US President Barack Obama may backtrack from nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as the next Pentagon chief, as the outspoken critic of Israel is besieged by opposition from right and left.
Washington’s National Journal
magazine said in a report on Sunday that Hagel was apparently following the Path of Susan Rice, who was expected to replace Hilary Clinton in Obama’s second term, but was not nominated for the Secretary of State post due to widespread criticism.
The report quoted an unnamed senior US official as saying that the White House was considering other candidates for defense secretary, such as Michele Flournoy, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy during Obama’s first term, and Ashton Carter, the current deputy defense secretary.
It came after The Politico news organization said in a report earlier this month that the White House Counsel's office has reportedly completed Hagel’s vetting process after Obama discussed the position with Hagel, the former Republican Nebraska Senator, on December 4.
Hagel, however, came under fire for his scathing criticism of the Israeli regime and his opposition to the US-led sanctions against Iran over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.
The report also said that the US administration’s backtracking came after a series of remarks made by US officials on Sunday morning.
Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman told CNN’s State of the Union talk show that it would be “a very tough confirmation process.” Former Republican Senator Lidsey Graham told NBC’s Meet the Press that Hagel’s would be “a challenging nomination.”
“I don’t think he’s going to get many Republican votes,” Graham added.
Some American Jewish leaders criticized the possible nomination of Hagel, who left the Senate in 2008, when he opposed Israel’s interest, voted against sanctions on Iran, and even made blunt comments about the influence of the "Jewish lobby" in Washington.
“I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator,” Hagel said in an interview in 2008.
The 66-year-old was the first Republican senator to publicly criticize the war in Iraq, calling it the worst foreign policy blunder since the Vietnam War, and has consistently opposed any plan to launch military strike against Iran.