US President Donald Trump sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday and nominated Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo to replace him.
Trump said of Tillerson following his dismissal: “We disagreed on things. When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible,” whereas Tillerson thought “it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same”.
Trump has also nominated CIA’s Deputy Director Gina Haspel as Pompeo’s successor at the intelligence agency. If confirmed, Haspel would be the CIA’s first female director.
Pompeo has been director of the CIA for just over a year. Prior to that, he was a member of Congress for five years, representing Kansas’s 4th District.
Pompeo is considered to be a strong supporter of the Israeli government and a harsh critic of the Iran nuclear deal. During his brief tenure at the CIA, Pompeo enjoyed good relationships with his counterparts in the Israeli intelligence community. He has also played a role in maintaining ties between the Trump administration and the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) security and intelligence services. Last February, Pompeo became the first senior official in the Trump administration to visit Ramallah and meet PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Pompeo is notable for his hawkish line on Iran, both as CIA Director and, prior to that, as a congressman. He has warned that the Iran nuclear deal is failing, and has compared Iran to ISIS. He has also said that nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea is “a real risk” to the US.
In the summer of 2015, at the height of the debate over the Iran deal, Pompeo said that the deal “won’t stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb and places Israel at more risk”. He also said that the “theory that post-sanctions Iran will be moderate is a joke – they want to annihilate Israel, now buying Russian missiles”.
Haspel is a career intelligence officer who once ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand where terror suspects were reportedly subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, including where Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were allegedly subjected to “waterboarding” in 2002.