Trump picks for CIA, secretary of state and UN envoy advance through Senate

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Top Trump administration nominees for foreign policy and security posts are advancing through the Senate.

On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a congressman known for his hard-line opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, as CIA director.

Also Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor, as ambassador to the United Nations, a Cabinet position. A day earlier, the committee advanced the nomination of Rex Tillerson, a former Exxon executive, as secretary of state.

Committee approval paves the way for their likely approval by the full Senate.

Tillerson was approved on partisan lines in part because Democrats had concerns about conflict of interest questions arising out of his role at Exxon, while Haley drew bipartisan support. Tillerson criticized the Iran deal, but stopped short of saying it should be rolled back. It remains unclear whether President Donald Trump will pull the United States out of the deal.

Haley during her hearings slammed the Obama administration for allowing through a U.N. Security Council resolution in its final days that condemned Israel’s settlements.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the committee, praised Haley for her strong support of Israel expressed during her confirmation hearings.

“I especially appreciated that she does not support efforts to slash American funding to the U.N. and that she would consistently vocalize U.S. values, including universal human rights, good governance, and press and religious freedom, while seeking to cooperate with other nations, keep our ally and friend Israel’s interests close at heart, and push the U.N. to make reforms toward greater transparency and accountability,” he said in a statement.

Cardin’s posture echoes that of the mainstream pro-Israel community, which is sharply critical of anti-Israel bias at the United Nations but values the body as a forum to influence an array of international actors. Republican senators have introduced a bill to slash U.S. funding to the U.N. until the settlements resolution is repealed.

Last week, the Senate confirmed Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary. Mattis also has criticized the Iran deal exchanging a nuclear rollback for sanctions relief, but has argued that to discard it now would be dangerous.

Also confirmed last week was Gen. John Kelly as Homeland Security secretary.

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