U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that he will nominate retired four-star U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin as his secretary of defense.

If confirmed, Austin, 67, would be the first African-American to lead the Pentagon.

He previously served as head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the mission of the U.S. military in the Middle East, though Israel is part of the U.S. European Command.

Austin will need a congressional waiver to serve as Pentagon chief, in accordance with the National Security Act of 1947, which requires retired military personnel to wait seven years from leaving the military to become secretary of defense (he retired in 2016). George Marshall and James Mattis are the only ones to have received this waiver, getting it in 1950 and 2017, respectively.

As Central Command chief in 2016, Austin said that Tehran had not changed its behavior since the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which America would withdraw from in May 2018.

“There are a number of things that lead me to personally believe that, you know, their behavior is not—they haven’t changed any course yet,” he told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee at the time.

He also told the committee, “What I would say is that what we and the people in the region are concerned about is that they already have overmatch with the numbers of ballistic missiles. The people in the region, they remained concerned about [Iran’s] cyber capabilities, their ability to mine the straits. And certainly the activity of their Quds forces … we see malign activity, not only throughout the region but around the globe as well.”

Democratic Majority for Israel applauded the announcement.

“Retired Army General Lloyd Austin is a great choice to lead the Department of Defense,” DMFI president and CEO Mark Mellman told JNS. “We celebrate the historic nature of his selection as the first black man to become secretary of defense.”

Mellman said “he brings a deep understanding of the Middle East from his extensive service there including leading the fight against ISIS. He understands the military from the soldiers’ point of view, having led the initiative to increase awareness and improve treatment options for the ‘invisible wounds of war,’ like post-traumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injury.”


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