Who is the real Mike Pompeo and what does he really think about Russia, Iran, Afghanistan or Syria?
Moscow has been noticeably reticent about US President Donald Trump’s dismissal last week of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his replacement with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief Pompeo.
This is curious considering how often Trump’s perceived missteps quickly become grist for Russian propaganda to highlight America’s stupor. Moscow, however, must be quietly pleased with Pompeo’s appointment.
Pompeo was the one intriguing member in Trump’s previous cabinet that Moscow had been able to engage. Amidst persistent rumors that Pompeo was poised to replace Tillerson, the top intelligence czars in Moscow made a quiet trip to the US in late January.
The team comprised Sergey Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Alexander Bortnikov, who runs the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, and Lieutenant General Igor Valentinovich Korobov, head of Russia’s military intelligence, or GRU, the country’s largest foreign intelligence outfit.
Although these Russian officials figured on the US’ sanctions list, someone in Washington waived the visa ban and let them in. The State Department was reportedly not in the loop. Presumably, Pompeo wanted to hear them out and Trump obliged – or vice versa. Pompeo later confirmed that he met the Russian intelligence officials.
Pompeo also summoned the CIA’s station chief in Moscow to be available at Langley Air Force Base when the Russian spy chiefs arrived. The discussions were most certainly substantive and of the highest importance to America’s national security and global strategies.
But what actually transpired has remained strictly between Pompeo and Trump – and, of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin, to whom the returning Magi would have reported back.
With Tillerson’s departure, the first phase of US foreign policy in the post-Obama era appears to be ending. At its most obvious, it has been a transition vulnerable to hiccups due to a paucity of intellectual content and realism, and contradictions and competition among senior policymakers.
Questions of direction still abound. How does the US pivot to Asia while also jettisoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement? How does the US tap into China’s rise to create synergy with ‘America First’ objectives without an equal relationship?
How does America rev up NATO when Europe is literally falling apart? And how does the US extract out of China desperately needed help in taming nuclear North Korea without accommodating China’s core interests elsewhere?
An incremental militarization of US foreign policies has been apparent. The surge in Afghanistan, mission creep along Russia’s western borders and forward policies toward Syria, Iraq and Yemen have all sent a message that the US is again prowling the commons and flexing muscle to push its interests.
That’s a departure from Obama’s tack, which safeguarded interests if and when they came under threat.
Trump’s role in this shift, of course, is debatable. The US president has clearly been consumed not just by the media bias against him but also the unending blood sport conspiracies, including the constant harping about the possible crimes he may have committed without clear evidence of any wrongdoing.
Distracted and combative, Trump has been seemingly absent on many foreign policy issues, leaving his generals with the latitude to march forward.
Somewhere toward the middle of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, author Michael Wolff writes, “The president liked generals. The more fruit salad they wore, the better. The president was very pleased with the compliments he got for appointing generals…What the president did not like was listening to generals, who, for the most part, were skilled in the new army jargon of PowerPoint, data dumps, and McKinsey-like presentations.”
In sum, if Wolf has it right, Trump finds them boring. The manner in which Trump elbowed out National Security Advisor H R McMaster on North Korea policy signaled as much.
Still, the generals in the White House promptly inserted a caveat into Trump’s decision of March 8 to meet Kim Jong-un by flagging just a day later that the meeting would take place only after Pyongyang took concrete steps to roll back its nuclear program.
A week later, in a March 16 phone conversation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump “reiterated his intention to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by the end of May.”
The White House readout of the conversation ended saying, “The two leaders (Trump and Moon) expressed cautious optimism over recent developments and emphasized that a brighter future is available for North Korea, if it chooses the correct path.”
What effect Pompeo’s stewardship of US foreign policies and diplomacy will have on US-Russia ties, which went into free fall during Tillerson’s tenure, remains to be seen. What is beyond doubt, though, is that US diplomacy will now move in tandem with Trump’s thinking on foreign policy.
Interestingly, the changing of the guard at the State Department coincides with the beginning of Putin’s new six-year term in the Kremlin. The first stirrings of US policy change under Pompeo may appear in Syria, where Trump’s generals have expanded their mandate to launch an open-ended hybrid war against Russia, Iran and the ruling Bashar al-Assad regime.
The only caveat to the whole scenario is the neoconservatives establishment, their deep state operatives in Washington belt way and their vendetta of the electoral loss. It should be recall that at the inception of Trump’s administration Rex Tillerson was in tandem with the president on approach towards Russia, that is seeking a détente, even many analysts are of the opinion that he was selected primarily for this and based on his business experience in Russia as head of ExxonMobil which he would brought to bear in that front.
But as time goes by Tillerson was overwhelmed by the neocons unrelenting assaults on Russia and the Trump administration foreign policy team and ideal gave way to pragmatism. That was when he formed a partnership with H R MacMaster a neocon through and through probably to get things done in a give and take manner. However, could Tillerson have walked away before crossing that rubicon? Pundits are still out on that, maybe we would get know the known unknown some day.
As for Mike Pompeo, he’s got some aces up his sleeve which includes among others; he is a darling of the powerful Jewish lobbies and an Israeli firster in all ramifications, he is a former Senator who knows his way around in the capitol hill and he is got a good chemistry with the president.
But all this are susceptible to change, Pompeo is a Washington politicians and a capitalist who deals on the basis of ‘what is in it for’. If the midterm election gave the Democrat the majority on the Hill they are sure to open up the wound of the Trump election all over again, this time with asinine vengeance, under such velocity how long would it take Pompeo to go the Tillerson way? Your guess is as good as mine. But never say never about the survival instinct of Trump, a salesman who have perfected the art of deal making knowing when to give and when to take, it is still a long way to the midterm election and nothing is certain. But the deep state will never get over the bitterness of their election loss and if they cannot impeach him they will try on all front to torpedo his administration.
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just copy and past this…..(y)
It is time for Asia to become independent from the unpredictable US foreign policies and geopolitical strategies. South Korea and Japan should demand the US bases closed.
Pakistan should close the US supply lines to Afghanistan. Pakistan has been victim of multiple US insults and threats of international monetary isolation. The US mindless war in Afghanistan has been a huge burden for Pakistan and the US "war on terror" has cost thousands of Pakistani lives.
With pressure from Israel and the Arab Monarchies it seems Iran might be the next victim. Both the new State Secretary Pompeo and security advisor Mr. Bolton has advocated for an Iran war.
It is important to take note of the rumors that McMaster’s days are numbered, and that it is very possible that John Bolton, the king of the neo-cons, will replace him. He is a very forceful person, and will soon come to completely dominate foreign policy at the White House level.
What do people think of a direct attack on Iran via a casus belli of cutting off missiles to Hezbollah (once Israel is at war with Hezbollah)?
You cannot miss the big deer and mousse antler heads hung on the west wind walls when you visit the White House . Also on the walls are Qaddafi’s and Saddam’s heads hanging nicely and facing the Oval Office. I can imagine a space reserved for Kim Jun Un’s head should he decides to let go his nuclear weapons.
I think there is a very simple explanation for Trumps disruptive actions. The mid-term elections. These elections shall be life and death for him.
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