Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, who has this month started to find his feet as the US’s foreign minister, has finally acted to assert his authority over Nikki Haley, the US’s out of control UN ambassador.
It has become increasingly clear over the last few weeks that Nikki Haley, who is a politician with Presidential ambitions not a diplomat, has been abusing her position as the US’s UN ambassador to grandstand in preparation for what I am sure is an intended Presidential bid.
I have previously discussed Nikki Haley’s behaviour and the exaggerated role she has been allowed to carve out for herself
That doubtless also explains the increasingly undisciplined behaviour of Nikki Haley. Not only is she being allowed to wander around the television studios unchecked, firing off comments which she has clearly not coordinated either with the White House or the State Department, but she is gaining a level of prominence which is completely out of proportion to her supposed role as the US’s UN ambassador. At the moment, instead of being obviously subordinate to Tillerson and McMaster, she appears to be their equal.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that Haley, who is a politician not a diplomat, and who was previously governor of South Carolina and was apparently seriously considered by Mitt Romney for his Vice-Presidential running mate, is running what is in effect an election campaign, with her sights ultimately on the White House. Thus the publicity stunts, like the waving of photos of dead children during a UN Security Council session, which annoyed the veteran diplomats present, but which was clearly aimed at the US television audience.
One result of Haley’s undisciplined behaviour is that the administration either finds itself pulled along by her comments, with the result that Haley is in effect making policy for the White House, or officials like McMaster have to find some way of reconciling what she says with the administration’s actual policies, which may be completely different. A perfect example of this was McMaster elaborate explanation during his Fox News interview explaining why despite the obvious differences between the things Haley and Tillerson are saying, on the subject of regime change in Syria they are actually saying the same thing.
WALLACE: The Trump administration seems to be sending mixed signals this weekend. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says that getting rid of Assad is a priority. On the other hand, Secretary of State Tillerson says that first, we have to get rid of ISIS, destroy ISIS, Assad can wait.
So, which is it? How does the president see this playing out in Syria?
MCMASTER: Well, both Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley are right about this. What we really need to do, and what everyone who’s involved in this conflict needs to do is to do everything they can to resolve this civil war, to halt this humanitarian catastrophe, this political catastrophe, not only in Syria, but the catastrophe is affecting the greater Middle East, it’s affecting Europe and it’s a threat to the American people as well.
And so, to do that, what’s required is some kind of a political solution to that very complex problem. And what Ambassador Haley pointed out is it’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime.
Tillerson has now clearly signalled that he has had enough, and his officials have apparently informed Haley, who is technically Tillerson’s subordinate, that she should clear her comments on contentious issues in future with the State Department before she makes them.
This has been confirmed in this article in The New York Times, which reads in part as follows:
The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, has often been the first, most outspoken member of the Trump administration to weigh in on key foreign policy issues, on everything from military strikes on Syria to sanctions against Russia and how to approach human rights.
Much of that has come as a surprise to the State Department, and the Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson, has often been far from the limelight.
Now, in an apparent attempt to foster greater coherence in American foreign policy, State Department officials are urging her aides to ensure her public remarks are cleared by Washington first.
An email drafted by State Department diplomats urged Ms. Haley’s office to rely on “building blocks” written by the department to prepare her remarks.
Her comments should be “re-cleared with Washington if they are substantively different from the building blocks, or if they are on a high-profile issue such as Syria, Iran, Israel-Palestine, or the D.P.R.K.,” added the email, the text of which was seen by The Times. D.P.R.K. refers to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea.
In a further sign that Haley is being brought to heel, Tillerson has signalled that he will personally attend and lead the US delegation at the UN Security Council session at which the North Korean issue will be discussed.
There is a widespread tendency to treat Nikki Haley as a reincarnation of her predecessor, Barack Obama’s UN ambassador Samantha Power. As someone who has given himself the tedious task of following and comparing the comments of both, I have to say that I disagree.
Samantha Power is in my opinion an ideological fanatic who sincerely believes that the US has a ‘duty’ to intervene all over the world as part of some great liberal crusade to spread ‘democracy’ (as she defines it) everywhere. Nikki Haley by contrast comes across to me as simply a politician on the make.
Regardless of that, Tillerson – one presumes with the President’s agreement – is finally acting to bring to bring Nikki Haley to heel. Not before time I might add.