Conflict on horizon over Obama's choice to take over at the Pentagon

The former Republican senator Chuck Hagel is a rebel not afraid to take on Israel’s supporters

Washington DC

US President Barack Obama is set to nominate the outspoken former Republican senator Chuck Hagel as America's next Defence Secretary, setting up a fierce confirmation battle likely to focus on US relations with Israel and the looming showdown over Iran's nuclear programme. According to Democratic aides on Capitol Hill – where the confirmation hearings will be held by the Senate's Armed Services Committee – Mr Obama could announce Mr Hagel as his choice to succeed the departing Leon Panetta at the Pentagon as early as tomorrow. The potential selection of the 66-year-old, who won two Purple Hearts as an infantry squad leader in Vietnam, has been hailed by many as a rare moment of bipartisanship in today's polarised Washington. And so it would be – but mainly in the sense that many Democrats and Republicans alike object to aspects of Mr Hagel's record during his two Senate terms representing Nebraska, between 1997 and 2009.

For civil rights groups, he has come under fire for calling former US ambassador to Luxembourg, James Hormel, an "openly aggressive gay." Though that could be damaging in the majority-Democratic Senate, Mr Hagel has strenuously apologised for the remark, which he made back in 1998.

Potentially more perilous is the rebellious streak that led him to criticise the power of what he called "the Jewish lobby" in Washington, when knee-jerk support for Israel is virtually obligatory on Capitol Hill. And many of his erstwhile Senate colleagues still resent how, after initially voting to authorise the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he turned into a fierce critic of a war launched by a Republican president, and then advocated that instead of piling more sanctions on Iran, the US should instead sit down and talk with the regime.

Those objections were only too evident on today's talk shows. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, told ABC's This Week that his fellow Republican should get a "fair" confirmation hearing if picked, but notably failed to repeat previous praise for Mr Hagel.

"He ought to be given a fair hearing like any other nominee, and he will be," Mr McConnell said. But, he added, "I'm going to wait and see how the hearings go and whether Chuck's views square with the job he would be nominated to do."

South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, a prominent Republican on the Armed Services Committee, was even more scathing, describing the likely nomination as an "in-your-face" gesture by Mr Obama.

Mr Hagel was "out of the mainstream on most issues of foreign policy," Mr Graham said CNN's State of the Union. "I don't think he'll get many Republican votes," he added.

Even so, barring a filibuster or other procedural move to block a vote, Mr Hagel would probably win confirmation. He has long been admired by the President – and even accompanied then candidate-Obama on a visit to Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan in the summer of 2008. He is also strongly backed by stalwarts of the foreign policy establishment, including former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft.

President Obama may also announce a successor this week to General David Petraeus, who was forced to resign as CIA director in early November after revelation of an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The leading candidates for the job are John Brennan, top counter-terrorism adviser at the White House, and the Agency's current acting chief, Michael Morell.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition