Posts Tagged ‘Mike Pompeo’

Trump Putin call: CIA helped stop Russia terror attack — Is Putin Playing Trump to Destroy Tillerson?

December 18, 2017

BBC News

Kazan Cathedral or Kazanskiy Kafedralniy Sobor, St. Petersburg (file photo)Image copyrightGETTY CREATIVE STOCK
Image captionThe alleged plot targeted St Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral

Information provided by the CIA helped Russian security services foil an attack on St Petersburg’s Kazan cathedral, US and Russian leaders say.

President Vladimir Putin phoned Donald Trump to thank him for the information, the White House and Kremlin confirmed.

The attack was allegedly planned to take place on Saturday, Russia says.

A White House statement said “terrorists” were captured prior to an attack “that could have killed large numbers of people”.

Russia’s FSB security service said in a statement on Friday that it had detained seven members of a cell of Islamic State supporters and seized a significant amount of explosives, weapons and extremist literature.

The cell was planning to carry out a suicide attack at a religious institution and kill citizens on Saturday, the FSB statement said (in Russian).

The group was preparing explosions targeting the cathedral and other public places in Russia’s second city, the Kremlin statement said on Sunday.

Mr Putin told Mr Trump that Russia’s special services would hand over information on terror threats to their US counterparts, it added.

Mr Putin had asked the US president to pass on his thanks to the CIA director and the operatives involved, both countries said.

US intelligence agencies, including the CIA, believe that Russia tried to sway last year’s US presidential election in favour of Mr Trump – claims rejected by the Republican.

A special counsel is investigating whether anyone from the Trump campaign colluded.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and US President Donald J. Trump (L) talk at a summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, (11 November 2017)
The two leaders most recently met at a summit in Vietnam last month. EPA photo

While Mr Trump categorically denies colluding with Russia, he has talked about the importance of working together “constructively”.

Sunday’s conversation between the two presidents marks the second time the two men have spoken in a week.

On Thursday they discussed North Korea and Mr Trump thanked Mr Putin “for acknowledging America’s strong economic performance” in his annual press conference, according to the White House.

The White House said that the two leaders agreed in Sunday’s phone call that the co-operation was “an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together”.

An explosion on St Petersburg’s metro system in April killed at least 13 people and is thought to be linked to jihadists.

Returning militants from Syria pose a real threat to Russia, the head of the FSB was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

Security services had already prevented 18 terrorist attacks in 2017, Alexander Bortnikov said in comments reported by Itar-Tass news agency.


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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday the U.S. wants to have a dialogue with North Korea “anytime,” backing away from Washington’s previous demand that Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons before they come to the table. Photo: AP


White House Corrects Tillerson on Whether U.S. Will Talk to North Korea — The White House distanced itself from Tillerson’s overture

December 14, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Trump and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson are once again at odds over how to deal with nuclear-armed North Korea after Mr. Tillerson declared on Tuesday that the United States was ready to open talks with the North “without precondition.”

The secretary’s comments were remarkably conciliatory for an administration that has repeatedly threatened North Korea with military action, and ruled out any negotiations, if it did not curb its missile and nuclear programs. But a few hours later, the White House distanced itself from his overture.

In an unusual statement released to reporters on Tuesday evening, the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said Mr. Trump’s position on North Korea had not changed — namely, that talks were pointless if the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, continued to menace his neighbors.

“North Korea is acting in an unsafe way not only toward Japan, China, and South Korea, but the entire world,” she said. “North Korea’s actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea.”

It was only the latest example of a public rift between the president and his chief diplomat over North Korea.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday the U.S. wants to have a dialogue with North Korea “anytime,” backing away from Washington’s previous demand that Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons before they come to the table. Photo: AP

In October, Mr. Trump tweeted that Mr. Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to open diplomatic lines to Pyongyang. But this time, the comments follow reports that the White House is laying the groundwork for the secretary’s departure from the State Department and his replacement by Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director.

White House officials were alarmed by Mr. Tillerson’s conciliatory tone, according to several people, because they feared that it would sow confusion among allies after Mr. Trump rallied them behind a policy of “maximum pressure.”

There were no signs that Mr. Tillerson intended to signal a change in policy. He was speaking to the Atlantic Council in what was billed as a wrap-up of foreign-policy challenges in the administration’s first year.

Asked about the prospects for diplomacy with the North, he said, “We’re ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk, and we’re ready to have the first meeting without precondition.”

“Let’s just meet and let’s — we can talk about the weather if you want,” he continued. “We can talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table, if that’s what you’re excited about. But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face?”

To some extent, Mr. Tillerson was merely playing the role he has played throughout the administration’s confrontation with North Korea — the diplomat offering a softer line while Mr. Trump and other White House officials warn about the consequences if North Korea does not back off.

But Mr. Tillerson indicated an urgency about getting to the table with North Korea, which officials said runs counter to the White House’s view that negotiations are unlikely to happen anytime soon, given Mr. Kim’s repeated tests of nuclear devices and ballistic missiles.

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As ISIS Recedes, U.S. Steps Up Focus on Iran — Trump administration is retooling its strategy in the Mideast

December 14, 2017

Trump administration is retooling its strategy in the Mideast

Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, the head of Iran’s elite expeditionary Quds Force, was sent a warning last month by CIA chief Mike Pompeo that he would be held responsible for any attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq by forces under Iranian control. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—As the U.S. military campaign against Islamic State winds down in the Middle East, the Trump administration is turning its focus to what it sees as a bigger threat: Iran.

U.S. officials are wrestling with where and how to repel what they describe as a significant Iranian military expansion across the region, a development of increasing concern in Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh.

“Our leadership has set as an objective not to allow Iran and its proxies to be able to establish a presence in Syria that they can use to threaten our allies or us in the region,” one senior U.S. administration official said. “There are different ways to implement that, and we are still working through them.”

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, is considering giving a policy speech on Syria early next year that would outline the new administration strategy, according to people familiar with his thinking.

Iran's army chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, left, looking through binoculars on a visit to the front line in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria.
Iran’s army chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, left, looking through binoculars on a visit to the front line in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria. PHOTO: SYRIAN CENTRAL MILITARY MEDIA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

One major issue the Trump administration has to address is whether to make confronting Iran an explicit new goal for the more than 2,000 American forces currently in Syria.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said troops will remain in the country for the foreseeable future to ensure that Islamic State doesn’t regain a foothold or its remnants don’t morph into a dangerous new threat.

But those troops could also be placed at the forefront of a new effort to prevent Iran from cementing its military presence in Syria or establishing a secure route across the country that would allow Tehran to easily ferry advanced weapons to allies on Israel’s border, according to U.S. officials and others familiar with the continuing discussions.

“The military presence in Syria increasingly should be the center of gravity for an Iranian neutralization strategy,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank with close ties to the Trump administration. “There’s no political leverage without American military power on the ground.”

Iran has castigated the U.S. for its Mideast presence, saying Washington is backing terrorists fighting against the Syrian regime. Iran didn’t respond to a request for comment on the U.S. shift.

While Mr. Trump sketched out a broad plan in October for combating Iran’s influence, the U.S. military has been focused on eliminating Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq. That project, U.S. officials concede, has allowed Iran to increase its influence, especially in Syria. Administration officials estimate that Tehran and its allies now provide 80% of the fighters for President Bashar al-Assad’s depleted regime there. By some estimates, there are 125,000 Iranian forces currently in Syria.

Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said he told Gen. Soleimani that he would hold him and Iran ‘accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control.’
Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said he told Gen. Soleimani that he would hold him and Iran ‘accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control.’ PHOTO: ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Turning the focus from Islamic State to Iran would come with a litany of challenges, including concerns about triggering a deadly backlash from Iran targeting American forces in the region.

That prospect is a paramount concern to U.S. military officials, especially those who fought in Iraq a decade ago and remember the deadly effect Iranian-supplied explosives had on U.S. forces in the country.

To hammer home that disquiet, Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo sent a private warning last month to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite expeditionary Quds Force. In the letter, Mr. Pompeo said recently, the U.S. warned Gen. Soleimani that the administration “will hold he and Iran accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control.”

Iran’s state-media revealed the existence of the letter and said a CIA operative tried to hand-deliver it to Gen. Soleimani while he was visiting the embattled Syrian town of Abu Kamal, close to the border with Iraq. Mr. Soleimani refused to open the letter, according to Mr. Pompeo and Iranian media.

The Trump administration has already shown its willingness to directly confront Iran in Syria. Over the summer, the U.S. military shot down two armed Iranian drones flying near American forces operating in southern Syria. Though tensions quickly cooled afterward, the incidents showed how serious confrontations in Syria could become.

Gen. McMaster has made it clear in recent days that the U.S. is crafting ways to contain that threat in Syria.

“What we face is the prospect of Iran having a proxy army on the borders of Israel,” he said at a public forum earlier this month.

American and Israeli officials are especially troubled about intelligence suggesting that Iran is establishing a military facility in northwestern Syria to make long-range missiles. Israel has carried out more than 100 airstrikes in Syria, most of them aimed at what it says are convoys ferrying weapons to Hezbollah fighters.

After the most recent airstrike on an Iranian military base near Damascus in early December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would “not allow a regime hellbent on the annihilation of the Jewish state…to entrench itself militarily in Syria.”

The Trump administration is seeking ways to prevent the Syrian war from transforming into a new regional conflict between Israel and Iran. The U.S. and its allies are trying to use the expansion of de-escalation zones in Syria to halt Iran’s expansion along the borders with Israel and Jordan. But critics say the agreements have actually shored up Iran’s gains and undercut the goals.

Appeared in the December 14, 2017, print edition as ‘As ISIS Fades, a New Focus on Iran.’

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemingly contradicts President Trump, says Russia ‘interfered’ in U.S. election

December 13, 2017


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The relationship between President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has soured in recent months.  (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Embattled Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to contradict President Trump on Monday, telling dozens of U.S. diplomats that Russia deliberately interfered in American “democratic processes.”Tillerson, who is reportedly expected to leave his White House post amid growing tensions with the President, made the admission during a town hall-style meeting with career diplomats at the State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning.

Tillerson told the diplomats that Trump has “many, many times” expressed that the U.S. and Russia “just can’t afford” to not have a productive relationship, according to a transcript released by the State Department. But, Tillerson continued, “today that’s not the case, and we all know why.”

“Russia chose through hybrid warfare to interfere with democratic processes here, and they’ve done so in other countries as well,” Tillerson, 65, said, referencing the Kremlin’s annexation of the Crimea in Ukraine.

The Secretary’s comments were first reported by the Daily Beast.

The White House did not respond to questions about Tillerson’s comments.

Contrary to Tillerson, Trump has never unambiguously stated that Russia purposely meddled in the 2016 election in an effort to elect him, as has been unanimously ascertained by the U.S. intelligence community. Trump is much more likely to describe reports of Russian election hacking as “fake news” disseminated to undermine his presidency.

During the town hall, Tillerson conceded that he hopes the U.S. can work together with Russia to solve the humanitarian crisis in Syria. But, he added, “We’re not aligned every day.”

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Tillerson also softened Trump’s typically harsh stance on the Iran nuclear agreement during the town hall meeting.

"Russia chose through hybrid warfare to interfere with democratic processes here," Tillerson told the career diplomats.

“Russia chose through hybrid warfare to interfere with democratic processes here,” Tillerson told the career diplomats.


“We have concerns about whether that agreement’s going to deliver on its objective but for the time being, we’re in agreement,” Tillerson said of the Obama-era proposal, which offered sanctions relief in exchange for a promise that Iran would refrain from developing nuclear weapons.

In October, Trump decertified the agreement, which he has called “the dumbest & most dangerous” deal made in the “history of our country.”

Rumors have it that Trump is looking to boot Tillerson and replace him with CIA director Mike Pompeo.

The President’s relationship with the former Exxon Mobil executive began to sour after a report this fall quoted Tillerson as having called Trump a “moron.”

While Tillerson contradicted Trump on some points, he spent a large share of the Monday speech praising the President as “bold” and “successful.”

US urges Pakistan to ‘redouble’ counter-terrorism efforts – or let CIA do it — “Taliban fighters are living in comfort outside of their country with plenty of drug money.”

December 5, 2017

RT — Formerly Russia Today

US urges Pakistan to ‘redouble’ counter-terrorism efforts – or let CIA do it

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis urges more efforts on counter-terrorism from Pakistan’s government leaders, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Defense Minister Khuram Dastgir, December 4, 2017. U.S. DoD photo

Washington has urged Islamabad to “redouble” its efforts in fighting terrorists. And while Pakistan insists that “no safe heavens” exist in the Central Asian country, the CIA over the weekend vowed to fight terrorism with or without Islamabad.

On Monday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Pakistan, seeking to convince Islamabad to get onboard with the Trump administration’s “Afghanistan strategy.” In a speech in August, President Donald Trump slammed Pakistan for “sheltering terrorists” and threatened to reduce the aid to the country if it continues to “harbor criminals and terrorists.” While Islamabad has repeatedly rejected such accusations, on Monday Mattis once again called on Pakistan to do more to fight jihadists.

“The Secretary reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country,” the Pentagon said in a statement after Mattis met with a number of Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Defense Minister Khuram Dastgir.


US Secretary of Defense James Mattis recognizing Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism, emphasized the vital role that can play in working with the and others to facilitate a peace process in .

