(Washington, D.C.) -- Aside from the Vice President, no member of the Cabinet has a closer working relationship with President Trump than Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
That's a good thing, especially given the high stakes of American diplomacy right now. Mr. Trump came to office with no military or foreign policy experience, and having said a number of unsettling things during the 2016 campaign.
Pompeo is a strong conservative and a devout Evangelical Christian. He graduated from West Point. Served as an officer in the U.S. Army. Was deployed in Europe during the end of the Cold War. Came back to Kansas. Built a company. Ran for Congress. Served on the House Intelligence Committee. Was tapped to be Trump's first Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Served there with distinction before becoming Trump's second -- and far more effective -- Secretary of State.
When he explores Pompeo's faith, the reporter -- Mattathias Schwartz -- weaves me into the story. He notes that Pompeo and I met when he was in Congress. That we've stayed in touch over the years That we've met together from time to time, most recently in Egypt. And that he has read my novels for years.
All of that is true. Indeed, I was more than happy to give the Secretary an advance copy of my forthcoming political thriller,The Persian Gamble, during one of our last meetings.
But the implication in the article is that the basis of our friendship is End Times theology. That stunned me when I read the final version of the story because it's not true.
Pompeo and I have talked about a lot of interesting and important subjects over the years, including our shared Evangelical faith. But not once have we ever talked about eschatology. I would never shy away with discussing my views with him, or anyone else for that matter. But he's never raised the topic. Nor have I. We've had plenty of other things to focus on.
When I met Schwartz in Egypt, we sat near each other at the American University in Cairo where Pompeo was delivering a major policy address. Then we rode together in Pompeo's motorcade to the massive new "Nativity of the Christ Cathedral," and then to the brand new mosque. Schwartz asked me a number of questions about my views of Pompeo and some questions about myself and my background. Yet he never asked me about whether Pompeo and I had ever discussed eschatology or shared the same views.
Here's what has actually impressed my about Pompeo over the years:
Pompeo understands the nature and threat of evil. Too many in Washington do not. Yet as I have often said, "to misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it." Pompeo is unlikely to be blindsided. He came of age during when the Soviet Union -- the Evil Empire -- was at its zenith. He thus understands the serious threat posed by tyrants like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. He also sees Radical Islamism -- not Islam as a religion, but Radical Islamism as a terrorist ideology -- as a force for evil that absolutely must be pro-actively confronted, contained, and dismantled.
Pompeo is a man of action -- not content with simply analyzing a problem, he wants to figure out how to solve that problem and then pursue his strategy relentlessly. That's why it was so important that he leave the CIA, whose director is not supposed to be involved in making policy. He's much better suited to being Secretary of State, where he can help the President and VP shaped bold, decisive American answers to the world's most dangerous and intractable problems.
Trump, Pence and Pompeo have forged an impressive alliance in completely reversing the direction of the disastrous Obama-Biden-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy. Together, they have scrapped the fatally flawed Iran nuclear deal and are building a global alliance to neutralize the Iran threat. They are pressing North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and sign a peace treaty with South Korea. They are working to strengthen NATO and contain the aggressiveness of Czar Putin. And they're trying to forge a new era of peace and strategic alliances between Israel and her Sunni Arab neighbors. I pray they are successful on every front. This not easy work. The threats are real and the stakes are high. But they're moving in the right direction, and I can't think of anyone better to be running the State Department at a time like this than Mike Pompeo.
I'd recommend you read the magazine profile in full.
I'd also encourage you to take 29 minutes and listen to an interview Mattathias Schwartz did with National Public Radio in which he discusses how he approached researching and writing the profile, what his views of Pompeo are, and how he views Pompeo's faith.
You likely won't agree with it all. I didn't. But Pompeo is a power player. There haven't been many serious, detailed profiles about him. And it's worth understanding him better, and keeping him (and his lovely wife, Susan) in your prayers.
Trump’s Secretary of State Affirms Strong Support for Israel
Incoming US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently voiced strong support for Israel in his new role. That was something of a relief. Tillerson was previously CEO of Exxon Mobil, and had for years done business with some of Israel’s Middle East foes.However, at his Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson made no qualms about labeling Israel “our most [...]
Incoming US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday voiced strong support for Israel in his new role.
That was something of a relief. Tillerson was previously CEO of Exxon Mobil, and had for years done business with some of Israel’s Middle East foes.
But at his Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson made no qualms about labeling Israel “our most important strategic partner in the region.”
He even took aim at outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry for being so hostile toward the Jewish state.
“The secretary’s speech, which followed that UN resolution (condemning the presence of Jews in areas claimed by the Arabs), I found quite troubling because of the attacks on Israel and in many ways undermining the government of Israel itself in terms of its own legitimacy and the talks,” said Tillerson.
When it comes to US foreign policy under Trump, Tillerson affirmed that “Israel is, has always been and remains our most important ally in the region. I think in the Trump administration, the president-elect already made it clear and, if I’m confirmed, I agree entirely and will support (Israel).”
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A large number of Israelis remain supporters of Hillary Clinton in her bid to become the next president of the USA, despite earlier revelations of her disdain for their own leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But the latest release of emails from Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State suggest it wasn’t just Netanyahu whom she held in low esteem, but the Jewish state at large.
