US: Trump Sacks Rex Tillerson as State Secretary

He has been replaced by CIA chief Mike Pompeo.

United States President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The move comes after a series of public disagreements between the two on issues ranging from Russia to North Korea.

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Tillerson will be the most senior departure from the Trump administration since he took office more than a year ago and comes amid talks of an unprecedented meeting with the leader of North Korea.

Trump tapped the CIA's deputy director, Gina Haspel, to replace Pompeo at the intelligence agency.

In July, Tillerson had reportedly called Trump a "moron" following the president's suggestion that the U.S. should increase its nuclear arsenal 10-fold. Following media reports, Tillerson refused to directly address whether he had made the comment, although a State Department spokeswoman later issued a denial. 

Reuters quoted a senior White House official who said Trump asked Tillerson to step down on Friday but did not want to make it public while he was on a trip to Africa. Trump's announcement came only a few hours after Tillerson landed in Washington after a trip that had been cut short.  

Tillerson had no diplomatic or political experience before becoming secretary of state. He appeared out of the loop last week when Trump announced he would meet with North Korea's Kim.  

@realDonaldTrump Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!

"Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!" Trump said on Twitter. 

Tillerson joined a long list of senior officials who have either resigned or been fired since Trump took office in January 2017. Others include strategist Steve Bannon, national security adviser Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, health secretary Tom Price, communications directors Hope Hicks and Anthony Scaramucci, economic adviser Gary Cohn and press secretary Sean Spicer.

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Iran to dump the US dollar in response to Trump's travel ban

Tehran plans to ditch the use of the American currency in financial reporting after US President Donald Trump issued a travel ban on seven countries, including Iran.
According to the local news agency PressTV, the Central Bank of Iran is seeking to replace the dollar with a new common foreign currency or use a basket of currencies in all official financial and foreign exchange reports.

Iranian rials © Mushtaq Muhammed

The governor Valiollah Seif said it would come into force in the new financial year starting March 21, 2017.

The agency quotes Seif recommending using currencies with a “high degree of stability.”

The decision comes after President Trump temporarily banned citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US.

After Trump’s election, the Iranian rial saw record lows against the dollar. On December 27 it plunged to its all-time low of 41,600 rials to the dollar.

The head of the central bank said the US did not have a significant role in Iranian trade and could be replaced with currencies of Iran’s key partners like the European Union, China, and the United Arab Emirates.

Tehran has agreements with Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iraq to use national currencies in the local trade.

says dump dollar

Iran gets oil revenues in US dollars, and exchanging $41 billion for other currencies has significant risk, analysts have warned.

The local business newspaper Donya-ye Eqtesad responded that Iran uses dollars only in official reporting, and the US currency has largely been replaced with other currencies.

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Hawks rising: Dozens of State Dept officials call for US strikes against Assad in Syria

Bucking current US policy, dozens of State Department officials have reportedly signed an internal document calling for military action and regime change in Syria, claiming it is the only way to defeat Islamic State and end the war.

READ MORE: ‘Extend American power’: Foreign policy establishment doubles down

The dissenting document was transmitted internally and signed by about 50 mid- to high-level department officials, according to the Associated Press. The agency said it has since been classified.

“The moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable,” the New York Times quoted the document as saying. “The status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic and terrorism-related challenges.”

The document is alleged to have expressed frustration with America’s inability to halt a civil war in Syria that has killed around half a million people and contributed to a worldwide refugee crisis. 

READ MORE: If US-led coalition really fought terrorism, Palmyra wouldn’t have fallen – Assad’s adviser to RT

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both quoted from the document on Thursday, saying they had seen or obtained copies.

A section of the document cited by the Times said that American policy has been “overwhelmed by the unrelenting violence in Syria,” while calling for a “judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed US-led diplomatic process.”

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The Wall Street Journal report said that the document repeatedly called for “targeted air strikes” against the Syrian government in light of the collapse of the ceasefire brokered earlier this year.

The memo was filed in the department’s “dissent channel,” which was created during the Vietnam War as a way for employees who had disagreements with State Department policy to register their protest with the secretary of state.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the department was reviewing the cable.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is visiting Denmark, commented that the internal memo from American diplomats is an “important statement” he will be discussing upon arrival back in Washington.

“It's an important statement and I respect the process, very, very much. I will ... have a chance to meet with people when I get back,” Kerry told Reuters in Copenhagen.

Secretary Kerry has hinted at the possibility of the US undertaking a more robust intervention in Syria more than once. While President Obama has openly called for regime change in Syria, current US policy and military funding is directed towards a campaign to defeat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

READ MORE: ‘Syrian Army’s battlefield successes speed up political settlement’ – Assad

While the US and other Western and Middle Eastern countries continue to support anti-government groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, an open intervention was prevented in 2013 in the wake of chemical attacks in Syria thanks to Russia’s diplomatic efforts and Damascus’ willingness to cooperate and destroy all of its chemical arms.

Obama has also resisted leading America into another Middle Eastern war since encountering difficulties extracting US military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, while US military commanders have expressed concern about a lack of a clear alternative to Assad who could unify the country and advance US national security interests. Moscow has repeatedly stressed that removing Assad and effectively letting Islamist groups take control would send the country into chaos.

READ MORE: No compromise with US over fate of Syria President Assad - senior Russian diplomat

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