When it was announced that President Donald Trump had fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, there was immediate speculation as to the cause.
It was no secret that Trump and Tillerson disagreed on several major issues, most notably “climate change” and the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, Trump’s “America First” economic vision versus the transnational and multi-lateral agreements favored by Tillerson, the best diplomatic path to address the North Korean threat, and perhaps most importantly, the Iran nuclear deal forged under former President Barack Obama’s administration.
According to Conservative Review, it was the last issue that may have been the final straw, and specifically the fact that Tillerson’s State Department appeared to have vetted and approved the publication of articles by a department employee that were harshly critical of Trump’s position on the matter.
Recall that on Oct. 13, 2017, Trump announced that he was pressing forward with a new strategy in regard to Iran, one starkly different from that of his predecessor that would most likely result in the decertification and ultimate end of the Iran nuclear deal.
Just days after that announcement came an article in Foreign Affairs that was co-authored by Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a State Department official held over from the Obama years who had played an integral role in the creation and implementation of the deal.
Her article, “Trump’s Dangerous Shift on Iran,” constituted an all-out assault on the president’s new policies and mounted a defense of the Iranian regime and the nuclear deal itself.
Little more than two months later, Nowrouzzadeh co-authored yet another hit piece on Trump titled “This Is Why Trump’s Strategy For Iran Will Fail,” which was published in the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Conservative Review pointed out that both of those anti-Trump articles had to undergo an department review prior to publication that looked at three specific criteria: whether it contained classified information; whether it contained information not eligible for release under the Freedom Of Information Act; and whether it was highly likely to result in adverse consequences to the efficiency or mission of the department.
An article flatly condemning the president’s preferred policies and strategies in regard to a known rival of the U.S. would seem to be in direct violation of the third criteria, as the direct challenge posed to Trump’s position could result in “serious adverse consequences” for the department tasked with carrying out Trump’s objectives.
Yet, both of those articles were somehow able to pass review and permitted to be published.
Nowrouzzadeh had been reassigned to a different part of the department once her role in the Iran nuclear deal — not to mention her relationship with a pro-Iranian regime lobbying group known as the National Iranian American Council — became public, but the official, who used to work side-by-side with former Secretary of State John Kerry, is believed to remain at the State Department, albeit in a less significant role.
That circumstance is most likely due to the protections civil service employees enjoy that make it next to impossible for them to be fired, absent significant misconduct that even then will only lead to an interminable review process that may or may not result in termination.
Nor were those articles the only instances of State Department personnel openly attacking Trump, as Conservative Review also discovered social media posts and other examples of an anti-Trump bias among employees in Tillerson’s department.
To be sure, it is unlikely that Tillerson himself signed off on the anti-Trump, pro-Iran articles — or was even aware of them prior to publication — but it was his State Department that did, and as head of that department, he was ultimately responsible.
It is also worth noting that, aside from confirming that the articles in question went through the proper review process, the State Department has declined to answer multiple inquiries as to which official signed off on those hit pieces.
We can’t say with any sort of certainty that these articles were a deciding factor in Trump’s decision to cut Tillerson loose, but they certainly couldn’t have helped matters for the now-former secretary.
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