In an interview last year, US President Donald Trump criticized Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and said he alone matters when it comes to specifying US foreign policy. “The one that matters is me,” Trump said.
What’s been expected for months has happened. Trump fired Tillerson, who had worked in the oil and energy sector. Tillerson was not in harmony with Trump’s foreign policies and his presence was rather strange within the team especially that Trump is leading deep transformations in foreign policy, such as his recent intentions to meet with th president of North Korea to end the historical problem with it.
Tillerson resisted – though softly – Trump’s intentions towards Iran and support of the Arab anti-terror quartet’s stance towards Qatar’s “harmful” policies. Tillerson seemed to side with Qatar’s narrative and he even used a term from the Qatari-Brotherhood’s dictionary when commenting on the crisis. He called for lifting the “blockade” on Qatar. However, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt reject this term and have repeatedly said that they’ve simply “boycotted” Qatar, noting that this is a “sovereign” act.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Trump said: "When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible, he thought it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, he felt a little differently. So we were not really thinking the same."
Mike Pompeo, a former Congressman, a Harvard Law graduate and a former US army officer who served in the war of liberation of Kuwait in 1991, was assigned as the new secretary of state. According to a Reuters report, Pompeo “is on the same wavelength” with Trump.
Expectations from Tillerson
Meanwhile, Gina Haspel will replace Pompeo as head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Haspel was deputy director of the CIA. According to preliminary reports, she is a veteran CIA officer and a hawk. She is the first woman to head the CIA.
According to media reports, she joined the agency in 1985 and is an expert in combating al-Qaeda organization. In 2002, she managed an overseas secret prison in Thailand where al-Qaeda symbols, like Abdul Rahim Al Nashiri, aka “the prince of the sea,” were held.
Tillerson’s departure will upset those who were betting that someone from within Trump’s administration will decrease pressure on Iran and promote the Qatari-Brotherhood narrative. Frankly, those who made such bets may have exaggerated their expectations from Tillerson.
It’s been a year and few months since Trump became president. The manifestations of unity within his administration and the harmony of voices are getting clearer by the day. We will wait and see how this will impact our problems in the Arab world, and aren’t they many!
This article is also available in Arabic.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy