Alwaght- Several months after speculations about when exactly the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will resign, the country was surprised to see him fired on Tuesday. Tillerson's ouster happened not according to the formal process; rather the American president announced firing his Secretary of State through a Twitter post.
Tillerson held the office 405 days to be the Secretary of State with the shortest term in office since 1869, the year in which Elihu B. Washburne served only 11 days. Trump has announced that he picked Mike Pompeo, the director of US spy agency, CIA, for the post. But what has driven Tillerson’s firing? And what changes will the US foreign policy see under Pompeo?
Tillerson, the defiant Secretary of State
In the first place, the first reason behind expulsion of Tillerson has to do with his conflict of views with the president. The first sticking point was the Iranian nuclear deal, reached between the Islamic Republic and the six world powers— US, China, Russia, France, Britain, and France— in 2015 following months of intensive debate. A day after sacking Tillerson, Trump tweeted that “we got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things.” He furthermore said that he found the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “the worst ever” but Tillerson had no problem with it. The president also said that he wanted to scrap the deal or at least introduce some changes to it, but his Secretary of State had different ideas. Trump tweeted, however, that he and Pompeo had similar mindset on the issue.
Despite these claims made by the American leader, Tillerson was among the critics of the deal with Tehran and had made that clear several times. The analysts suggest that his difference with Trump could be about further consistency with the European Union about the case.
Another point of conflict of opinions between the two was on issues such as NATO and the EU. Tillerson was disagreeing with Trump about scaling down the American military and financial support to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. While Trump bemoaned the trivial EU financial share in the military organization, Tillerson assured the Europeans about the constant US commitment to the alliance with them.
Just unlike Trump who argued that the global warming was a bogus concern and a huge deception and that the Paris climate agreement, reached in 2016, was a trick to prevent the US power expansion, his foreign policy chief was an advocate of staying in the agreement. Tillerson’s support for Paris agreement drew criticism by Trump, who in June last year announced withdrawal from the accord, signed by a large number of world countries.
Trump White House has made a set of hurried, tense, interventionist, and naïve decisions in its foreign relations. Tillerson tried to fine-tune Trump’s foreign policy approaches. This, in turn, gave rise to a kind of multi-voice, inconsistent foreign policy of the country. Earlier, Tillerson sarcastically said that the US had four Secretaries of State: Trump, Nikki Haley, H. R. McMaster, and him.
Foreign Policy Crisis
Since the presidency of George W. Bush, the US foreign policy has been hit by the crisis and consequent failures. Bush administration, for instance, experienced defeats in West Asia region, including the Israeli wars on Lebanon and Gaza Strip. After Bush came Barack Obama whose policy in Syria and Iraq wars and confrontation with Iran proved as marked failure. He also failed to disarm North Korea, the East Asian country which has gained the capability of nuclear deterrence. The American efforts to contain Russia, the old rival of the US which in the past few years started a campaign to restore its power on the global stage, also fell flat. China is another party whose efforts to rapidly catch up with the US especially in terms of the economy have proven the faulty US foreign policy over the course of past years. Some analysts suggest that Trump’s removal of Tillerson and picking the spy chief to lead the country’s foreign policy apparatus derives from Washington’s inability to change the status quo in the global order.
White House growing more hardline
In addition to choosing Mike Pompeo as the new Secretary of State, Trump reportedly wants to dismiss McMaster, his current national security advisor, to bring on board John Bolton who served as the US envoy to the UN under Bush. With these measures, the analysts maintain, the White House orbit of hardliners will be completed, paving the way for Trump to peruse his escalatory policies in an easier fashion. Pompeo’s stances on Iran and North Korea are extreme and close to the president. Commenting on his nominee for the post, Trump said that he thought Pompeo will make a great Secretary of State and that he fully trusted him. He “will do a fantastic job,” he continued. Moreover, Tillerson's ouster came just after Trump has agreed to talk face to face with the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. The president appears to intend to work out a new foreign policy team before the negotiations with Pyongyang start.
On the other side, Pompeo will take a more consistent stance with Trump in addressing such cases as Paris climate accord. In January 2017, during a Senate confirmation hearing, Pompeo, as a Trump’s pick for the CIA chief post, tried to weasel out of questions on climate change. Pompeo essentially argued that climate change was not relevant to the job he was being vetted for: “Frankly, as the director of CIA, I would prefer today not to get into the details of the climate debate and science,” he said. So, despite the fact that with coming of Pompeo the US foreign policy will enjoy more harmonious voice, it does not appear it will be pleasant to the world.