By replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, President Trump has hit the “restart” button on his foreign policy a little over a year into his term.
Trump referenced the Iran deal as the point of contention sparking Tillerson’s departure, as Tillerson and his State Department colleagues favored a policy of making additional demands with additional pressures instead of withdrawing from the deal.
Expect 10 big changes in foreign policy once Pompeo is officially the Secretary of State.
1.Unleashing the sleeping hounds upon on our enemies
Expect a “shadow war” against our enemies that will likely out-do the Obama Administration’s strong covert attacks on the Iranian-North Korean nuclear and missile programs.
As CIA Director, Pompeo reportedly ordered a dramatic increase in human intelligence-gathering, covert operations, cyber security and counterintelligence. He loosened restrictions on drone strikes and other measures to kill terrorists.
Pompeo’s top terrorist hunter was Michael D’Andrea, who married a Muslim woman overseas he met while serving undercover and subsequently converted to Sunni Islam. As the New York Times explained, “perhaps no single CIA official is more responsible for weakening Al-Qaeda.”
D’Andrea, also known as “The Dark Prince” and “Ayatollah Mike,” oversaw the successful search for Osama Bin Laden, as well as the impressive killing of the elusive Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyah.
When Pompeo took over the CIA, he informed the “Dark Prince” he has a new focus: Iran.
In North Korea, Pompeo argued that the ultimate solution should be to “separate the regime from this system” that includes Kim Jong-Un departing from power. His comments contradicted Tillerson’s earlier statement that the U.S. does not seek the ultimate removal of the cultish dictatorship.
In pursuit of that objective, Pompeo has been hoping to support North Korean opposition forces that can destabilize the regime, threatening the only thing that Kim Jong-Un really cares about: himself.
Trump believes that strong pressure caused the potential breakthrough in diplomacy that was recently announced. He will be inclined towards embracing Pompeo’s approach while publicly giving North Korea a chance for a positive change in relations.
Pakistan should also be worried as President Trump has unequivocally stated that Pakistan will finally be held accountable for its role in sustaining the global jihadist insurgency, including killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Pompeo accurately stated that victory in Afghanistan and getting to some kind of ceasefire with the Taliban is wholly contingent upon the Taliban and interlinked jihadist groups losing their safe haven in Pakistan. To date, the U.S. has refrained from targeting most of Pakistan’s proxies with the infrastructure that sustains Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
To Tillerson’s credit, his State Department designated Hizbul Mujahideen, a jihadist group that is essentially an arm of Pakistani intelligence, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The Trump Administration is likely to target the Al-Qaeda-linked groups who maintain a large infrastructure in Pakistan and Kashmir that reaches into the U.S.
2.Ending the Iran deal and a broader attack on Iranian influence
Pompeo’s position on the nuclear deal with Iran is quite clear: “roll it back.”
He believes Iran should not be allowed to have advanced nuclear enrichment capabilities or to the ability to quickly “break out” from a civilian nuclear program into a bomb-building program.
That’s almost the opposite of Tillerson (and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster), who criticized the deal but fought to preserve it.
Pompeo also desires to “push back” Iran, meaning forcing its militias, terrorist proxies and various regional influence operations into retreat. Iran’s efforts include murdering American troops in Afghanistan and creating a Hezbollah-like force in Yemen.
A big question remains about whether Trump will embrace regime change—albeit using more acceptable words, given his consistent opposition to overthrowing foreign governments.
President Trump rooted on the brave protestors in Iran with repeated public encouragement (though it should have continued right up to today), but never formally aligned U.S. policy with their ultimate goal.
Senior officials confirmed to me that the Trump Administration actually rejected overthrowing the Iranian regime as a strategy. This account is substantiated by others who got separate briefings from administration officials who denied trying to remove the theocracy from power.
Pompeo is likely to be more inclined towards this option—the best anti-war, pro-peace option available. As secretary of state, he’s also likely to embrace the Sunni Arab plan to destabilize Iran and its Qatari allies that Tillerson rejected.
3.Rejecting the Islamist lobby of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar, Iran and (possibly) Turkey
Tillerson could not have been more disappointing when it came to confronting the Sunni Islamist lobbies of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Turkey. The result has been the loss of a tremendous opportunity to pressure Qatar as the Arabs ganged up on the terror-sponsor following Trump’s positively-received speech in Riyadh.
