Former US ambassador with financial links to Iran and Saudi Arabia declines intelligence post

Former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Charles W. (“Chas”) Freeman, Jr. has withdrawn his candidature for a top intelligence post in the Obama administration, US intelligence director Dennis Blair has announced, accepting Freeman’s decision “with regret.”

Freeman’s decision came after US lawmakers raised concerns about his alleged financial links to China and Saudi Arabia, and critics attacked comments he had made in the past which they saw as overly critical of Israel. A Republican politician highlighted Freeman’s ties to a think tank heavily funded by Saudi Arabia as well as his time on the board of a state-run Chinese oil giant, during which the firm made major investments in Iran.

Dennis Blair had chosen Freeman, a former ambassador to Riyadh and senior diplomat in Beijing, to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council. The post would have made him, in effect, the chief author of the National Intelligence Estimates – assessments for US presidents and other decision-makers on highly sensitive matters. The documents are designed to reflect the consensus view of all 16 US spy agencies on potential threats like Iran.

Freeman himself explained his withdrawal in an email saying that pro-Israeli lobbyists in Washington led a campaign to block him from taking office. Foreign Policy has printed the text of the email here.


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