Mattis is the second senior US official, after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to have visited the country in recent months as the US revamps its counter-terrorism strategy in the region. Pakistan enjoys certain privileges as one of 16 nations that Washington introduced to a “Non-NATO Major Allies” club. As a member of this group, Pakistan receives billions of dollars in aid and access to US military technology. Pakistan may, however, potentially lose such privileges if it diverges from the US course.

READ MORE: US wants Pakistan military force in Afghanistan but won’t pay the cost – former intelligence chief

On Monday, the government in Islamabad reiterated that it does not protect or harbor extremists, less than a week after the Pentagon accused the country of doing almost nothing to fight the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network.

“The prime minister reiterated that there are no safe havens in Pakistan and the entire nation was committed to its resolve on eradicating terrorism once and for all in all its forms and manifestations,” the Pakistani government said in a statement.

Prime Minister Abbasi also noted that no other country “benefits more” from stability in Afghanistan than Pakistan. He stressed that both the US and Pakistan have “common stakes in securing peace and security in Afghanistan for the long term stability of the broader region.”

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa told Mattis that the Pakistani military and security forces “have eliminated safe havens from Pakistan’s soil,” but added that the Pakistanis are “prepared to look into the possibility of miscreants exploiting Pakistan’s hospitality to the Afghan refugees to the detriment of our Afghan brothers.”

Statements made by Pakistani officials contradict the assessment voiced by the commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, who last week accused the Taliban fighters of “living in comfort outside of the country with plenty of drug money.”

Gen. John Nicholson told reporters Tuesday that the US has not seen Pakistan implement any changes, despite being pressured by Trump to do so.

“We are hoping to work together with the Pakistanis going forward to eliminate terrorists who are crossing the Durand Line,” Nicholson said. “The offensive operations against sanctuaries would be in other areas that we’ve identified with the Pakistani leadership on a number of occasions.”

READ MORE: No troop pullout, threats to Pakistan in Trump speech on new Afghanistan strategy (VIDEO)

Reassurance voiced by the Pakistani officials comes just days after Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) explained that the US “will do everything it can to ensure they don’t exist anymore.”

“In the absence of the Pakistanis achieving that, we are going to do everything we can to make sure that that safe haven no longer exists,” Pompeo said, according to the Voice of America.




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NATO chief hails Tillerson role on N.Korea

December 4, 2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump announces that the United States will designate North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

BRUSSELS: The head of NATO on Monday praised embattled US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for his “key role” in the North Korea crisis as rumors swirl that his position is under threat.

Jens Stoltenberg insisted that a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels this week would not be distracted by doubts over Tillerson’s future.
Image result for Jens Stoltenberg, NATO, Photos
Jens Stoltenberg
Anonymous White House leaks have suggested Tillerson could be out of a job within weeks and even while denying this on Friday, President Donald Trump reminded him: “I call the final shots.”
Stoltenberg gave his backing to Tillerson’s efforts in tackling the crisis surrounding Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
“Secretary Tillerson has played a key role, both in sending the message of deterrence, the unity and the resolve of the whole alliance, but also when it comes to the need for continuing to work for a peaceful solution,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
Trump has publicly criticized his top diplomat on the issue, saying Tillerson was “wasting his time” pursuing contacts with North Korea.
Tillerson has dismissed reports that Trump aides want him to resign as “laughable,” but rumors are set to dog his diplomatic tour of Europe, which also includes visits to Paris and Vienna.
North Korea will be high on the agenda at the NATO meeting after Pyongyang last week tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, which it says brings the whole of the continental United States within range.

Questions have been raised about whether the reported rift with Trump undermines Tillerson’s ability to negotiate with allies, but Stoltenberg said he had no concerns.

“We have seen again and again that NATO and NATO ministers are able to focus on the core task, on the job we have to do, despite any speculations and rumors, and I am absolutely certain that this will be the case also now,” Stoltenberg said.
“I am absolutely certain that all ministers — including secretary Tillerson — will focus on that task and be able to make important decisions.”
Rumours about Trump and Tillerson’s fractious relationship came to a head on Thursday when several US media outlets — citing White House sources — predicted Tillerson’s resignation and replacement by CIA chief Mike Pompeo.
Trump rejected the reports as “FAKE NEWS” in a tweet, but acknowledged the pair had policy differences.
The US Ambassador to NATO, Kay Baley Hutchison, also insisted Tillerson still spoke for the president.
“We have been working with Secretary Tillerson and his staff on this meeting for several weeks and there has been no change whatsoever,” she told reporters in Brussels on Monday.
The North has staged six increasingly powerful atomic tests since 2006 — most recently in September — which have rattled Washington and its key regional allies South Korea and Japan.

