Netanyahu On New U.S. Secretary Of State Pick: ‘We Will Work Very Well Together’
Spy chief is Iran “hawk” and one of the main critics of the nuclear deal
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lauded U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick for new U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, a move political experts agree signals the American leader’s willingness to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement.
“In my meetings with Pompeo, I was very impressed by his abilities and experience, and I believe that in his role as secretary of state, we will work very well together,” Prime Minister Netanyahu wrote in a statement, which did not mention outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Mike Pompeo, who is Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is known to be an Iran “hawk” and one of the leading critics of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Professor Emmanuel Navon, an International Relations lecturer at Tel Aviv University and a Senior Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, said Tillerson’s ouster was likely precipitated by President Trump’s position on Tehran, an issue they disagreed on.
“As far as Netanyahu is concerned, I’m sure he’s very satisfied about the change because he’s been arguing the deal should be fixed or nixed, and it’s not going to be fixed,” Navon told The Media Line. “It just goes to show [Trump] is serious about pulling out of the deal and re-imposing sanctions.”
But Navon questioned if it was the right move.
“I’m not 100 percent sure that just pulling out without a Plan B is the best scenario for Israel,” he stressed.
Dr. Eran Lerman, the former deputy director for foreign policy and international affairs at Israel’s National Security Council, told The Media Line that Pompeo appears to be a good appointment.
“Tillerson left the State Department in a much-reduced level of capacity,” he said. “Pompeo looks to be a very effective individual.”
Lerman believes Pompeo’s appointment will likely be positive for Israel, considering his tough stance on the Islamic Republic and that Jerusalem remains interested in “a strong, robust America with a strong and effective presence in the region.”
Pompeo also praised Prime Minister Netanyahu after they met during the former’s visit to Israel in 2015, while he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu is a true partner of the American people,” Pompeo asserted at the time. “Our conversation was incredibly enlightening as to the true threats facing both Israel and the United States. Netanyahu’s efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons are incredibly admirable and deeply appreciated.”
Pompeo’s approach to Iran dovetails with both President Trump’s and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s. After being tapped as CIA director in November 2016, Pompeo tweeted, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” adding that the deal is “empowering an Iranian regime that is intent on destroying America.”
President Trump, who has threatened to withdraw from the JCPOA unless its “disastrous” flaws—notably, the deal’s “sunset clauses” which remove restrictions on Iran’s atomic activities in just over a decade’s time—reiterated after firing Tillerson that the men did not see eye-to-eye on the matter.
“When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible,” Trump said, adding that Tillerson thought “it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same.”
The move came a week after Prime Minister Netanyahu met with President Trump at the White House, with the bulk of their talks having focusing on Iran.
“Iran, Iran and Iran was the main topic of the meeting. In another 60 days the president has to make an important decision regarding the nuclear agreement. I think that he shows great interest in my assessments,” Netanyahu affirmed following their meeting.
Navon explained to The Media Line that a big question for Pompeo will be devising a post-JCPOA strategic plan.
“Is it just going to collapse or will the Russians, Europeans and Chinese keep it at least partially,” he questioned, before noting that America’s withdrawal from the pact would put the military option back on the table.
“It would definitely be less of a rhetorical declaration,” Navon concluded, “and I think firing Tillerson maybe also indicates that.”