Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Inside Washington: Acts and scenes

Rexit – sooner, or later?

Talking about the possibilities of a Rexit – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s leaving the administration – is becoming more than ever the main and the loud talk of this capital city. The talk itself shows the uncertainty dominating the diplomacy scene (working and dealing with the rest of the world) and reflects the chaos frequently mentioned by many observers, congressmen and Washington political insiders. Tillerson’s attempt last Wednesday, October 4, to explain to the media his past comments simply added more doubts about the continuity of his active presence and his effective role in America’s diplomacy. As many observers noticed, what he said was simply that he did not intend to resign, and he emphasised his loyalty to the president. But what about being fired by the boss?

Bashing or trashing Washington (Trump’s favourite sport), Tillerson said, “While I’m new to Washington, I have learned that there are some who try to sow dissension to advance their own agenda by tearing others apart in an effort to undermine President Trump’s own agenda. I do not and I will not operate that way, and the same applies to everyone on my team here at the State Department.” When he was asked if he had called the President “a moron,” Tillerson said: “I’m just – I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that. I mean, this is what I don’t understand about Washington. Again, I’m not from this place, but the places I come from, we don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense.” On that same Wednesday, Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters: “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary [of Defence] Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos, and I support them very much.” Corker expressed sympathy for Tillerson, who he said is in an “incredibly frustrating place.” Corker added that Tillerson “ends up not being supported in the way I would hope a secretary of state would be supported.” In Friday’s White House press briefing, Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “I think that the president is the one that’s keeping the world from chaos.” Sunday morning President Trump showed his anger towards Senator Corker, saying on Twitter that Corker had decided not to run for re-election next year because he “didn’t have the guts,” and that he had “begged” Trump to endorse him for re-election, but “I said ‘NO’.” Trump also said that Mr Corker had asked to be secretary of state. “I said ‘NO THANKS’,” Trump wrote. Corker fired back on Twitter: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center,” and added, “someone obviously missed their shift this morning.” 

This week’s New Yorker magazine has a lengthy article entitled “Rex Tillerson at the Breaking Point,” written by Dexter Filkins. In it we read: “At the moment, forty-eight ambassadorships are vacant. Twenty-one of the twenty-three assistant secretary positions, the most senior stations in diplomatic service, are either vacant or occupied by provisional employees, because Congress has not confirmed appointees to fill them.” “Unlike his predecessors, he (Tillerson) has not given a major foreign-policy address in which he has outlined a world view.” And “a senior European diplomat... told me that the overwhelming perception of American foreign policy among European governments was chaos.”


General Allen, president of Brookings

Retired Marine Corps General John Allen is the next president of The Brookings Institution. The four-star general will replace Strobe Talbott, who has been this think tank’s president for 15 years and will step down on November 6. General Allen served as special presidential envoy to the global coalition to counter ISIS, and prior to that as the senior adviser to the secretary of defence on Middle East security, during which he led the security dialogue with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. From July 2011 to February 2013, Allen commanded NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and United States Forces in Afghanistan.  He joined Brookings in 2013. He was one of the 120 retired generals and admirals who last February urged Congress not to slash funding for diplomacy and foreign aid as was proposed by the administration.

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