Among the nearly 3,000 pages of emails published last week was an exchange between Clinton and former State Department Director of Policy Planning Anne Marie Slaughter in which the latter proposed a “Pledge for Palestine” campaign.
The idea, according to Slaughter, was that “a campaign among billionaires/multi-millionaires around the world would reflect a strong vote of confidence in the building of a Palestinian state… There would be a certain shaming effect [regarding] Israelis, who would be building settlements in the face of the pledge for peace.”
Slaughter got a thumbs-up from her boss. “I am very interested–pls flesh out. Thx.” read Clinton’s documented response.
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US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to an Israeli reporter in an
interview aired Thursday, February 20, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)
Raphael Ahren Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.
US Secretary of State John Kerry says his feelings toward Israel changed 10 years ago, after he found out that that he had Jewish grandparents.
“It’s a connection that’s deep. I lost a great-uncle in the Holocaust and a great-aunt. I never knew that until then. To learn that, after years of being passionate about ‘never again,’ with respect to the Holocaust, and then to understand that you are biologically and personally connected to that, is very moving,” he said in an interview aired on Thursday by Israel’s Channel 2.
“Israel itself has a special connection to me, not just because of that personal, now-known connection, but more importantly because of the amazing journey of the Jewish people,” he said in the interview, which was conducted last Tuesday at the State Department. “And now I’ve learned that, I have got a better sense of that.”
Kerry first found out about his Jewish ancestry in 2004, when he was running for president against George W. Bush. Both his father’s parents were born Jews and converted to Christianity because of anti-Semitism, and they changed their name from Cohen to Kerry when they immigrated to the United States.
Asked by the interviewer, Ilana Dayan, whether he felt that Israelis were still defined by their tragedies to the extent that those events made them hesitant to take the “leap of faith” necessary to withdraw from the West Bank and agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state, Kerry answered in the affirmative.
“But,” he added, “here is what I want to emphasize: I think my job is to try to help create a situation where the realities of the agreement are such that it’s not such a leap of faith. I don’t want this to be a leap of faith. I want this to be a leap of reason. A leap of rationality and of choice, based on a very understandable and tangible set of guaranties about security and other things.”
If that could be achieved, Kerry continued, “then we take some of the emotion away… even though it will be for some always a huge emotion, because some people have very different views about greater Judea and Samaria — I know all of that. But I also know that over 70 percent of the people of Israel believe in a two-state solution.”
The secretary of state said that he sometimes spends hours on the phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and understands him. But he was hesitant to say whether he believes Netanyahu would agree to the kind of concessions a peace agreement would require. “If we’ve answered all of the challenges of security for Israel, if he has secured the nation state of Israel as the home of the Jewish people, if he has secured recognition and secured the refugee issue — properly dissolved — I hope he will,” Kerry said.
Netanyahu’s primary concern is the security of Israeli civilians, Kerry stressed. “I have said this to [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas: The primary issue for any Israeli is to know that if they make an agreement, they are safer and stronger because of the agreement than they were before they made it. And that goes contrary to past experience in pulling out of Lebanon and pulling out of Gaza.”
Kerry hinted that settlers might not have to relocate under the terms of a peace deal. Asked about the personal price that a settler might have to pay when required to leave his home as a result of an accord, Kerry replied that he was not sure this would be necessary.
“I have no argument with anyone in Israel who says that no deal is better than a bad deal. I say that myself,” he said. “I’m not in the business of trying to put together a bad deal.”
Kerry dismissed criticism of him from right-wing Israeli politicians, particularly Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who said the top US diplomat was “messianic and obsessive.”
“You know, those are judgments that other people may or may not have fun making in this process. I’m doing my job,” he said. Kerry claimed he was not insulted by Ya’alon’s remarks. “I think I am committed, and I’m determined.”
The secretary of state declined to comment on his gut reaction in January to Yedioth Ahronoth’s publication of Ya’alon’s scathing criticism, which targeted the US mediation of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“That’s not the way I operate. I’m an optimist and I am a believer in possibilities,” he said. “People who know me know that when I sink my teeth into something, if I get the bit between my teeth, I try to get it done.”
Syria is devastated by civil war. Egypt is immersed in violent turmoil by Islamist insurgents. Iran continues to work on advanced centrifuges at an alarming pace. And al-Qaida and affiliated groups continue to threaten traditional Arab regimes and Western interests throughout the area.
With the region aflame, with so many crises demanding attention, the US has made a baffling decision to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and make it the crux of its Middle East policy.
US Secretary of State Kerry has made nearly a dozen visits to the region in the past year in an unceasing effort to broker an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. He is expected to announce a framework for a peace deal in the coming weeks.
While everyone wishes for peace, many of us in Congress are troubled that the Obama administration is unduly pressuring Israel into making far-reaching concessions in peace talks with the Palestinians. These are concessions which will be detrimental to its long-term security, and which are likely to backfire.
It is our firm belief that bilateral negotiations between the two sides are the only viable path to a true peace accord. Past history has repeatedly shown that outside pressure – however well intended – is a recipe for failure.
Peace will be made from the ground up – not in the meeting rooms of five-star hotels.
Moreover, our concern over the administration’s heavy-handed tactics is only heightened by the fact that this pressure is coming under the shadow of a nuclear-armed Iran. Indeed, Iran is continuing to spin its centrifuges – and work on more advanced ones – and top Iranian officials have said they will never dismantle them.