by Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe
Amb. Chas Freeman withdrew from consideration for a top intelligence post in the Obama administration on Tuesday, following a vitriolic battle that pitted Republican lawmakers and pro-Israel hardliners opposed to his appointment against liberals and members of the intelligence and diplomatic communities who had come to his defense.
Freeman’s withdrawal came as a surprise to many in Washington, particularly since it came only hours after Adm. Dennis Blair, the administration’s director of national intelligence (DNI) who made the appointment, issued a strong defense of Freeman during his testimony before the U.S. Senate.
His withdrawal is likely to be viewed as a significant victory for hardliners within the so-called “Israel lobby,” who led the movement to scuttle his appointment, and a blow to hopes for a new approach to Israel-Palestine issues under the Obama administration.A brief notice posted late Tuesday on the DNI Web site stated that “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.”
The DNI did not provide any further reason for Freeman’s withdrawal.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, a critic of Freeman who privately conveyed his concerns to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel last week, released a statement taking credit for the withdrawal, according to Greg Sargent of the Plum Line blog.