Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair announced today that Ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. has requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed. Director Blair accepted Ambassador Freeman’s decision with regret.
And see this on the lobby against Freeman:
The assault on Charles “Chas” Freeman Jr., a former ambassador tapped to lead the National Intelligence Council, is the first blow in a battle over the Obama administration’s Middle East policy. Steven Rosen, a former director of the American Israel Political Affairs Committee due to stand trial this April for espionage for Israel, is the leader of the campaign against Freeman’s appointment. In his wake, a host of critics from the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg to the New Republic’s Marty Peretz have emerged to assail Freeman’s comments on Israeli policies and demand that Obama rescind the diplomat’s appointment. The campaign against Freeman spread to Congress, where a handful of representatives including the top recipient of AIPAC donations, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), called for an investigation of Freeman’s business ties to China and Saudi Arabia.
Personally, I have mixed views about Freeman but the “case” against him has been hysterical and hypocritical. The whole story reminds me of something that Paul Pillar, a 30-year CIA veteran who between 2000 and 2005 coordinated intelligence on the Middle East, told me in March of 2008:
The Israeli-Palestinian issue is going to be difficult for the next president as well. Israel needs to be pushed to make concessions, and that’s a topic that we can’t seem to be able to discuss rationally in this country. Perhaps the only real chance that the topic can be approached is if the next president has a successful first term and is re-elected in 2012, and if the economy is strong. Maybe then he or she will decide to make the huge effort required to address the situation–it would require that level of favorable circumstance.