CIA chief Pompeo says he warned Iran’s Soleimani over Iran’s “threatening behavior”

December 3, 2017

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (Reuters) – U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he sent a letter to Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani and Iranian leaders expressing concern regarding Iran’s increasingly threatening behavior in Iraq.

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FILE PHOTO: CIA Director Mike Pompeo arrives the FDD National Security Summit in Washington, U.S., October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

Speaking during a panel at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in Southern California, Pompeo said he sent the letter after the senior Iranian military commander had indicated that forces under his control might attack U.S. forces in Iraq. He did not specify the date.

“What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold he and Iran accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control,” Pompeo told the panel.

“We wanted to make sure he and the leadership in Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear.”

Major General Qassem Soleimani

Soleimani, who is the commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, refused to open the letter, according to Pompeo, who took over the CIA in January.

Iranian media earlier quoted Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as saying an unnamed CIA contact had tried to give a letter to Soleimani when he was in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal in November during the fighting against Islamic State.

“I will not take your letter nor read it and I have nothing to say to these people,” Golpayegani quoted Soleimani as saying, according to the semi-official news agency Fars.

Reuters reported in October that Soleimani had repeatedly warned Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to withdraw from the oil city of Kirkuk or face an onslaught by Iraqi forces and allied Iranian-backed fighters, and had traveled to Iraq’s Kurdistan region to meet Kurdish leaders.

The presence of Soleimani on the frontlines highlights Tehran’s heavy sway over policy in Iraq, and comes as Shi‘ite Iran seeks to win a proxy war in the Middle East with its regional rival and U.S. ally, Sunni Saudi Arabia.

A U.S.-led coalition has been fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and is often in proximity to Iran-allied militia fighting Isis there.

“You need to only look to the past few weeks and the efforts of the Iranians to exert influence now in Northern Iraq in addition to other places in Iraq to see that Iranian efforts to be the hegemonic power throughout the Middle East continues to increase,” Pompeo said.

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General Soleimani (left) and Iran’s Fireign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

The CIA chief said Saudi Arabia had grown more willing to share intelligence with other Middle Eastern nations regarding Iran and Islamist extremism.

The Israeli government said last month that Israel had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia amid common concerns over Iran, a first disclosure by a senior official from either country of long-rumored secret dealings.

“We’ve seen them work with the Israelis to push back against terrorism throughout the Middle East, to the extent we can continue to develop those relationships and work alongside them – the Gulf states and broader Middle East will likely be more secure,” said Pompeo.

Writing by Michelle Price in WASHINGTON, additional reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Mary Milliken and Michael Perry

White House Plans Tillerson Ouster From State Dept., to Be Replaced by Pompeo, Within Weeks

November 30, 2017

WASHINGTON — The White House has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whose relationship with President Trump has been strained, and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, perhaps within the next several weeks, senior administration officials said on Thursday.

Mr. Pompeo would be replaced at the C.I.A. by Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who has been a key ally of the president on national security matters, according to the White House plan. Mr. Cotton has signaled that he would accept the job if offered, said the officials, who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations before decisions are announced.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Trump has given final approval to the plan, but he has been said to have soured on Mr. Tillerson and in general is ready to make a change at the State Department. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, developed the transition plan and has discussed it with other officials.

Under his plan, the shake-up of the national security team would happen around the end of the year or shortly afterward. But for all of his public combativeness, Mr. Trump is notoriously reluctant to fire people, and it was not known if Mr. Tillerson had agreed to step down by then. Public disclosure of Mr. Kelly’s transition plan may be meant as a signal to the secretary that it is time to go.

At the same time, there was some concern in the White House about the appearance of a rush to the exits given that other senior officials may also leave in the early part of the new year. White House officials were debating whether it would be better to spread out any departures or just get them over with all at once.

The ouster of Mr. Tillerson would end a turbulent reign at the State Department for the former Exxon Mobil chief executive, who has been largely marginalized over the last year. Mr. Trump and Mr. Tillerson have been at odds over a host of major issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, the confrontation with North Korea and a clash between Arab allies. The secretary was reported to have privately called Mr. Trump a “moron” and the president publicly criticized Mr. Tillerson for “wasting his time” with a diplomatic outreach to North Korea.

Mr. Tillerson’s departure has been widely anticipated for months, but associates have said he was intent on finishing out the year to retain whatever dignity he could. Even so, an end-of-year exit would make his time in office the shortest of any secretary of state whose tenure was not ended by a change in presidents in nearly 120 years.

While some administration officials initially expected him to be replaced by Nikki R. Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Pompeo has become the White House favorite.

