Nikki Haley trumps Rex Tillerson as voice of US foreign policy
Washington: In the US standoffs with North Korea and Iran, it is her striking phrases that dominate the headlines and the airwaves.
Nikki Haley, US ambassador to UN, has become the voice of American foreign policy, all but eclipsing her discreet secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. The 45-year-old former governor of South Carolina has risen quickly in American conservative politics, despite being the daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants. And many here can now imagine her going further, perhaps replacing Tillerson, perhaps one day going as far as the White House itself.
Tillerson, the media-shy 65-year-old former boss of oil giant ExxonMobil, has given no indication that he plans to quit President Donald Trump’s administration any time soon. But events of recent days have shown up the stark differences in style between the secretary and his younger cabinet colleague, triggering eager gossip in the corridors of power.
At the weekend North Korea detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date, as dictator Kim Jong-Un’s defied Washington’s calls for him to enter disarmament talks. On Sunday, Trump met with his top national security officials and afterwards defense secretary Jim Mattis warned that any attack from Pyongyang would meet a “massive military response.”
Tillerson, however, was spending the holiday weekend in his native Texas and only joined the conference by videolink. He did not speak publicly on this major diplomatic challenge. On Monday, Haley took to the floor of the UN security council to demand tougher sanctions and, as is often the case, she found the words that made it into world headlines.
Kim’s missile tests and nuclear threats show, she said, that the isolated young autocrat “is begging for war.” By Tuesday, Tillerson was back in Washington but still keeping his customary low profile. The State Department held no press briefing that day, but Haley was in the capital for the day anyway. At the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, she took charge of another thorny diplomatic dossier, laying out a case for declaring Iran in breach of the 2015 nuclear deal.