US President Donald Trump’s advisers and allies have called on him to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, according to a new report.
Trump is said to have a good rapport with Pompeo, and is considered a member of the president’s inner circle, Axios reported on Friday.
However, White House chief of staff John Kelly has reportedly advised the president against high-level shake-ups before next year, fearing that it would create more chaos in the administration.
Tensions between Tillerson and Trump have been simmering for months, sometimes visibly as the two have publicly diverged on some of the administration's most crucial foreign policy challenges, including Iran and North Korea.
Tillerson has said that Iran is in "technical compliance" with the 2015 nuclear agreement.
The remarks by the top US diplomat are in sharp contrast with Trump's assessment that the nuclear agreement is an "embarrassment" to the United States.
Trump on Thursday accused Iran of not acting in keeping with the international nuclear deal, 10 days before the US president has to report to Congress whether or not Tehran is complying with the accord. "They have not lived up to the spirit of the agreement," Trump said.
According to reports, Tillerson has been working on a plan to keep the United States in a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran despite vociferous rhetoric against the agreement by Trump.
Trump has desperately sought a pretext to scrap or weaken the nuclear pact, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and get rid of the limits it imposes on the US ability to pursue more hostile policies against Iran.
The Republican president faces an October 15 deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with the deal. If he argues that Iran is not in compliance, that could cause an American withdrawal from the international pact.
Trump and Tillerson have also often contradicted each other on North Korea.
Tillerson has said Washington has maintained direct channels of communications with North Korea even, but Trump has repeatedly threatened the Asian country with military strikes.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Tillerson sought to dispel an NBC News report that senior White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, had to talk him out of resigning in July.
"The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving," Tillerson said.
But he did not deny that he used the word “moron” to describe the Republican president during the July 20 meeting at the Pentagon with members of his national security team and Cabinet members.
A State Department spokeswoman later denied that Tillerson had used the language, and claimed he never considered quitting.