Joint Chiefs nominee offers support for Abraham Accords, commitment to countering Iran

Gen. Charles Q. Brown, who has extensive experience in the Middle East, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday

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U.S. Air Force General Charles Brown testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on July 11, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Gen. Charles Q. Brown, the nominee to be the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he would continue to support the Abraham Accords and efforts to counter Iran.

Brown, previously the Air Force chief of staff, is set to be the top military advisor to President Joe Biden and was the first Black chief of any military branch. He has spent significant time focused on the Middle East, including as the leader and deputy leader of the U.S. Air Force under Central Command.

“I do see… greater cooperation between the nations in the Middle East. It’s something that we will have to continue to help support,” Brown said. “Part of that is ensuring that, as we do this, we’re also providing the capabilities to be able to support efforts to push back against Iranian aggression in all its forms…. We’ve got to continue to work hard with our partners in the region and give them the capabilities. And also working with them as well, because we’ve got to be part of the solution as… the United States and our military force.”

Brown added that growing shared concerns among Middle East partners about Iran “provides us an opportunity to work more closely together in our collective efforts to deter the activities by Iran.” 

In written responses to the committee, Brown said he would “prioritize cooperation” with partners in the region “that results in their increased ability to deter and defend against Iranian aggression.” He called such partnerships crucial to the U.S.’ regional power, and noted that relying on such partners will be critical as the American foreign policy focus remains on China.

“Our partners understand that in order to maintain their preferred strategic relationships, they will need to shoulder more responsibility for regional security,” Brown continued. “For the military, this is best achieved by building partner security forces through U.S. defense item sales and with training.”

He called Iran “the U.S.’ most formidable conventional and unconventional threat in the region,” and said that, while Iran is likely unable to “defeat a modern advanced military… they could impose significant cost” in a direct conflict.

Brown specifically mentioned Juniper Oak, a major recent military exercise between Israel and the U.S. as an example of necessary cooperative efforts. He also called for streamlining foreign military sales.

During the hearing, Brown sidestepped a question about a potential deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

“The thing I do think about is the role of how all parts of our government play in our overall deterrence,” he said. “It’s not just what the military does, it’s what we do in the diplomatic space, what we do in the information space, what we do economically, I think all those things work closely together.”

He was similarly reluctant, in his written answers, to expound upon possibilities for diplomatic off-ramps with Iran.

“The Joint Force is postured to support military options for the President if tension causes an escalation with Iran, however, I defer to Secretary [of State Tony] Blinken and the Department of State for any realistic diplomatic off-ramps,” he said.

A host of military promotions and confirmations are currently being delayed by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) over a dispute about the Pentagon’s abortion policy, although Senate leadership could bring Brown’s nomination up for a floor vote individually to bypass Tuberville’s obstruction.

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