Archive for the ‘Secretary of State’ category

Champagne time: it’s a “bloodbath” at the State Department

February 17, 2017

Champagne time: it’s a “bloodbath” at the State Department, Jihad Watch

(Next? How about the “intelligence community?” — DM)

Break out the hats and hooters: the failed State Department establishment, which has applied and reapplied and reapplied again failed policies that have been shown to be based on false analysis time and time again (Poverty causes terrorism! Islam is a religion of peace!), is finally being cleaned out. May this swamp-draining long continue.

rex-tillerson

“It’s a bloodbath at the State Department,” New York Post, February 17, 2017:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is cleaning house at the State Department, according to a report.

Staffers in the offices of deputy secretary of state for management and resources as well as counselor were shown the door Thursday, according to CBS News.

Many of those let go were on the building’s seventh floor — top-floor bigs — a symbolically important sign to the rest of the diplomatic corps that their new boss has different priorities than the last one.

The staffing changes came as Tillerson was on his first foreign trip — attending a G-20 meeting in Bonn, Germany.

“As part of the transition from one administration to the next, we continue to build out our team. The State Department is supported by a very talented group of individuals, both Republicans and Democrats,” State Department spokesman RC Hammond told CBS.

“We are appreciative to any American who dedicates their talents to public,” he added.

This week’s round of firings marks the second time State Department personnel have been cleared out since President Trump took office last month.

Four top officials were cleared out of the building at the end of January….

BREAKING: Senate confirms Rex Tillerson as secretary of state

February 1, 2017

BREAKING: Senate confirms Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, Washington TimesGuy Taylor, February 1, 2017

secstatetillersonFILE – In this Jan. 11, 2017, file photo, Secretary of State-nominee Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Trump’s nomination of Tillerson for secretary of state is headed toward Senate confirmation after several Democrats crossed party lines . . . .

The Senate voted Wednesday afternoon to confirm Rex Tillerson as the nation’s 69th secretary of state, officially making the former ExxonMobil CEO America’s top diplomat and chief foreign policy advisor to President Trump.

In a 56-43 vote, Republicans picked up three Democratic votes to pierce the minority’s hoped-for united front against Mr. Trump’s unconventional nominee: Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mark R. Warner of Virginia, all of whom face re-election next year. Democratic-leaning independent Sen. Angus S. King Jr. of Maine also voted to advance Mr. Tillerson’s nomination.

Mr. Tillerson, who had an extended lunch meeting with Mr. Trump Wednesday afternoon, was expected to be sworn in during a private ceremony later in the day. Officials said he is unlikely to appear in person at State Department headquarters in Foggy Bottom before Friday.

Officials said Mr. Tillerson, who had an extended lunch meeting with Mr. Trump Wednesday afternoon, would be sworn in during a private ceremony. He is not expected to appear at State Department headquarters in Foggy Bottom until Thursday or Friday.

Once the swearing in formalities are taken care of, the new secretary of state will be confronted quickly by a slate of delicate issues.

In addition to an already turbulent landscape of foreign policy challenges — from the North Korean nuclear threat to Syria’s civil war, Russian meddling in Ukraine and the international battle against the Islamic State — Mr. Tillerson arrival at Foggy Bottom coincides deep hand-wringing over Mr. Trump’s recent executive order relating to the so-called “extreme vetting” of Muslims trying to enter the U.S.

Recent days brought reports that hundreds of U.S. diplomats and State Department rank and file have signed a scathing dissent memorandum criticizing the order Mr. Trump signed Friday to suspend all refugee access to the U.S. and temporarily halt visas to citizens of seven majority Muslim nations, including Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.

“We are better than this,” said the memo, which was submitted as a cable into the State Department’s infamous “dissent channel” and leaked to reporters.

The White House response to those who signed the memo has been confrontational, with administration spokesman Sean Spicer asserting Monday that they “should either get with the program or they can go.”

