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Was Rex Tillerson fired for trying to prevent a Middle Eastern war?

Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Intercept is reporting that they’ve received new evidence that the March 2018 firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was done at the behest of the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who resented the diplomats attempts to thwart their planned invasion of Qatar.

The news site claims they have “learned of a previously unreported episode that stoked the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s anger at Tillerson and that may have played a key role in his removal. In the summer of 2017, several months before the Gulf allies started pushing for his ouster, Tillerson intervened to stop a secret Saudi-led, UAE-backed plan to invade and essentially conquer Qatar, according to one current member of the U.S. intelligence community and two former State Department officials, all of whom declined to be named, citing the sensitivity of the matter.”

This reporting is based on unnamed sources, so has to be treated with caution. But it fits the known public facts that President Donald Trump has been unusually close to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and that Tillerson did in fact try to dampen down tensions between those countries and Qatar.

On June 6, 2017, Trump tweeted:

These tweets indicate a policy preference at odds with Tillerson’s efforts to mediate between Qatar and its neighbors. As such, they lend credence to The Intercept’s new reporting.