Top contender for the next US secretary of defense and former senator Chuck Hagel
All signs indicate that US President Barack Obama is poised to nominate anti-Israel ex-Senator Chuck Hagel as the next defense secretary soon, informed sources say.
Sources at Capitol Hill and in the National Security Community said Obama will make the announcement early next week.
Although the White House insists that no final decision has been made on Hagel, a source close to the situation said the White House has informed Hagel's camp that he is Obama's top choice for the post and the likely nomination will be announced on Monday or Tuesday.
In recent days, Hagel's top advisers have received “messages of reassurance” amid the critics’ campaign to derail his nomination, the source said.
Hagel’s nomination is expected to spark a row in the Senate. Many pro-Israeli groups and neo-conservatives have spouted diatribe against Hagel over his criticism of Washington’s anti-Iran policies and Israel’s sway over the US political arena.
The top nominee for the post of defense secretary was the first Republican senator to publicly criticize the war in Iraq, calling it the worst foreign policy blunder since the Vietnam War, and he has consistently opposed any plan to launch military strike against Iran.
While Hagel was considering a presidential bid in 2007, he was criticized by the National Jewish Democratic Council which said the senator “has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.”
In 2009, Hagel signed a statement calling on Obama to encourage a unity government between the two major Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.
Pundits believe the appointment of Hagel could spark tensions between Washington and Tel Aviv, but they predict no considerable trouble in his confirmation process in the Congress as he enjoys bipartisan support.