Welcome, Mr. Pompeo

Pompeo is likely to be a more effective secretary of state than Tillerson.

March 15, 2018 21:38
3 minute read.
Welcome, Mr. Pompeo

Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo arrives for a closed briefing before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S. May 16, 2017. . (photo credit: REUTERS/AARON P. BERNSTEIN)

The latest US cabinet shuffle, characteristically announced on Twitter by President Donald Trump, once again demonstrates the erratic way decisions are made by the White House.

But setting aside how Trump went about sacking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, the fact that he did it has the potential to be good for the US and good for Israel.

Pompeo is likely to be a more effective secretary of state than Tillerson. During the 14 months that Pompeo served as CIA director, he has gained the confidence of the US president. The former Kansas congressman, a West Point and Harvard Law graduate, and Trump share a blunt communication style. He is said to participate almost on a daily basis in security briefings with Trump. According to Time magazine, Pompeo incorporated in his briefings “killer graphics” to “keep Trump on point.” He carved out time for general “knowledge building” on long-term strategy. He fielded Trump’s questions on any number of topics.

Good rapport with Trump is crucial for Pompeo’s success as the US’s most important foreign policy representative. While Trump regularly undercut and even mocked Tillerson by publicly contradicting him on issues such as relations with Qatar and North Korea (Trump famously tweeted that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man”), Pompeo is more likely to be seen abroad as having the confidence of the president and will therefore be more effective as secretary state.

And while Tillerson and Trump were at odds on the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement, Pompeo and Trump agree that the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy achievement is a bad deal.

In November 2016, shortly after Trump won the presidential election and before it became public that Pompeo would be nominated to lead the CIA, he declared on Twitter, with regards to the nuclear accord, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

With Pompeo, Trump will have a more effective and coherent overseas advocate for strengthening restrictions on Iran.

In January, Trump waived sanctions against Iran as part of a periodic recertification of the deal in conjunction with Iran’s level of adherence. But he warned that he would not do so again in May unless co-signatories Britain, Germany and France agreed to additional restrictions on Iran that include holding inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors, preventing the expiration of “sunset” provisions limiting Iran’s nuclear program, and adding restrictions to the development of long-range missiles in addition to those on nuclear weapons.

Both Trump and Pompeo would also like to use the threat of renewed sanctions and the decertification of the nuclear deal to put pressure on Iran to stop its meddling in Syria, including its entrenchment on Israel’s northern border, its funding of Hezbollah (and of Hamas), and its destabilizing influence elsewhere in the region.

And this position on the Iran deal dovetails perfectly with the near-consensus position in Israel both in the government coalition and among most opposition parties.

Finally, while Tillerson was uninvolved and reticent when it came to Israel – he did not visit here when he passed through the region last month – Pompeo has been outspoken in his support for the Jewish state.

In November, Pompeo spoke at a gala dinner for a pro-Israel organization called Our Soldiers Speak, which brings officers from the Israeli army and other Israeli security agencies to the US. In his speech, he emphasized the Trump administration’s close cooperation with Israel and its support for Israel’s security.

After a visit to Israel in November 2015, when lonewolf knifings and car rammings by Palestinians were on the rise, Pompeo called to “stand with our ally Israel and put a stop to terrorism. Ongoing attacks by the Palestinians serve only to distance the prospect of peace.”

He also said, “Ceasing to call for the destruction of Israel should have been a condition of the Iran deal – along with release of innocent American hostages.”

We welcome Pompeo as the secretary of state. His special relationship with the president will make his job easier as he promotes US interests abroad and takes action to fix a deeply flawed nuclear agreement with Iran.

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