What Are the Reasons behind Tillerson’s Leave?

Rex Tillerson will give up the duties of state secretary on March 31 passing them to the newly appointed state secretary, former CIA director Mike Pompeo. To remind, last week the US President Donald Trump in his Twitter post informed about appointing a new state secretary. It is interesting that when Tillerson’s Deputy Steve Goldstein said that the State Secretary had not spoken to Trump and like many others learned about his replacement from Trump’s twitter post, Goldstein was also removed from his post.

Later on, commenting on the motives of his decision, Donald Trump noted to reporters: “We disagreed on things. I wanted to either break it (Nuclear Deal with Iran) or do something, and he felt a little bit differently. We were really not thinking the same,” Voice of America reports.

To note, on the Nuclear Deal with Iran, Rex Tillerson previously noted: “Washington can tear it up and walk away, or stay in the deal and hold Iran accountable to its terms, which would require Iran to act as a good neighbor.” 

Below let’s refer to the main foreign policy disagreements between Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson based on the statements made by them previously.

The disagreements were expressed in the stances of the US President and State Secretary on the US policy towards Russia. Referring to the assumptions of Russia’s possible interference in the US presidential elections, to the facts revealed by the US intelligence, Donald Trump in his statements often approached them skeptically  making comparisons with the proofs of the mass destructions weapons found by the US in Iraq, which were not reliable and caused “big mess”.

Still Tillerson often expressed concerns on the issue, stating that it seriously damaged the relations of the two countries.

In October of the previous year, the US President Donald Trump openly contradicted Tillerson’s policy towards North Korea in his twitter post stating: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man (leader of North Korean). Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” 

Besides, referring to the US policy towards North Korea, Trump noted to the reporters: “As I said, they will be met with fire, fury and frankly, power – the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

This statement of Trump came after the opinion voiced by Tillerson that they need to come to the consensus with North Korea and try to open the possible doors for dialogue.

There were disagreements between Trump and Tillerson also on the issue of the US leaving Paris climate agreement.  In August the US State Secretary Rex Tillerson openly stated about his opposite view on the decision, positing: “I was free to express my views. I took a counter view to the decision that was made.”

On Afghanistan the US high-level officials also have principally different positions. Particularly, in August, having a speech before the military staff, the US President Donald Trump noted: 

“Our troops will fight to win.  We will fight to win.  From now on, victory will have a clear definition:  attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.”

After Trump’s such a statement, the US State Secretary Rex Tillerson, in contrast to Trump, posited for the diplomatic solution of the problem, in particular noting: “You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you,” he said, addressing the Taliban.”So at some point, we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way to bring this to an end.”

Trump and Tillerson expressed contradictory positions also on Qatar. After a number of Arabic states severed the diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing the latter for supporting terrorism, Tillerson came up with a statement, in which he express a hope that the Arabic states will manage to engage in dialogue and the severed diplomatic relations cannot have a positive impact for the fight against terrorism in the region and in the whole world. Still Donald Trump has more accusatory stance towards Qatar. In his Twitter post he noted: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!”

Tillerson also posited against Trump’s decision to move the embassy of the US to Jerusalem arguing that it can be a threat for the security of the US diplomats in Israel, damage the US efforts in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as cause the opposition of the US allies in Europe and Arab world.

Judging from the existing disagreements between Trump and Tillerson on the foreign policy issues mentioned above, we can predict that after Tillerson’s leave, the US will have toughened stance on the foreign policy directions. The previously expressed views by the newly-appointment US State Secretary Mike Pompeo on different issues of USA foreign policy give serious ground for such a conclusion. It is not by chance that so far he has been labeled by the US media as the most conservative US State Secretary.

Liana Hovhannisyan