Mr. Pompeo, a former three-term member of Congress, has impressed Mr. Trump during daily intelligence briefings and become a trusted policy adviser even on issues far beyond the C.I.A.’s normal mandate, like health care. But he has been criticized by intelligence officers for being too political in his job.

Mr. Cotton has been perhaps Mr. Trump’s most important supporter in the Senate on national security and immigration and a valued outside adviser. Officials cautioned that there was still a debate about whether Mr. Cotton was more valuable to the president in the Senate than in taking over the spy agency in Langley, Va., but he is the consensus choice at the moment.

Under Arkansas state law, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, would appoint a replacement who could serve until the 2018 election. That could put another seat in play during a midterm election when Republicans, with 52 of 100 seats in the Senate, cannot afford to take too many chances. If Mr. Cotton stayed in the Senate, his seat would not be up for election again until 2020.

Asked about a possible move, Caroline Rabbitt Tabler, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cotton, said, “Senator Cotton’s focus is on serving Arkansans in the Senate.”

Mr. Tillerson’s appointment was something of an experiment from the start. Never before had a president named a secretary of state with no prior experience in government, politics or the military. Mr. Trump, who himself had no government or military experience before this year, bet that Mr. Tillerson would be able to translate his formidable skills in the corporate world to international diplomacy after 41 years at Exxon Mobil.


But Mr. Tillerson has often been on a different page than Mr. Trump, and he has spent much of his time reorganizing the State Department, slashing its budget and pushing out more than 2,000 career diplomats. Even on that he ran into serious troubles. Just this week, the counselor he brought in to execute his plan quit after just three months.

A sign of his fading fortunes in the White House has been the changing views of Mr. Kelly. Once a defender of Mr. Tillerson, Mr. Kelly is described by colleagues as now having mixed opinions, seeing him as a wounded figure who may no longer be able to be as effective as the president needs his secretary to be.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Be Replaced by CIA Chief Mike Pompeo

November 30, 2017

The New York Times reports Donald Trump has ‘soured on Tillerson’ and will replace him with the hawkish Pompeo

Amir Tibon Nov 30, 2017 4:53 PM

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks while posing with Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel ahead of a bilateral at the State Department in Washington, DC on November 30, 2017 AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN

Donald Trump’s White House is planning to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, according to a report by the New York Times.

The report said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was promoting the plan as a result of major policy differences between President Trump and Secretary Tillerson on issues such as the Iran nuclear deal, the crisis between Qatar and its’ neighbors, and the nuclear threat from North Korea. Tillerson is expected to leave his post by early 2018, according to the report.

Reuters independently confirmed the report, as a senior administration official claimed the plan has been in the works for a number of weeks.

Pompeo, a former Republican Congressman from Kansas, is considered more hawkish than Tillerson. Shortly before beginning his role at the CIA, he called publicly for withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran. Tillerson, meanwhile, was one of the most prominent members of Trump’s administration who called not to withdraw from the deal, but instead, to remain committed to it and make sure it is rigorously enforced.

Tillerson and Trump had a public spat in early October after reports surfaced that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron” during a meeting at the Pentagon over the summer. Tillerson never confirmed the report, but Trump soon after challenged Tillerson to an IQ test..

Pompeo is a graduate of the  U.S. Military Academy at West Point and has J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review.

This is a developing story

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Former CIA Director Jim Woosey: Iran Needs To Be Taken Down a Notch

November 10, 2017
 NOVEMBER 10, 2017 12:39

“The hell with proportionality.”

EX-CIA CHIEF James Woolsey

EX-CIA CHIEF James Woolsey. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The US should destroy virtually all of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps infrastructure as well as Iran’s nuclear facilities to reduce its terrorist and nuclear threats, former CIA director James Woolsey told The Jerusalem Post in an interview.

“The next time the IRGC looks cross-eyed at us… we should turn loose six to 12 MOAB [GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast] bombs on their facilities,” said Woolsey, who was CIA director from 1993 to 1995 during the Clinton administration. He spoke to the Post in the famous Rotunda Room of the Pierre Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

MOAB bombs, with 18,000 pounds of TNT, are the second-largest conventional weapon in the US arsenal, and the largest ever used, after one was dropped on a suspected Islamic State target in Afghanistan in April.

“Given what a source of terrorism the IRGC is… instead of talking and proportionality – the hell with proportionality. We should destroy virtually everything we can that has to do with the IRGC,” he said.

Woolsey, wearing a gray charcoal coat and a red sweater, said, “I think their seizing of a US ship [in January 2016] was an act of war. We went to war on less than that in the War of 1812,” noting that the US attacked England because it had captured or killed a relatively small number of sailors.

