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El Pais, Spain

Obama Gives the CIA and
Pentagon a New Direction

By David Alandete

Translated By Eugenia Lucchelli

7 January 2013

Edited by Rachel Smith

Spain - El Pais - Original Article (Spanish)

On Monday United States President Barack Obama introduced the two men chosen to be the heads of the Pentagon and the CIA in his new term. Obama transcended party lines with a Republican and an independent leading his security team -- if they manage to get the approval of the Senate. Some Republicans in the Senate have already expressed their opposition to the candidacy of their fellow party member Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. This opposition is due to some polemical statements he made about Washington's alliance with Israel and his harsh criticism of what the Bush administration did during the Iraq War.

Obama appeared this Monday in the White House together with former Senator Hagel, who is proposed to lead the Pentagon. With them was John Brennan, who has been a main adviser in anti-terrorist matters, and to whom Obama has entrusted the leadership of the CIA. "These two leaders have dedicated their lives to protecting our country," said the president. "I’m confident they will do an outstanding job. I urge the Senate to confirm them as soon as possible so we can keep our nation secure and the American people safe." In December, Obama was forced to give up on his first choice, Susan Rice, because of potentially insurmountable Republican opposition.

In a short speech, Brennan said he hoped for greater cooperation between the CIA and the legislature. "I also look forward to working with Congress,” he said, "as our national security rests on the ability of the executive and legislative branches of our government to work as a team. While the intelligence profession oftentimes demands secrecy, it is critically important that there be a full and open discourse on intelligence matters with the appropriate elected representatives of the American people.” Brennan referred implicitly to several secret anti-terrorism programs that the CIA hid from the Capitol under the Bush administration.

Hagel, on the other hand, said that from the head of the Pentagon he would work to "strengthen our country's alliances, and advance global freedom, decency, and humanity as we help build a better world for all mankind." It was a clear message, going beyond partisan barriers, criticizing the development of the Iraq War and the Bush administration and sending the message that now is the time to end the war in Afghanistan and to apply hard austerity cuts within the Army.

Because of his criticism of Bush, among other reasons, Hagel's own party members and former Senate colleagues predict a difficult ratification. Many reproach him for saying in 2008 that "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” This quote appeared in a book published by the diplomat and expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict Aaron David Miller. "I have always argued against some of the dumb things they do, because I don’t think it’s in the interest of Israel. I just don’t think it’s smart for Israel,” he added that he is "not an Israeli senator. I'm a United States senator.”

The announcement that Hagel would be nominated to lead the Pentagon caused wrathful demonstrations by Senate Republicans. As South Carolina legislator Lindsey Graham said on the television network CNN on Sunday, “He’s firmly in the mainstream of expert opinion, from Israel to the Pentagon," and is “very antagonistic toward the state of Israel.” The leader of the Republican minority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said on the television network NBC that Hagel would face serious questions.

The fact that Brennan is an independent and Hagel is affiliated with the Republican Party means that they are consensual candidates. Obama has decidedly bet on them, after having been obliged to give up on his first choice for head of the State Department, Susan Rice. Currently an ambassador for the U.N. Rice suffered an opposition campaign by the Republicans, because five days after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans died, she said publicly that the attack had sprung from a spontaneous demonstration against a video that made fun of Muhammad.

The Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for preventing that attack from being defined as a terrorist attack, made possible by faults in the consulate's security. In the face of Republican opposition, the president was forced to give in and chose as Rice's replacement the former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who was the 2004 presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. Republicans have predicted an easy nomination for Kerry, given his vast experience in issues related to foreign policy.

If he is ratified, Brennan will replace Michael Morell as head of the CIA. Since Nov. 9 Morell has substituted for retired General David Petraeus, who resigned after he admitted to having an affair with his biographer. Hagel will take over from Leon Panetta, who led the CIA between 2009 and 2011 and the Pentagon up to today.



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