Trump nominates Iran-hawk Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State

President Trump today fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo to succeed him in heading the State Department.

What do you need to know? Here are key takeaways from the shakeup at State, including links to recommended readings.

IRAN & THE NUCLEAR DEAL. Director Pompeo is an ultra-hawk on Iran and fierce critic of the Iran nuclear deal. After Trump was elected in November 2016, Pompeo tweeted, "I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism." Commensurate with that pledge, he has used his post as CIA Director to push for the demise of the agreement, including in a speech comparing Iran to ISIS the day before Trump decertified the deal in October. Diplomacy Works, an organization of former diplomats who advocate preserving the Iran deal, warns that Pompeo will push Trump to kill the deal, characterizing him as a "known Iran hawk who prefers military intervention to diplomacy." By contrast, Iran had become a point of friction between Trump and Tillerson, given that the former Secretary of State had defended the deal. Trump cited this policy difference as one of the key issues that had led him to decide to fire Tillerson.  

ISRAEL & PM NETANYAHU. An admirer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pompeo also has a "hawkish history" on Israel. Pompeo's views on Israel and Iran appear interrelated, with his discussions with Netanyahu helping to inform his views on Iran and the Iran nuclear deal. One of the reasons that Pompeo opposed the deal is that it did not include a provision requiring Iran to stop calling for the destruction of Israel.

POMPEO IS ON TRUMP'S "WAVELENGTH." The relationship between Trump and Tillerson had been deteriorating for months, with the ultimate timing of Tillerson's firing and its method of delivery (a tweet) coming as a surprise to Tillerson and to veteran diplomats. By contrast, Trump indicated that he and Pompeo have a "very similar thought process" and are "almost always on the same wavelength."   

STATE DEPARTMENT DISARRAY. If confirmed as Secretary, Pompeo will take over a troubled State Department. Of six permanent undersecretary positions, as of today, only one is filled. Many US ambassadorships are unfilled, including in the Middle East. With senior advisor Jared Kushner, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman composing Trump's peace plan, Secretary Tillerson did not play a major role in US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Should Pompeo be confirmed, the Secretary of State could seek a more active role on this issue.