The intensity of Woolsey’s aggressive program contrasted with the heavenly blue sky displaying the Greek gods in paintings on the dome-shaped ceiling above and across the walls below.

The former CIA director did qualify that he “would not use MOABs against civilian facilities, but against military facilities… and we would be wise to take out everything related to their nuclear program.”

Pressed that this approach could drag the US into a highly volatile and unpredictable war with Iran and its proxies, he was unfazed.

He suggested that taking a strong approach might also correct what he saw as a failure of the Reagan administration when it withdrew from Lebanon in response to the 1983 Hezbollah bombing of a US barracks.

Regarding the Iran deal, unlike former CIA director Michael Hayden, who told the Post in October that he was in favor of fixing the deal but against Trump’s decertification of the deal, Woolsey was disappointed that Trump did not scrap the deal entirely.

Though Hayden was a Republican appointee and Woolsey a Democratic one, on the Iran deal, Woolsey outflanked Hayden from the right, saying that “the Iran nuclear deal is worse than worthless.”

Explaining his view, he called the deal’s provisions for nuclear inspections weak regarding military nuclear facilities. He discussed a scenario where “the US or the IAEA got recordings from overflying airplanes or satellites that there is a spot 100 miles north of Tehran which is highly radioactive.”

“You tell the Iranians you are going to inspect the next day. The next morning they say you cannot go, because it is a military facility. You respond that it was not a declared military facility yesterday. They say, ‘We can make it a military facility anytime we want.’” In other words, the Iranians could arbitrarily use the military facility definition to skirt inspections.

What specifically would Woolsey suggest Trump do with the deal?

“I would deal with the deal under American constitutional law. Any really major international agreement must be a treaty. You are committing the entire American people to something. This should have been a treaty. Its executive agreement status should be canceled, and it should be submitted to the Senate. If approved, it goes into effect, and if not, not.”

But for Woolsey, all of the above is treating the symptoms without confronting the heart of the issue: how to weaken Iran’s damaging influence.

To reduce Iran’s power in the long term “and bring about a saner world,” Woolsey suggested “undermining OPEC, ending the cartel” and bringing the price of oil down to a historic low of $30 a barrel.

Essentially, his idea is to “return oil to a free market, which in turn could lead to competition against oil products in the realm of transportation and fuel markets for cars.”

If the US, Israel and other allies “want to damage Iran and keep them from running the Gulf, they need to break Iran’s economy, and getting the price of oil down is the only thing that does that.”

OPEC is an organization of 14 oil-rich countries, mostly developing countries in the Middle East, which work together to control the price of oil in order to spread their economic and geopolitical influence.

Woolsey said that the beauty of the idea is that it is just applying free market principles and is not even Iran-specific; rather, it would have the impact of reducing the power of Iran, as well as other countries such as Russia, to use their strength in oil as a weapon economically and to pay for their foreign adventurism.

He cited energy experts Gal Luft and Anne Korin’s 2009 book Turning Oil Into Salt in arguing that a simple technical fix, which according to General Motors costs only $70 per car, should be added to every new vehicle sold in the US.

“Flex fuel vehicles” would ensure that cars could run on different combinations of gasoline and a range of alcohol fuels such as methanol or ethanol.

Standards ensuring new cars are flex fuel vehicles would open the transportation fuel market to fuels made from energy sources other than oil, and the price of methanol made from natural gas is competitive on a per-mile basis with gasoline.

Woolsey contended that such a standard could virtually cap the price of oil, with consumers choosing the most economic fuel on a per-mile cost basis, creating a shield against OPEC trying to inflate the price of oil.

He said that Israel and China are both “doing a lot with methanol,” and that, working together with the US, they could undermine the basis of Iranian and Russian power.

But this flexible fuel plan for undermining Iran and Russia in the long term would have no obvious timeline on it, making it unattractive to a president like Donald Trump who is eager to show off quick photo ops.

Woolsey, who consulted for the Trump campaign at certain stages, said he would pitch Trump by saying, “You are undermining the country’s enemies, working together with our good friend Israel and our sometimes friend China…

“Every soccer mom, as she drives home from taking kids to play soccer after school, stops to get groceries before dinner. She will save $2-$3 on what she buys for dinner. That means her family gets a better meal, as opposed to if she has to spend that extra $3 on petroleum fuels…. You are for soccer moms, aren’t you Mr. President? Aren’t they called constituents?” he added with a flicker in his eye.

The former CIA director dismissed possible objections from oil-heavy allies such as Saudi Arabia, Canada and Norway, saying they can eventually “all get along” without oil being such a centerpiece of their economy.