Tillerson, more than any other Trump Administration official, bears responsibility for saving the Muslim Brotherhood from being designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization so its U.S. network could begin being dismantled. Tillerson praised Turkish dictator Erdogan and shilled for Qatar.
One cannot help but suspect that Tillerson’s business ties from leading Exxon-Mobil impacted his decision-making towards his former business partners. When Tillerson was widely reported to be on the edge of quitting, he was said to tell colleagues that, besides Iran, his biggest area of difference with Trump was Qatar.
Why was he so passionate about standing up for Qatar out of all the complicated foreign policy he had to deal with?
When the Arab world put its foot down on Qatar, Tillerson’s State Department contradicted the commander-in-chief, even casting doubt on our Arab partners’ allegations that Qatar sponsors Islamist terrorists—a widely known, indisputable fact.
Qatar also launched a well-funded lobbying campaign targeting former Trump campaign officials and seducing former adversaries, like a senior staffer to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who introduced the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act. The result was Trump flip-flopping on our terror-sponsoring “ally.”
The Tillerson State Department, like the Obama Administration before it, gave a platform to a radical cleric linked to the Muslim Brotherhood so he could win a fanbase as an admirable “moderate” against terrorism.
In August 2017, Clarion Project broke the story that a pro-Erdogan Muslim Brotherhood coalition known as the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations had visited the State Department to express their opinion on the Islamist-manufactured Temple Mount crisis facing Israel. The coalition didn’t say much about the meeting except that it was “encouraged by the constructive dialogue.”
The State Department defended the meeting and added an extra dose of madness to the situation. It turned out there were more meetings. The red carpet was rolled out for the council. They had “met a cross-section of working-level officials from different offices in the [State] Department,” it said.
Here’s another example:
As Dr. Daniel Pipes pointed out in August 2017, Tillerson’s State Department was even facilitating meetings between official Indonesian visitors (and presumably others) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group with a history of ties to Islamic terrorist and extremist groups. The Justice Department listed CAIR as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a terrorism-financing trial and identified it as an “entity” of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee, a secret body established to covertly assist the Hamas terrorist group.
As a congressman, Pompeo was one of the earliest and staunchest supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act, knowing full well that put him in the crosshairs of the Islamist lobby backed by Qatar and Turkey.
However, the Trump Administration’s stance towards Erdogan has been disturbingly friendly, so it is unclear how much change will come in that direction. Pompeo gave a disappointing answer when asked whether the Kurds are America’s friend that could foreshadow a continuance of the Trump Administration’s frequent choosing of Turkey over the Kurds.
Yet, when it came to Iran, he was not swayed by local pressure from businesses eager to trade with the regime, such as by selling aircraft and associated equipment. In fact, he wrote an article titled, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Do Business With Iran.”
4.The Muslim Brotherhood and possibly Jamaat ul-Fuqra are likely to be designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations
When it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood, Pompeo gets it. He even went head-to-head with local Islamists when he was a congressman, bringing public pressure upon the Islamic Society of Wichita for having a terrorism-linked guest speaker. The mosque cancelled the event, blaming him for causing security costs to get too high.
The case for designating Jamaat ul-Fuqra, whose Muslims of the Americas (MOA) front is known for claiming to have 22 “Islamic villages” in America, is just as strong as it is for the Muslim Brotherhood—if not stronger. If Pompeo is made aware of it, he is likely to designate the group, especially due to its links to the recently-designated Hizbul Mujahideen.
5.Even stronger stance with Israel against Islamism and its associated hatreds.
If you thought the Trump Administration was favorable towards Israel now, just wait to see what happens with Pompeo in charge of foreign policy.
6.Pressure on Islamic leadership
Pompeo understands that the jihadist threat is rooted in an ideological interpretation of Islam and that Muslim leaders who fail to unequivocally stand against terrorism and the pursuit of theocratic sharia law are part of the problem.
Critics of Pompeo are taking these comments out of context and conveniently ignoring his support for D’Andrea, the Sunni Muslim convert who led the covert operations against Al-Qaeda and now, due to Pompeo, is doing the same against Iran.
Pompeo’s observation about a lack of “Thomas Jeffersons” in the Middle East does not reflect anti-Muslim bigotry but a desire to help Muslim modernist reformers.
7.He understands the ideological war
A review of his statements and actions have a common denominator: He knows how to wage ideological warfare against America’s adversaries. The aforementioned example of how he pressured the mosque in Wichita proves this point.
