Last week, Laura Rozen reported (and Politico today confirmed) that President Obama has appointed Middle East Policy Council President Chas W. Freeman to become chairman of the National Intelligence Council — which is responsible for producing national intelligence estimates.
Freeman — a former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia who once served as President Nixon’s chief translator in China in 1972 — not only opposed the Iraq war, but has demonstrated a commitment to a well-rounded understanding of key U.S. national security issues and the importance of an even-handed U.S. role in the Israel-Palestine dispute:
“We abandoned the role of Middle East peacemaker to back Israel’s efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations. We wring our hands while sitting on them as the Jewish state continues to seize ever more Arab land for its colonists. This has convinced most Palestinians that Israel cannot be appeased and is persuading increasing numbers of them that a two-state solution is infeasible.”
— Frank Gaffney: “This is a really serious error. …[Freeman] has compromised the objectivity that one would want in the person whose job it is to oversee the production of National Intelligence Estimates.”
— Steve Rosen: “This is a profoundly disturbing appointment. …Freeman is a strident critic of Israel… His views of the region are what you would expect in the Saudi foreign ministry.”
Gaffney and Rosen echo the right’s discomfort at George Mitchell’s appointment as President Obama’s Israeli-Palestinian envoy. The Wonk Room’s Matt Duss notes, “One of the reasons conservative pro-Israel zealots have been displeased” with Mitchell is because he “has in the past shown that, not only does he recognize how provocative and harmful the [Jewish] settlements [in the West Bank] are, he’s actually been willing to say so in public.”
But some have called Obama’s move an “amazing appointment.” Center for American Progress Action Fund Senior Fellow Larry Korb said Freeman “is one of the most well-rounded, knowledgeable and fiercely independent people I’ve ever dealt with in or out of government” and that “it’s completely unfair” to question his objectivity. “He’s going to tell it like it is and he doesn’t have any bias. This is a man who interpreted for Richard Nixon in China. I can’t think of a better background,” Korb said.