investigators that Moscow was “likely responsible.” By contrast, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders refused to attribute responsibility for the incident, suggesting that more proof was needed to draw any definite conclusions.

Relations between Trump and Tillerson have reportedly been strained for quite some time. Back in October 2017, NBC said that Tillerson called the president a “moron” and threatened to resign. The Secretary of State then dismissed reports about his intention to leave his post. He repeatedly declined to deny reports that he called Trump a “moron,” however.

In mid-October 2017, it was also reported that Trump sought to undermine Tillerson’s diplomatic initiatives with North Korea. The top US diplomat also dismissed those reports and vowed to continue diplomatic efforts “until the first bomb drops.”

Trump alluded to differences in "chemistry" between the two as the reason for Tillerson's dismissal, singling out disagreements on Iran deal. "The secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security," Under Secretary Steve Goldstein said, before being fired himself later on Tuesday.

Despite the fact that Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement was repeatedly confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Trump repeatedly called the agreement the “worst deal ever negotiated,” and pledged to “dismantle” it. In October 2017, Trump refused to re-certify the deal and deferred the matter to the US Congress, so it could amend the agreement and “strengthen" its enforcement.

Tillerson was a long-time corporate-executive, rising to the rank of CEO of Exxon Mobil, one of the largest companies in the world, which led many to believe he would prove quite successful in managing the State Department.

"He would bring to the position vast knowledge, experience, and success in dealing with dozens of governments and leaders in every corner of the world,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a statement at the time, as cited by Politico.

However, veteran State Department employees viewed him as an outsider from the get-go, with roughly 60 percent of the department's highest-ranking career diplomats resigning under his watch. New applications to join the foreign service fell by approximately 50 percent during his tenure.

Tillerson also failed to appoint an ambassador to South Korea, one of the most vital positions in the department given the ongoing tensions with the Kim Jong-un regime. "I think he really will go down as one of the worst secretaries of State we've had," Eliot Cohen, who founded a foreign policy network with Tillerson's top advisor, told Axios.

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