Obama names Hagel, Brannen for top posts

Obama names Hagel, Brannen for top posts

Obama names Hagel, Brannen for top posts

US President Obama (L) decides to name Chuck Hagel (R) as his new defense minister, while also nominating John Brennan (below) as new CIA chief. REUTERS photo

U.S. President Barack Obama was set to nominate late yesterday Chuck Hagel as his new defense secretary and acting director Michael Morell and counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan as next director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Obama has decided he wants the 66-year-old former Republican senator to succeed Leon Panetta at the Pentagon and was set to make his announcement late yesterday, an administration source said.
Along with secretary of state nominee Sen. John Kerry, Hagel and Brennan would play key roles implementing and shaping Obama’s national security priorities. All three must be confirmed by the Senate.

Hagel served in the Senate with Obama and the two grew close during congressional trips overseas. Hagel is a decorated Vietnam veteran and would be the first from that war to lead the Pentagon. Hagel has angered many in Washington by remarks made in a 2006 interview, in which he spoke about the power of the Israeli lobby in the U.S. capital.

“The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” Hagel said, “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.” Republican senator, John Cornyn of Texas, said he would oppose the nomination, charging it would be the “worst possible message we could send to our friend Israel and the rest of our allies in the Middle East.”

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said Hagel would be “completely in line with the president” on the key issues of Israel and Iran.

Afghanistan, Iran and Syria on agenda

If confirmed by the Senate as Pentagon chief, Hagel would have to manage major cuts to military spending while wrapping up the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and preparing for worst-case scenarios in Iran or Syria.

Hagel is likely to support a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Obama is also expected to announce Brennan to replace David Petraeus at the CIA, CNN said.

Before becoming a top adviser to Obama during the 2008 campaign, Brennan spent more than two decades at the CIA as an analyst and served as the agency’s station chief in Saudi Arabia, also developing fluency in Arabic.

Brennan withdrew from consideration for the spy agency’s top job in 2008 amid questions about his connection to criticized interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration. Brennan denied involvement in the controversial interrogation tactics, including waterboarding.

During the Bush era, he served as deputy executive director of the CIA and later as director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “Brennan has the full trust and confidence of the President,” the White House said in talking points supporting his nomination provided to POLITICO.

“He has seen the President every day, and been by his side for some of his toughest decisions - including the decision to launch the [Osama] bin Laden raid,” it said.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.