Mike Pompeo confirmed as Secretary of State in victory for hardliners

Jeremy B White
The current CIA director’s first tasks will be the North Korea summit and Iran agreement: AP

The Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo to be America’s next secretary of state, rounding out a markedly more hawkish national security team for Donald Trump.

Currently the CIA director, Mr Pompeo has been one of the president’s closest allies and shares Mr Trump’s aggressive stance towards Iran, echoing the president’s calls to shred a nuclear deal negotiated under Barack Obama.

In a statement praising Mr Pompeo's confirmation, Mr Trump said America's new head diplomat “has my trust”.

“He will always put the interests of America first”, the president said, using a phrase that has been a cornerstone of his foreign policy.

Mr Pompeo will join recently appointed national security adviser John Bolton, who has advocated military strikes on Iran and North Korea, in prominently shaping the Trump administration’s foreign policy

Some Democrats objected to Mr Pompeo’s nomination, questioning his willingness to challenge the president and worrying that he would push Mr Trump towards military interventions.

While those concerns were nearly enough to deny Mr Pompeo a recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – the panel narrowly backed him on a party line vote – his nomination cleared the full Senate on a comparatively easy 57-42 vote.

The president tabbed Mr Pompeo to replace former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who Mr Trump fired in March following months of escalating tension

The confirmation of Mr Pompeo comes at a critical time, with an unprecedented meeting between the US president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un potentially months away. In his capacity as head of the CIA, Mr Pompeo travelled to North Korea to lay the groundwork for the high-stakes summit.

While Mr Trump has heralded the opportunity for a deal to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, both Mr Bolton and Mr Pompeo have evinced scepticism about the sincerity of North Korea’s motives.

In addition to helping prepare the North Korea summit, Mr Pompeo will help the White House navigate a crucial and fast-approaching deadline for the Iran nuclear deal.

Mr Trump must decide by mid-May whether to continue lifting sanctions on Iran, as dictated by the pact. Both the president and Mr Pompeo have heaped disdain on the agreement, and Mr Trump said in January that he was agreeing to waive some sanctions “only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal”.

“This is a last chance. In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal”, Mr Trump said at the time.

During a visit to Washington this week, French president Emmanuel Macron worked to persuade Donald Trump to preserve the deal. But Mr Macron conceded he faced slim odds of succeeding.

“My view – I don’t know what your president will decide – is that he will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons,” Mr Macron told reporters.