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Veterans in Congress Speak Out Against Biden Defense Pick Colin Kahl

‘The only policy shop he’s qualified to run is in Tehran’

Colin Kahl
Colin Kahl / Getty Images
• March 19, 2021 1:50 pm

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Military veterans serving on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees are urging their colleagues in the Senate to oppose President Joe Biden's Pentagon nominee Colin Kahl, telling the Washington Free Beacon that Kahl is a pro-Iran "ideologue" and that "the only policy shop he's qualified to run is in Tehran."

The congressmen are speaking out as Kahl's nomination for undersecretary of defense for policy has stalled with the Senate Armed Services Committee—Democratic senator Joe Manchin (W.Va.) remains undecided on the pick. Republican senators have already come out strongly against Kahl, citing his Twitter rants against the GOP and pro-Israel hawks, as well as his support for anti-Israel policies and the Iran nuclear deal. Vocal opposition from war veterans in Congress is likely to get the attention of key senators as Kahl's nomination comes closer to a vote.

Kahl is "an ideologue who has personally attacked several Republican politicians," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a Navy Reserve lieutenant and member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon this week.

"The last thing the Pentagon needs is another hyper-partisan," said Banks. "And Kahl has repeatedly drawn moral equivalencies between Iran, the number one state sponsor of terror, and our allies. The Pentagon is there to protect all Americans, and its leadership should reflect the values and beliefs of all Americans. Colin Kahl is way out of step."

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R., Texas), a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral who served as a White House physician for Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, noted Kahl's involvement in crafting the Iran nuclear deal and said it would be "irresponsible to confirm a chief architect of this defective deal to run what is supposed to be a nonpartisan policy shop at the Department of Defense."

"Colin Kahl famously said that Iran would use our taxpayer money to buy ‘butter, not guns,' when in fact Iran used our money to buy missiles and bombs and to support terrorist proxies and militias like Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda," said Jackson. "The only policy shop he's qualified to run is in Tehran."

House Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), a retired Army National Guard colonel, called Kahl "a dangerous pick for our national security."

"On Iran, he opposed bipartisan bills proposing sanctions for the past decade, and he opposed the bipartisan designation of the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps], a group with American blood on their hands, as a terrorist organization," said Wilson, who also pointed out Kahl's opposition to the airstrike that killed IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani.

"We must not forget about the hundreds of American soldiers that were killed by the IRGC and their militias in Iraq by IEDs. Their families continue to suffer," Wilson said. "There are a number of capable, competent, and mainstream Democrats in foreign policy, but Colin Kahl is not one of them."

Rep. Greg Steube (R., Fla.), an Army veteran who also sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Kahl has "a grave misunderstanding of Iran's capabilities and consistent endorsement of terrorism" and called the nomination "unacceptable."

"As some of my colleagues in the House have also experienced firsthand through their service in the military and in deployments to the Middle East, the threat from Iran is very real and very serious," said Steube. "Putting someone with this perspective in such an important role jeopardizes our national security, insults our allies in Israel, and strengthens our adversaries."

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) said he opposes Kahl because his nomination signals the Biden administration's plans to continue the Obama-era policy on Iran.

"[President Obama's] policy made America unsafe and was a radical departure from the policy of every one of Obama's predecessors since Jimmy Carter," said Gallagher, a retired Marine officer. "I feel it is my responsibility to oppose nominations of officials in the Biden administration whose intention is to normalize the abnormality that was Obama's policy."

Rep. Michael Waltz (R., Fla.), a combat-decorated veteran who also worked in the Pentagon's policy-making department, said Kahl's efforts to secure sanctions relief for Iran as part of the original nuclear agreement endangered American forces operating in the region.

Iran is "inflicting direct casualties on us with cash that we unleashed, and weapons that they're buying from our adversaries, the Chinese and Russians," said Waltz, who says he saw firsthand how Iranian weapons and missiles threaten U.S. forces in the region—weapons that Tehran could not have purchased without the cash windfalls the former Obama administration granted it.