Various media outlets have confirmed that President Obama will nominate former Republican Senator from Nebraska Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense, possibly as early as today. Republicans are expected to fiercely oppose the nomination, partly, some have suggested, as payback because Hagel abandoned the GOP on Iraq. The president is also expected to nominate a permanent replacement for David Petraeus as CIA director. Two leading candidates for the post are White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan and acting CIA Director Michael Morell.
In other news:
- The New York Times reports: Sounding defiant, confident and, to critics, out of touch with his people’s grievances, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria used his first public address in six months to justify his harsh crackdown, rally his supporters to fight against his opponents and inform on them — and leave in tatters recent efforts toward a political resolution to the country’s bloody civil war.
- Afghan President Hamid Karzai will travel to Washington this week with plans to ask for more control over incoming U.S. aid and a full handover of the Parwan military prison.
- The Washington Post reports: New U.S. sanctions have broadened the front in the West’s escalating economic conflict with Iran, targeting large swaths of the country’s industrial infrastructure even as Iranian leaders are indicating a willingness to resume negotiations on the country’s nuclear program.
- The Army is looking to push more minorities into its officer corps “in the wake of a 2011 report and other studies in recent years that found there were fewer black and Hispanic officers than in the civilian world. A Pentagon plan for 2012 to 2017 calls diversity ‘a strategic imperative, critical to mission readiness and accomplishment, and a leadership requirement.’”