Pompeo in Tillerson’s place: the effects on the Middle East and the world

Huffington Post Greece – Apr. 30, 2018

In one of my previous articles, I explained in detail the change in the US strategy in the Middle East and urged the Arabs to redesign their strategy without taking into account the moves of the current US government. In an unprecedented move in the US history, former Head of State Department Rex Tillerson received the news of his dismissal from Twitter, after just 13 months of taking up his duties and surprised he stopped his visit to Africa to return to Washington. This decision has a significant impact on the US administration as a whole, which will certainly be reflected in US foreign policy.

It is important that analysts do not interpret Washington’s actions hastily or based on the history of previous US administrations. It is preferable to interpret them according to current events and recent developments. Those who have published since last summer that Tillerson has shown his intention to resign because of his dissatisfaction with Trump policy, they also highlighted his role in approaching Moscow since he took office and that he has been an important factor in the administration, in the last four months.
Tillerson played an important role in trying to end the Gulf crisis. He created a strong communication network between the sides and supported Kuwait in its attempt to mediate between them. It is naive to believe that Tillerson’s movements were made on his own initiative or that he took the side of one part against the other. The reality confirms that Tillerson expressed the policy of the US administration and the Pentagon’s position that failure to resolve the crisis may affect US national security. On the other hand, Trump did not prevent the four Arab states from blockading Qatar but supported all the military agreements between Qatar and the US Department of Defense. So he also did not take any side but mainly attempted to obtain economic and commercial benefits from this crisis. Hence, the Tillerson exit does not really change Washington’s public position, that is, the crisis is not really serious and there is no reason to complicate it more.

In the Syrian crisis , which is the most complex in the Middle East, the Tillerson strategy was based on a direct agreement with Moscow on the future of Syria and the Iranian influence. But I think Trump has the first and the last word in them. His repeated statements about his intention to leave Syria are in fact a blackmail for the Arab states to pay more for the US forces to remain in the region. Despite his desire to withdraw, he is well aware of the importance of these forces in any widespread conflict with Iran in the future. Therefore, placing Pompeo will not affect their stay. In addition, the tripartite attack targeting part of the Assad chemical program confirms that Washington still believes it is imperative to keep its forces despite Trump’s statements to the media.

In Europe, Tillerson made a tremendous personal effort to bridge the gap created by the Trump statements and decisions specifically on the subject of climate change and the general discontent in his face. And he really put the water back in the groove in terms of unifying the views on the Ukrainian crisis and the Russian threat to Eastern Europe. But the most important point of contention, in which Tillerson did not reach a consensual solution with European allies, is the cancellation of the nuclear agreement with Iran. The interpretation of some that Tillerson disagreed with Trump and the US administration’s view on this issue is totally unrealistic. Tillerson tried to be diplomatic with the European leaders alone. Therefore, the non-acceptance by the White House of the nuclear agreement will remain even after the change of the State Department’s leadership, and Europe’s pressure to maintain it will continue whoever takes over. It was clear after the recent visits by Macron and Merkel to the White House that the nuclear agreement was at the heart of the talks and that the European leaders tried to convince Trump to find a middle solution. My information confirms that they failed.

In general, the existing US policy, whether some times hard or diplomatic, will be partly differentiated by the Tillerson expulsion. Pompeo is closer to Trump in terms of hostility towards Iran and Islamophobia, and this will affect the State Department’s policy. The decision to remove Tillerson was supported by the Republicans. Although the diplomatic language followed by him was within the government line, he did not satisfy the Republican party’s ego that leans more towards the hard line. Thus, the assumption of the State Department’s leadership by Pompeo strengthens Trump within the US administration, which means that his next moves will be even more extreme on many issues, including the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Russian influence in the Middle East, the Chinese economy and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.