13 March 2018   Leave a comment

US President Trump has fired Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.  It has long been known that Trump and Tillerson were not a good match (it is reported that Tillerson once referred to the President as a “moron”), but the termination comes rather abruptly.  Tillerson was warned that his job was in jeopardy, but fund out officially via Twitter.  Tillerson did not protect the personnel of the State Department which has seen a rather remarkable exodus of highly competent persons.  Tillerson also supported the Iranian nuclear agreement (Pompeo, like Trump, is a fierce opponent) and has consistently supported diplomacy in the dispute with North Korea.

President Trump has named CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his next Secretary of State and has nominated Gina Haspel as the CIA Director.  Haspel is a long-time CIA professional and is apparently highly regarded within the Agency.  But she comes with a great deal of baggage.  She was responsible for much of the torture (“enhanced interrogation techniques”) used by the CIA during the “war on terror”.  That CIA program was soundly condemned by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2014.  Dexter Filkins contextualizes Haspel’s appointment:

“Haspel, a career C.I.A. employee, took part in another of the agency’s darkest moments: the destruction, in 2005, of video tapes of the interrogation of Zubaydah and a second suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, at whose torture she was present, three years before.

“Because Haspel’s new job is exempt from congressional confirmation, it’s doubtful she will ever have to publicly answer questions about her role in what amounts to America’s dirty war.” [editor’s note: I thought that the CIA Director did require confirmation–I will check into this matter.  It does, Filkins is wrong]

The appointment of Pompeo likely signals the end of the Iranian nuclear agreement which Pompeo has soundly condemned.  It is highly unlikely that the other partners to the agreement will leave, so we will have to see what Iran does when it happens or if the US imposes new sanctions on Iran.  But there is little question that the agreement has succeeded in its primary objective to at least delay the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb for at least ten years.   Pompeo also favors a very hard line on North Korea.  In an interview with CBS News he stated that he agreed with Trump’s objective of “the complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.”  The words complete, verifiable, and irreversible are very high bars for any agreement and would require an intrusiveness that North Korea would never allow.

 

Yet another former Russian has been killed in Great Britain, an emigre named Boris Berezovsky.  Last week, Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok, a poison developed by the former Soviet Union.  British Prime Minister May gave the Russians a deadline of midnight Tuesday night to respond to the charge of attempted assassination.  It is not clear what sanctions Great Britain may impose on Russia for the assault, but if they are to be effective, the EU and the US must support them.  The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said in a televised interview: “no one can come to parliament and say: ‘I give Russia 24 hours.'”  According to US News and World Reports, she also said that “Britain mustn’t try to scare Russia and pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent speech in which he presented a range of new nuclear weapons.”  Initially, President Trump did not fully endorse Prime Minister May’s accusation, but more recent reports suggest that he might be willing to blame Russia for the assassination.

 

Posted March 13, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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