US Senate confirms Colin Kahl, a shaper of Iran deal, to senior defense post

Republicans and right-wing pro-Israel community strongly objected to the nomination

Colin Kahl, delivers a speech during a panel discussion as part of the US-Islamic World Forum in the Qatari capital Doha on June 1, 2015. (AFP via Getty Images)

Colin Kahl, delivers a speech during a panel discussion as part of the US-Islamic World Forum in the Qatari capital Doha on June 1, 2015. (AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Senate confirmed Colin Kahl to be undersecretary of defense for policy, a Biden nomination that survived a fierce challenge from the pro-Israel right, which targeted Kahl for his role in shaping the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Kahl was confirmed 49-45 in Tuesday’s vote along party lines.

Republicans, spurred by the right-wing pro-Israel community, targeted Kahl principally for his role when he was national security adviser to then-Vice President Joe Biden in shaping the Iran deal, which traded sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program.

Biden, now president, wanted Kahl back in government as the administration seeks to reenter the agreement. Former president Donald Trump left the deal in 2018, agreeing with conservatives who said it did not do enough to contain Iran.

Since the US pullout, Iran has accelerated its nuclear program, and Biden thinks the deal’s framework is the best means of keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Then Vice President Joe Biden, center, flanked by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, left, and National Security Adviser to the Vice President Colin Kahl, at the Blair House in Washington, February 24, 2016. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Christians United for Israel launched a six-figure ad buy in West Virginia targeting Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who sometimes votes with Republicans.

It didn’t work, as Manchin said he was on board with Kahl. Three Israeli generals who worked with Kahl when he was with the Obama administration effectively endorsed him, as did a cadre of Democrats who are close to the pro-Israel community.

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