As CIA Director, he released portions of Osama Bin Laden’s archive that the Obama Administration refused to—presumably because they showed far closer ties between Bin Laden/Al-Qaeda and Iran than it wished for the public to know.
He saw the value in releasing evidence to expose both enemies. This is a no-brainer that you’d assume would happen all the time but it does not. In the past, our government failed to embrace transparency and cautious release of information as a strategy, and more broadly, a moral imperative for our democracy.
8.Tougher on Russia, Venezuela and Cuba
It must be remembered that Russia is backing elements of the Islamist cause, particularly the Taliban, Iran, the Assad regime and Hezbollah. It also does not consider Hamas to be a terrorist group, and Putin’s puppets in Chechnya are promoting puritanical beliefs.
Expect Pompeo to hold Putin accountable as much as President Trump will let him.
Pompeo does not fall for the manipulations of Russia, Iran and Assad that are designed to present themselves as the “moderate” solutions to the threat of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the like. He disagrees with Trump regarding the helpfulness of Russia’s role in Syria.
He is also not a “Russia denier.” He doesn’t continually dismiss any intelligence analysis concluding that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election and use our hyper-partisanship to rip apart American society and use our dysfunction to discredit the ideology of secular democracy.
Pompeo also sounds like he advocates a tougher line on the Venezuelan dictatorship that is allied with Iran and expressed concern about Cuban intelligence operations against the U.S.
9.Confronting the “non-state hostile intelligence services”
Pompeo is greatly concerned with how anti-American actors, including Islamists and obviously Russia, can use “non-state hostile intelligence services” like Wikileaks to wreak havoc on the West’s intelligence operations, military operations and international partnerships, as well as dominate media cycles to their preferred narrative.
As I wrote here, Julian Assange is dedicated to fanning the flames of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. Comedian Stephen Colbert, in a rare break from character and politeness, confronted Assange on behalf of U.S. troops in this 2010 interview before bashing Wikileaks became a left-wing pastime.
One of the most important people involved with Wikileaks, Israel Shamir, praised Iranian President Ahmadinejad and refers to Palestinian terrorists as “martyrs.”
He’s also a Holocaust denier and, since 2010, acts as the liaison between Assange and the Russian state-controlled media. The ties between the anti-Semitic Israel Shamir, Julian Assange and Russia are extensive and well-documented.
To give another famous example, a bipartisan U.S. House Intelligence Committee investigation into Edward Snowden concluded that he lied about numerous parts of his story and has close ties to Russian intelligence.
Pompeo is triggered when Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning are mentioned.
In one public discussion, he said Snowden “absconded to the comfortable clutches of Russian intelligence, his treachery directly harmed a wide range of U.S. intelligence and military operations … In fact, a colleague of ours at the National Security Agency recently explained that more than a thousand foreign targets, people, groups and organizations, more than a thousand of them, tried to change how they communicated as a direct result of Snowden’s disclosures. That’s a staggering number.”
Snowden claims to have no relationship with Assange’s Wikileaks. That further illustrates the fact that these “non-state hostile intelligence services” are a growing threat and, for Islamists and the governments sponsoring them, present an incredible opportunity.
As Pompeo points out, these “activists’” emphasis on disclosures that hurt the West is telling. He said, “Julian Assange and his kind are not the slightest bit interested in improving civil liberties or enhancing personal freedom.”
10.A Trump Administration more in unison and a better informed President Trump
The Trump Administration basically did not include the State Department. This divided was aggravated by the simple fact that Tillerson and Trump just didn’t get along and had too many differing opinions.
Unnamed officials were regularly quoting Trump as calling Tillerson too weak. Tillerson did not deny reports that he called Trump a “moron” at a meeting.
Unlike Tillerson, Pompeo has personal chemistry with Trump. He also upstaged Tillerson with his talent for educating Trump on foreign affairs using visuals that hold his attention.
Expect dramatic changes in the Trump Administration’s foreign policy and its approach towards Islamist extremism.
Of the most senior officials, only National Security Adviser McMaster stands in the way of an aggressive ideological war on Islamism. And it seems his days are numbered, with his likeliest replacement being former U.N. ambassador John Bolton.
The White House is denying that McMaster is on his way out the door, but we’ve heard those denials before. Trump needs to just do it.
We are over a year into the Trump presidency and, by the end of this year, we’ll probably be hearing about Democratic and possibly Republican candidates announcing their presidential candidacies.
There is no time to waste.
It’s time for Trump to get his team together and get his foreign policy moving.