The new secretary of state will face the immediate and delicate task of trying win back their loyalty and restore morale at the department.

Mr. Tillerson was noncommittal on the visa and refugee issue during his nomination hearing last month. While he voiced apprehension toward Mr. Trump’s campaign trail calls for a ban on “all Muslims” entering the U.S., he also said he might be open to the creation of some kind of registry of Muslims living in the country.

During the hearing, Mr. Tillerson also faced scrutiny over close relationships he built with high-level Russian officials as head of ExxonMobil — he was CEO from 2006 through 2016 — and the extent to which those relationships may influence his view of economic sanctions designed to contain Moscow’s meddling in Ukraine.

Mr. Tillerson was generally elusive on sanctions and Russia. He spoke out against the use of economic penalties as a foreign policy tool. But he also condemned suspected interference by Russia in the U.S. presidential election, and said he believed Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula was illegal and worthy of a muscular response from Washington.

Another issue that drew scrutiny during the hearing was Mr. Tillerson view on climate change and the extent to which he hopes to change or renounce the 2015 global Paris Climate Accord that former Secretary of State John F. Kerry fought for in recent years.

Mr. Tillerson said he believes “the risk of climate change does exist” and “the consequences of it could be serious enough that action should be taken.” While he said the “type of action seems to be where the largest areas of debate exist,” he added that it’s “important to recognize the U.S. had done a pretty good job.”

Trump’s team is on point

December 14, 2016

Trump’s team is on point, Israel Hayom, Boaz Bismuth, December 14, 2016

(Please see also, Trump picked Tillerson for tough new Iran policy. — DM)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, comes from outside the State Department, just like Colin Powell did under former U.S. President George W. Bush. There is one thing that should be noted, however: starting Jan. 20, both the U.S. president and the secretary of state will be outsiders, without political or diplomatic backgrounds. Get ready for changes and Washington-style inventions, like moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

Tillerson comes to the State Department with 40 years’ experience in a multinational company, ExxonMobil. For the past decade, Tillerson, who knows the world, has served as head of the company. It’s hard to say that an inexperienced person has been appointed secretary of state. Even Henry Kissinger had less international experience than Tillerson when he was appointed to the role, unless you count the number of foreign students he taught at Harvard.

Some will say that the appointment of Tillerson is problematic, especially for Israel: first of all, because of his close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin; secondly, because of his close ties with the Gulf states; and third, because the former candidates for Trump’s secretary of state (former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, and even former Governor Mitt Romney) are considered more pro-Israel.

Let’s start with Russia: Tillerson might be a Putin favorite, but we can also assume this means he will always find a sympathetic ear at the Kremlin. What’s bad about that? The Obama administration sought to improve ties with Russia and was even responsible for a reboot in relations between Washington and Moscow. That reboot was so “successful” that at times we thought that Russia had resurrected the Soviet Union. We can assume that when Tillerson is in charge at the State Department, things will change. We can also assume that the president-elect and Tillerson will support the removal of sanctions currently in place against the Russians. Offered honey that sweet, the Russian bear will become much less irritable, and might continue strengthening ties with Israel.

Moving on to the Gulf states: Tillerson has worked for oil giants, so it’s obvious that he was in close contact with the Sunni Arab producers. The Gulf states, which like Iran about as much as Israel does, will explain to him that Tehran is a danger, not an opportunity. He’ll hear exactly the same thing in Jerusalem.

What tipped the scales in his favor, for Trump, was the fact that Tillerson knows how to close deals. Unlike former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he won’t fly around the world just to try to move things along; he will get on a plane to solve problems. And possibly even help the movers get the embassy equipment from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A new president, a new team, a new age.

Trump picked Tillerson for tough new Iran policy

December 14, 2016

Trump picked Tillerson for tough new Iran policy, DEBKAfile, December 14, 2016

rex-tillerson-putin

Rex Tillerson, Chairman an CEO of Exxon Mobil, was named this week as the next administration’s Secretary of State to execute the tough foreign policies charted by president-elect Donald Trump, including his decision to stiffen the nuclear accord signed with Iran as soon as he moves into the White House on Jan. 20.

