Posted 5 years ago on Feb. 7, 2013, 5:42 p.m. EST by chuckuschumer
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Senate sources believe that one reason Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel has not submitted requested financial disclosures is that one of his funders is called "Friends of Hamas."
While the White House refused to confirm or deny the report, there are certainly friends of Hamas among Hagel's supporters, including former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri.
Hariri (above left, with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal), whose father Rafik Hariri was assassinated (likely by the Hezbollah terror group) in 2005, inherited his family fortune and emerged as a Sunni Muslim leader in Lebanon's fractured ethnic-religious mosaic. He served as prime minister from late 2009 until early 2011, when Hezbollah's political wing withdrew from his government amid controversy over its involvement in his father's death. He now lives outside Lebanon in self-imposed exile.
The Hariri family has supported the Atlantic Council, a think tank Hagel chairs, and provided the funding for the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, which was launched in 2011 with Vice President Joe Biden in attendance. The Hariri Center's stated purpose is to "promote innovative policies to advance economic and political liberalization, sustainable conflict resolution, and greater regional and international integration."
Hariri is thought to be connected to Syrian opposition groups, even though as prime minister he attempted to improve relations with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. He is well-regarded by Western supporters--a fact that his local opponents sometimes use against him. Accusations--likely false, and probably planted by opponents--have even circulated that he is working with the Israel Defense Force to train anti-Hezbollah soldiers in Jordan.
Yet even the liberal-minded Hariri has expressed open hostility towards Israel, and has been at pains to show his support for Hamas, the predominantly Sunni Palestinian terror group that controls the Gaza Strip. In late December, Hariri sent a representative to a large celebration in Beirut of the 25th anniversary of Hamas. He has also maintained contact with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza, even while abroad in Saudi Arabia.
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have expressed concern about Hagel's funding from the Hariri family, among other foreign donors, according to a report Wednesday by Buzzfeed's Zeke Miller. Miller's source apparently did not specify why Hariri funding was of concern, though Saad Hariri's alleged ties to the Syrian opposition and connections to Hamas could create conflicts of interest for Hagel at the Department of Defense.
Hagel's failure to provide relevant documentation about his funding, as well as additional information about past speeches, provoked a stern letter from Republicans on Wednesday, led by committee member Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Committee chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) postponed a vote on Hagel, but said Thursday that he would move to schedule a vote "as soon as we're ready to have a vote," indicating his impatience with Republican opposition.