With the Iran Nuclear Deal on the Table, Tillerson and Haley Find Themselves at Odds

Iranian demonstrators burn representations of the U.S. and Israeli flags during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran, Iran, to protest the execution of Saudi Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent opposition Shiite cleric, seen in posters, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Saudi Arabia announced the execution of al-Nimr on Saturday along with 46 others. The execution drew condemnation from Shiites across the region. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Nikki Haley would make a better Secretary of State, anyway, if you ask me.

The Washington Free Beacon is reporting on an internal rift between Ambassador Haley and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in regards to the ill-advised Iran deal.


The Reader’s Digest version is that Tillerson loves the deal and wants to keep it, as is. Haley, on the other hand, balks at the notion of Tillerson’s support, and feels he’s working directly against President Trump’s agenda.

The division is one of several that Tillerson has sparked within the administration, particularly in the West Wing, where the secretary of state has been described as in “open war” with Trump on a series of major foreign policy issues, including Iran and the Israel-Palestinian impasse.

“The tension between Rex and Nikki is the worst kept secret in the State Department,” according to one veteran foreign policy hand who has been in close contact with the State Department on the issue.

Haley “thinks that [Tillerson is] trying to undermine the president and preserve Obama’s Iran legacy, which is true,” explained the source, who would only discuss the sensitive matter on background. “He thinks she’s running her own foreign policy and auditioning for his job, which is also true.”

You can count me as Team Nikki, here.

They’ve managed to keep the tensions under wraps, for most part, not willing to let the world see anything but absolute unity, at least on the surface.


Both Tillerson and Haley attended a meeting together on Wednesday with world leaders, to discuss the future of the Iran deal.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

There have been some more public clashes, but those were shut down quickly, in order to protect that veneer of teamwork.

“It will keep happening as long as the secretary keeps working to force Trump to certify while the ambassador keeps working to promote what Trump says he wants,” the source said.

Opponents of the bill are looking to Haley, who they see as an ally.

“Tillerson is buying what the Europeans are selling and he’s really pushing the president to recertify,” said the source, who also requested anonymity to discuss internal conversations. “The Republicans on Capitol Hill don’t want this to fall into their lap so they’re backing Tillerson for now. Haley is doing what she can to fight for what’s right, but it might not matter if [Secretary of Defense] Mattis backs up Tillerson.”

“President Trump’s going to be totally humiliated by the Iranians if he falls for something this stupid,” the source said.

So does Mattis back Tillerson?


Remains to be seen.

“Haley clearly understands that the status quo is unsustainable,” said one senior congressional official involved in the matter. “She recognizes that the nuclear deal has been a complete disaster for the United States and our allies.”

“Meanwhile, Tillerson continues to pursue his own agenda at State with little regard for the president’s priorities,” the official said. “It’s good to see Haley stand firm as the voice of reason, and urge Tillerson and other Iran sympathizers to end their rogue behavior.”

One thing is for sure: Europe can’t be trusted to stand up to Iran, and they don’t like the idea that the U.S. might not recertify.

Foreign policy strategist, Richard Goldberg, was an architect of the sanctions against Iran, as a senior congressional adviser. He’s advising against recertifying and against trusting Europe to get tough with Iran in extreme situations.

“The president would be foolish to recertify Iran on Europe’s empty promise of “fixing” the deal,” said Goldberg, the author of a recent memo outlining for the Trump administration how it can remove the U.S. from the nuclear deal. “Unless European leaders credibly believe President Trump might reimpose sanctions at any moment, they will say nice things in meetings and do absolutely nothing to ‘fix’ a fundamentally bad deal they already accepted.”


Tough talk, but I believe him.

Goldberg goes on to suggest Trump’s best move would be to deem Iran as in violation of the agreement and to apply new sanctions.

“The president has no other option than to decertify and hold the re-imposition of sanctions over both Europe and Iran as a financial Sword of Damocles until we see behavioral change by the regime,” he said.

That sounds like a plan, but first, the internal issues with the administration need to be addressed, meaning, get Rex Tillerson on board with everybody else.


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