DEBKAfile reports this exclusively from New York and its intelligence sources.

While campaigning for the presidency, Trump called the accord “the worst deal” ever.

According to our sources, a special team is already working on revisions of the accord which the US and five other global powers concluded with Iran in 2015 in the hope of retarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program by a decade.

As new president, Trump will issue Tehran with a unilateral demand to accept those revisions as pre-condition for the continuation of relations between the US and Iran. He does not intend consulting America’s co-signers, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, or asking them for their endorsement of the revamped accord.

The teams preparing the Trump administration’s Iran policy were put in place last week by Tillerson and designated national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

No members of the incumbent NSC, State Department, Pentagon or Treasury, who managed the Obama administration’s Iran policy, was invited to take part. The teams were instead chosen from among scientists, military leaders and intelligence officials who opposed the nuclear accord with Iran.

Also attached were former administration officials hired by Exxon for their extensive knowledge of Iran’s oil trade and their close ties with oil circles in the Gulf Emirates, which like Israel, fought hard to pre-empt the nuclear deal with Iran.

Our sources have also learned that if Iran rejects the revised accord, the president elect has a list of new economic sanctions drawn up which are a lot tougher than the sanctions regime imposed by the Bush and Obama administrations.

The incoming president will have a fight on his hands to get the Tillerson appointment through the Senate in the face of objections raised by Republican lawmakers over his ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, Trump hopes to turn those ties to his advantage. He trusts that Tillerson is just the man to sell the new administration’s Iran policies to the Russian president.

Read more about Trump’s plans for his secretary of state in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly (for subscribers) out on Friday. Dec. 16, 2016.

Giuliani’s Ties to Iranian Resistance Group MEK Should be Viewed as a Valuable Contribution

November 29, 2016

Giuliani’s Ties to Iranian Resistance Group MEK Should be Viewed as a Valuable Contribution, Iran Focus, November 29, 2016

(The objected-to Politico article was written by Daniel Benjamin, often referred to below but not identified as author of that article. — DM)

trumpandgu

London, 29 Nov – On November 28, in an article for Politico Magazine, Robert G. Torricelli, former U. S. Senator from New Jersey, and a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote about the Iranian Resistance Group, Mujahidin e-Khalq (MEK).  His article was written  in response to an article published in Politico last week, criticizing the MEK and the U.S. politicians who support them, particularly former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Torricelli, a former Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is familiar with the MEK and with Giuliani’s work on behalf of the organization says, “I can say unequivocally that Benjamin’s assertions are outrageous—so outrageous that I must respond.” 

A large bipartisan coalition supports the MEK in its campaign for regime change in Iran, including two former chairmen of the joint chiefs, two former CIA directors, a former attorney general and the former chairs of both political parties. People with such varied political ideals, such as Howard Dean and Patrick Kennedy to Newt Gingrich and John Bolton support the MEK. Torricelli says, “From this perspective, the outlier isn’t Rudy Giuliani; it’s Daniel Benjamin.” 

The history of the MEK began when it was part of the coalition opposing the shah of Iran in the late 1970s. The shah’s secret police executed and imprisoned most of their leadership. That vacuum was briefly filled by a Marxist group who were rejected by the incarcerated MEK leaders. Most of the Marxist leaders were killed by the shah or by the mullahs after their ascent to power in 1979. The MEK eventually regained its original leadership, and the MEK became an opposition group to the theocratic regime, and fled into exile in Paris and Iraq.

Torricelli writes, “Throughout this time, the MEK did take part in legitimate political and military action against the Iranian regime, but I have seen no evidence to support the assertion Benjamin makes that it took part in terrorist activities against Iranians or Americans.”

