Army Secretary Mark Esper won’t have much time to train up as President Donald Trump’s newest acting Pentagon chief. The U.S. Army veteran and defense industry lobbyist, who a defense official confirmed Friday is “highly likely” to get the nod for the permanent job, takes control of the U.S. Defense Department at a critical moment, as tensions in the Middle East escalate to new heights over Iran’s downing of a U.S. military drone this week.
It’s not yet known what Esper’s views are on Iran, or what advice he gave the president during the furious internal debate leading up to Trump’s last-minute decision to abort an imminent U.S. military attack in response to the shootdown. What is clear is that the voices on Trump’s national security team urging caution prevailed on Thursday night over the hawks gunning for a strike.
Although the U.S. and Iranian governments moved to ease tensions on Friday, the question of how to deal with a troublesome Tehran is not going away soon. But experts and former and current officials say Esper’s close ties to the heavyweights on the president’s national security team will likely help him navigate the cutthroat politics of a volatile administration facing crises on multiple fronts.
Read the full article and more in Foreign Policy.