President-elect Joe Biden's choice of career diplomat William Burns to be the next CIA director is drawing praise from veterans of the spy agency, who say the CIA will benefit from his deep foreign policy experience and his long relationship with Biden.
Burns worked as an ambassador to the United States' old Cold War adversary from 2005 to 2008 and led secret talks that paved the way to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, under former Democratic President Barack Obama.
Burns, who served Republican and Democratic presidents, had little patience for President Trump.
Burns, who is now president of the global affairs think tank Carnegie Endowment for worldwide Peace, will also help the Biden administration decide where it can cooperate with China and where to confront the rising Asian power.
Biden said in a statement Monday that Burns shares his "profound belief that intelligence must be apolitical". He left the government as the US and other countries were working toward an agreement to restrict Iran's nuclear program.
Senior Democrats who will control the Senate once the Biden administration begins on Jan 20 gave strong endorsements of Burns.
"I've never seen an attack on diplomacy as damaging, to both the State Department as an institution and our global influence, as the one now underway", he wrote.
"In my experience, what animates American foreign policy at our best has been a sense of enlightened self-interest - in other words, the view that our self-interest as a country, which we always are going to put first, is best served by making common cause".
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns makes remarks at the start of the Ecopartnership event of the U.S.
But support for Haspel, from the intelligence community as well as the White House, appeared to wane over time. "I served with them in hard places around the world".
This left Haspel and other national security officials in a hard, if not impossible position.
"If Donald Trump had been reelected for a second four years as president, then American democracy would have gone straight into the intensive care unit", Burns told an online conference last month. Several were in the No. 2 positions at their agencies during that period and are now being elevated to leadership roles after being out of government during Trump's tenure.
Trump elevated the CIA director post back up to a Cabinet-level position, and both Haspel and National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe sit in his Cabinet.
Burns was said to have been a candidate to be Biden's secretary of state.
"This is a great pick", said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency operations officer who worked in the Middle East and against Russian Federation.
Biden, who promised to pick a team of tested officials ready on day one, is unlikely to have a full complement of permanent national security officials when he takes office.