In Iraq in the 1980s, the refugee camps of the MEK were under the protection of the government of Iraq. MEK fighters were aligned with Iraqi Army during Iran/Iraq War. “But Benjamin’s claims that they assisted in Saddam Hussein’s repression of the Kurds have been denied by both MEK and U.S. Army leaders in Iraq. Upon the arrival of U.S. forces in 2003, the MEK willingly handed over its weapons, accepted U.S. protection and actively exposed the Iranian regime and its proxies’ terrorist activities. This included saving American lives by identifying IED locations. This, more than anything, explains the group’s support by former U.S. military personnel, including the former army anti-terror officer and the U.S. military police general assigned to the camp,” writes Torricelli.

The MEK provided invaluable intelligence regarding the Iranian nuclear program that helped counter Tehran’s efforts to develop atomic weapons. Maryam Rajavi, leader of the movement, committed herself publicly to a democratic, non-nuclear, secular Iran at peace with its neighbors with gender equality and a ban on capital punishment. The MEK organized thousands in the Iranian diaspora and built political support in Congress and parliaments across Europe. It is now the most organized and disciplined of the Iranian opposition groups.

“Some current and former State Department employees, including Mr. Benjamin, have a different concept. They remain committed to the idea that the MEK was a terrorist organization—a notion, I believe, which stems from an illusion of American reconciliation with the mullahs. In 1997, a group at State succeeded in convincing President Bill Clinton to place the MEK on the State Department list of terrorist organizations. Some claimed at the time that this decision was mainly intended as a goodwill gesture to Iran. The State Department gave as its reasons the MEK’s long record of violence, but I can tell you that as a member of the Foreign Relation Committee, I reviewed the State Department file on the MEK and found no evidence, no testimony and no reason for the designation except placating Tehran,” Torricelli writes, adding, “Thousands of Iranian-Americans and literally hundreds of members of Congress protested. In 2011, as a private attorney, I led a team of lawyers in a State Department inquiry to resolve the issue. After four hours of testimony, we yielded to the State Department to present their contradictory evidence. They had nothing.”

Without evidence, an order by the U.S. District Court was issued.  The MEK was removed from the State Department list of terrorist organizations by Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2012.

Torricelli continues, “Defeat came hard for the Iran apologists within the department. Mr. Benjamin isn’t the first to argue that the broad coalition of former U.S. intelligence, military, diplomatic and congressional leaders can’t be believed because some accepted speaking fees to attend MEK meetings around the world. The fact that these people faced combat for or dedicated their entire careers to our country, and are among our most respected leaders seems to be of no consequence. It’s an argument that requires no rebuttal except to note that by this standard the views of Thomas Paine, Elie Wiesel and Winston Churchill—all of whom accepted speaking fees from various international organizations—would have been silenced as well.”

Rudy Giuliani was one of the most outspoken supporters. The 3,000 MEK refugees settled along the Iran/Iraq border were under imminent threat in 2012. Iraqi relations with the United States were tense. Torricelli writes,  “Secretary Clinton requested that I assemble a persuasive group of distinguished Americans to travel to Europe and persuade Mrs. Rajavi to relocate the refugees to a former U.S. military base near Baghdad. I appealed to Louis Freeh, Ed Rendell, Michael Mukasey and Rudy Giuliani. Each accepted, canceled commitments, paid his own transportation to Paris and argued persuasively that the MEK assist the United States by relocating.”

Such a broad coalition of diverse Americans has varied perspectives. Torricelli says that, “Some believe that in the political vacuum following an economic or political collapse in Tehran, a determined and well-funded political opposition like the MEK could seize power. Others believe that the MEK might simply be part of a broader coalition, a simple pressure point or just a source of continuing intelligence.” Although rationales for support might differ, this group of Americans is united by the beliefs that the MEK is a genuine democratic force, and that regime change in Tehran is the best option to keep the peace, avoid a nuclear Iran, and benefit American interests.

