President Barack Obama is expected to nominate Chuck Hagel as the next defense secretary, though the choice of Hagel is viewed as a potentially controversial pick for his second-term national security team, The Associated Press reported Monday, Jan. 7.
Even before word of Hagel’s possible nomination, the former Republican senator from Neb. faced tough criticism from congressional Republicans who claim Hagel is anti-Israel and soft on Iran.
Chuck Hagel, 66, has been called a “moderate Republican,” who has criticized discussions of a military strike by either the United States or Israel against Iran. In addition, Nagel has “irritated” some Israel supporters with his references to the “Jewish lobby” in the United States. Nagel has also backed efforts to bring Iran to the table for future peace talks with Afghanistan.
Once Hagel emerged President Obama likely choice for defense secretary, GOP lawmakers began questioning Chuck Hagel’s willingness to take a hard line with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
White House officials say that Chuck Hagel’s positions on Israel and Iran have been “misrepresented,” citing his Senate votes for billions in military assistance to Israel and his support of multilateral sanctions on Tehran.
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor, believes that Hagel will be “completely in line with the president” on both issues.
“The president has a record of unprecedented security cooperation with Israel and that’s going to continue no matter who the defense secretary is,” Rhodes said.
Hagel has also been criticized by some Democrats for saying in 1998 that a nominee for an ambassador post was “openly, aggressively gay.” Chuck Hagel has since apologized for those comments.
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