White House Fires Top National Security Aide on Mideast, Iran

SPUTNIK–Derek Harvey, a top adviser to President Donald Trump on the Middle East and Iran, has been fired by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, according to media reports on Thursday.

Harvey’s dismissal was related to tensions with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over how to deal with Iran, as opposed to “internecine staff fighting,” the Weekly Standard reported.

“Mattis, in particular, had disagreements with Harvey and that he raised the issue with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster,” the report stated, based on two sources. “McMaster met with Harvey this morning to deliver the news.”

Harvey was a strong, behind-the-scenes advocate of Trump’s decision to strike Syria in response to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons and he was driving a more aggressive approach to Iran, according to the report.

On April 4, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces supported by the United States blamed the Syrian government for an alleged chemical weapon attack in Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s Idlib province. Reacting to the incident, Washington, which had not presented any proof of the chemical weapons use by Damascus, launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian governmental military airfield in Ash Sha’irat on April 6.

Damascus has repeatedly denied any involvement in the incident and said that the Syrian government doesn’t possess chemical weapons as the full destruction of Damascus’ chemical weapons stockpile had been confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in January 2016.

“The administration is working with Colonel Harvey to identify positions in which his background and expertise can be best utilized,” National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton told the Weekly Standard.

Harvey was willing to accept another policy or intelligence position in the administration, the report noted.

Tillerson has a growing number of differences with the White House, including a new debate over US policy toward Iran, the CNN broadcaster reported on Monday. Although the former Exxon-Mobil CEO was determined to stay in his post through the end of the year, two sources told the broadcaster over the weekend that they would not be surprised if he left sooner than that.

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