Going back to Mr. Benjamin’s argument that Rudy Giuliani’s participation in this coalition should disqualify him for consideration as secretary of state, Torricelli has this to say, “Experience and participation in public policy issues was once a condition for high government service. It’s now a complication, because a record of advocacy creates controversy. But the selection of secretary of state needs to be different. Among the most likely crises facing the new president is an escalation in the struggle with the fundamentalist Islamic Republic of Iran. Rudy Giuliani has lived that struggle for a decade. Mr. Benjamin may quarrel with his efforts but it’s important to note that voices in the American foreign policy establishment as diverse as Senator McCain, Secretary Clinton, Deputy Secretary Blinken and John Kerry’s own personal representative on the MEK, Jonathan Weiner disagree. Each has thanked Rudy Giuliani and the other Americans involved in these efforts.”

Whether or not the president-elect chooses Mr. Giuliani as secretary of state, countering Tehran and assisting our country should not be seen as anything other than a valuable contribution to his consideration.

The Truth About John Bolton, The Iraq War and WMD Diplomacy

November 23, 2016

The Truth About John Bolton, The Iraq War and WMD Diplomacy, Center for Security Policy, Fred Fleitz, November 23, 2016

bolton1

Source: Breitbart News Network

You’re probably heard the criticism of Ambassador John Bolton by the left that he would not be a good choice to be the next Secretary of State because Bolton was an architect of the Iraq War and a hawk who has little use for diplomacy.

This is completely false. The truth is that Bolton was frozen out of Iraq War planning. This criticism also ignores Bolton’s successful diplomacy as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security to pressure rogue states to comply with WMD treaties and his work as UN ambassador to take strong and meaningful action in the UN Security Council against WMD proliferation and terrorism.

The record shows John Bolton had little to do with promoting the Iraq war or war planning. Check out the State Department’s archive page of Bolton’s speeches, op-eds in 2002 and early 2003. You won’t find anything calling for military action against Iraq.

Bolton was not involved in any decision-making or planning for the Iraq War because Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage froze him out. As Bolton’s chief of staff, I witnessed this first hand. I remember well how State Department offices were told by Powell’s and Armitage’s staffs not to share any information with Bolton and his staff about Iraq war planning.

Looking back on this, Bolton believes Powell did him a favor. He says on pages 165-166 of his 2007 book Surrender is Not an Option:

I played no significant decision-making role on Iraq policy, because Powell and Armitage largely excluded me from these issues, no doubt fearing that my views would be similar to Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s and not their own.  It was the greatest favor Powell ever did for me, utterly unintentionally, to be sure, and my Iraq-related activities were only at the margins of the central decisions.

I believe Bolton’s liberal critics are falsely portraying Bolton as an architect of the Iraq War for two reasons.

First, they want to obscure his successful diplomatic efforts to address cheating on WMD treaties by rogue states. Bolton did this by calling out major violators of treaties to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction like the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Biological Weapons Convention.

 Bolton also negotiated the creation of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a global effort now composed of 103 countries to stop and interdict shipments of WMD technology to rogue states. PSI’s most important success occurred in September 2003 when it led to the inspection of a ship transporting nuclear technology to Libya. This interdiction was a major reason why Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi decided to give up his WMD programs.

And second, after holding three confirmed foreign policy positions and a reputation for toughness, John Bolton is the last person the foreign policy establishment wants to see leading the State Department. They know he has an intimate knowledge of the State bureaucracy and will exercise the leadership to ensure it implements the president’s policies. The foreign policy establishment is only too aware that no one is better qualified to drain the swamp at State than John Bolton.

In short, the Iraq War architect argument that Bolton’s opponents are using against him is a ruse intended to play on Mr. Trump’s opposition to the Iraq War. I am confident that as President-elect Donald Trump and his team look at John Bolton’s entire record, they will see a man committed to making America safe again with a sophisticated understanding of national security who knows how to be tough and how to use diplomacy.  They also will find someone who will work hard and loyally to bring the Trump revolution to the State Department and the world.