Media reported that there was a plan in effect where Tillerson would be replaced by current CIA director Mike Pompeo, who would then be replaced at the intelligence agency by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), who has been a vocal critic of the Iranian regime, especially the nuclear agreement.
Some say that this launched a campaign of fear mongering as a PR tactic, that pushed the narrative that Trump administration’s primary focus is to somehow foment a war with Iran, although no administration official has never even hinted at such an outcome, let alone advocated it.
An editorial authored by Trita Parsi and Ryan Costello of the NIAC on its website ran a provocative headline: “Cotton, Pompeo and Trump are a Recipe for War with Iran.” In it, Parsi and Costello write, “What of the man that Pompeo would replace, Rex Tillerson? It is indisputable that Tillerson has been a disaster on many fronts, in particular, his campaign to gut the State Department which will do untold damage to American diplomacy for years to come. Yet, on the Iran nuclear deal, Tillerson has actually allied with Secretary of Defense James Mattis to urge Trump against ripping up the deal. The loss of Tillerson, combined with Cotton’s elevation, would mean that Pompeo and Cotton could face little resistance in their campaign to unravel a nuclear accord that is working and downplay the likely alternative ― war.”
Following implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, the bloody civil war in Syria escalated, and another sectarian uprising in Yemen now threatens to bring Saudi Arabia into direct conflict with Iran.
French president Emmanuel Macron has criticized the missile expansion program, and Bahram Qassemi, regime foreign ministry spokesman, denounced his comments. He said, “French official, other officials, who want to speak about Iran’s affairs need to pay attention to the deep developments that have come to pass in the region in past decades and the big changes between the current situation and the past,” according to state media. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will definitely not negotiate on defense and missile issues,” he added.
Tension increased last month between Iran and France when Macron said that Iran should be less aggressive in the region and should clarify its ballistic missile program. His foreign minister also denounced, during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s “hegemonic temptations.” France’s criticisms echo those made by the US.
At the 2017 Reagan National Defense Forum in California this weekend Pompeo and national security adviser HR McMaster spoke at length about Iranian expansion in “weak states” in the Middle East. Pompeo confirmed that he recently sent a letter to Maj. Gen Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s foreign operations arm or Quds Force.“I sent a note. I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten US interests in Iraq,” Pompeo said.
“He refused to open the letter. It didn’t break my heart to be honest with you. What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold he and Iran accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control. We wanted to make sure he and the leadership in Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear.”
Pompeo’s effort to reach out to Soleimani displays that the Trump administration is attempting to rein in Iranian expansionism, not start a war.