WASHINGTON — Chaos at the State Department is making it harder for the Trump administration to be tough on Iran and advance religious freedom around the globe, critics claim.
Among the critics are former U.S. diplomats and current staffers within the State Department, who are eager to see Trump quickly fill many positions at the agency.
President Trump is reportedly considering a 37 percent cut in the State Department’s budget, and his chief strategist Steve Bannon has said the White House aims to accomplish the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”
The Atlantic recently reported on State Department employees bored at work, and quoted one saying, “I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything.”
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held a press conference Wednesday and presented new material about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Council’s (IRGC) growing influence. The NCRI, which advocates for regime change in Iran, said that the IRGC largely controls Iran’s economy and uses this money to support terrorist groups in the region.
The solution to this would be for the State Department to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, according to Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI’s Washington office.
Former intelligence officer Michael Pregent, former diplomat Edward Stafford, and Adam Ereli, the former U.S. ambassador to Bahrain under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, all agreed on the need to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.
President Trump and his administration has taken a hard-line view on Iran and, — according to Pregent, Stafford, and Ereli — going after the IRGC would effectively hamper Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region.
Pregent, who praised former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s stance on Iran and previously worked under Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, said that Trump should be upset that the IRGC benefits from the Iran deal — not just that the U.S. doesn’t benefit from it.
When asked about whether the State Department will designate the IRGC as an FTO, Stafford, who retired as a foreign service officer in October 2016, replied, “Quite frankly nobody has a clue what the State Department is going to do tomorrow about anything.”
Stafford said he recently met with former colleagues who are still at the State Department, and they told him, “There essentially is a movement for the deconstruction of the State Department.” He said that the Iranian office and the terrorism office at the State Department are led primarily by acting directors as senior positions remain unfilled.
Pregent said, “It’s important now that if the IRGC is designated, it happens within the next year.”
Former ambassador Ereli, who also served as a State Department spokesman under President Bush, said, “With respect to designating the IRGC you have to have a functioning bureaucracy at State.”
“Be careful what wish for,” the former ambassador said. “If you tear it down, there are things that you will not be able to do that you want to do.”
Reli added that if the State Department doesn’t get “fixed” soon, “then we and the people of Iran are screwed.”
Another area in which deconstructing State Department could harm the Trump administration is regarding its policies on religion worldwide. A current State Department official who works on religious freedom and human rights told The Daily Caller there was a reluctance to recognize Christians in the State Department under President Obama.
Obama’s State Department prioritized supporting gay rights around the world. The former president released a memo in 2011 calling for the use of all the tools of American diplomacy to promote gay rights globally.
The official told TheDC that this lead to embassies worldwide flying the gay rights flag and diplomats bringing up LGBT issues — no matter how conservative the country they were dealing with. This has caused difficult relationships with overwhelmingly conservative nations such as El Salvador, for example, the official said.
A letter signed by nearly 300 Christian ministers from the Caribbean, exclusively obtained by TheDC, and sent to President Trump in late January urged the president to move away from policies enacted under President Obama. (RELATED: Let’s Be Real: Obama ‘Barred’ Syrian Christian Refugees. Just Look At The Numbers)
“The centrality of the promotion of same-sex marriage to U.S. foreign policy was reflected in President Barack Obama’s creation of a new State Department position: ‘Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons,'” the letter stated.
Randy Berry is still serving in this special envoy position.
A State Department spokesperson told TheDC Monday: “It is within the purview of each administration and secretary of state to appoint special envoys and representatives. As is the case with non-Senate confirmed positions in the Department of State occupied by career employees, the incumbent continues to serve in his or her position through the transition or until directed otherwise.”
The official involved in religious freedom is upset that Berry is still in his role and told TheDC that the State Department has largely been without leadership as key senior State positions remain vacant.
President Trump told Fox News last week, “in many cases, I don’t want to fill those posts… They’re unnecessary.”