This concept of financially attacking adversaries is also a major part of how Woolsey conceives of fighting terrorism.

Commenting on a new book called Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters by Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Samuel Katz, he said, “Offense is the key thing, not just to play defense. You need to go after terrorists with litigation. You have to take it to the terrorists and the relevant states who support terrorism. You need to make it financially unattractive to stay in the business,” he said.

Groups like Shurat Hadin, which promote that kind of litigation, “are a big part of that, along with law enforcement.”

Harpoon tells the story of legendary Mossad director Meir Dagan, his top-secret task force and of Darshan-Leitner, who collectively waged parallel cloak-and-dagger and litigation campaigns targeting the finances that funded attacks against Israel.

Woolsey’s quote on the book’s back cover talks about the need “to ‘follow the money.’ This is the story of how the Mossad led this movement and substantially effected investigations of terrorism and similarly important matters and how this influenced the CIA’s later work in the same field.”

He confirmed that the CIA was significantly and positively influenced by the Mossad and Shurat Hadin’s work in this area. He added that he worked well and closely with then-Mossad director Shabtai Shavit, and this despite the fresh Jonathan Pollard controversy which hung over them at the time.

Continuing his grim – or realistic, depending on your perspective – sizing up of various security challenges, the former CIA director was extremely negative about the ongoing Palestinian efforts at reconciliation between the West Bank-based Fatah and Gaza-based Hamas.

He said, “I don’t trust either of those organizations. Israel should take zero risk while incitement in education of Palestinian kids continues.” Whether Israel attempts to negotiate a deal with the Palestinian Authority or with a PA-Hamas national unity government, peace negotiations “will not likely succeed. Some degree of negotiation sometimes should be maintained, in case something unexpected happens, and you want to be able to take advantage of that.”

He noted that such an unexpected event “happened to me in early fall 1989 when I was picked to take over the European negotiation over conventional forces. One week after I took over the job, I was sitting in my apartment in Vienna…. I had misheated something in the microwave and was watching CNN. Then the Berlin Wall goes down. I said, ‘That might have an effect on the talks!’”

Despite that positive example, he returned to his theme that he does not “see any reasonable chance of success, given what the Palestinians teach their kids, the hatred they propagate against Israel.”

Recounting happier times between Israel and the Palestinians, he said, “I remember going over there as CIA director in 1994, seeing some of the joint training between Fatah and the Israelis. It was quite dramatic. And there was also the handshake in the garden,” between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.

However, Woolsey has an additional off-camera memory from his attendance at the ceremony, reflecting his and other US officials’ distrust of Arafat even in the best of times.

He said that after “the handshake,” Arafat starts down one side of the attendees and “starts grabbing each Arab ambassador and planting a wet kiss on their mouths – not their cheeks.”

Colin Powell, then-head of the US armed forces, was standing next to Woolsey and said, “Damn, Jim, he is going to kiss us.”

To avoid an Arafat kiss on the mouth, Powell saluted and elevated to his straightest height, towering over the short Arafat, who could not reach him. Woolsey then seized the moment by grabbing Arafat’s hand to shake it, and then handing him off to then-US secretary of defense Les Aspin.

Woolsey said he told Powell, “I never thought I would have to shake hands with that son of a bitch – but at least he didn’t kiss us!”

About the Oslo negotiations, which he witnessed up close, he said, “I thought it was worth trying at the time. But Arafat was never serious about it; it was nothing but a ploy for him.”

Woolsey said that the only chance for peace with the Palestinians would be if they changed “what they teach their kids” and got a new leader on the scene with the bold drive for peace of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

Reviewing his current successor at the CIA, director Mike Pompeo, he said, “So far, so good.”

Asked about allegations that Pompeo has politicized aspects of intelligence related to Iran, or that his public views as a congressman act to pressure CIA analysts on the issue, Woolsey said that, if that was an issue, “it will go away with time… and people can discount what someone’s views were” before they were director.

Woolsey was critical of Trump for leaking Israeli intelligence to Russia and for his propensity for broadcasting so much of his national security strategy.

He contrasted Trump with former president Ronald Reagan, recalling that Reagan’s administration once discovered that Russia was stealing small electronic US government devices and that Reagan quietly ordered some of them booby-trapped.

“Reagan could look at some reconnaissance satellite feeds of Russian oil and gas pipelines going up in smoke – boom, boom, boom from the boobytraps!” he said with a big smile. “But they did not publicize it. The whole thing was very classified until years later.”

In intelligence you need to “speak softly, carry a big stick and sometimes use the big stick.”