Chuck Hagel’s ambiguous stance on dealing with Iran-Our next Secretary of defense

Littlejoe

Well-Known Member
Chuck Hagel’s ambiguous stance on dealing with Iran


Former U.S. senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) is at the top of President Obama’s list for the next secretary of defense, according to a report by Bloomberg News. Rumors of a Hagel appointment have circulated for some time; Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin reported two weeks ago that Hagel was being vetted for State or Defense. And now comes news that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name from consideration for secretary of state, making both the State and Defense jobs a little less competitive. Any candidate for either job is likely to face scrutiny for their position on Iran, so it’s worth evaluating what Hagel’s said so far. And the picture is not totally clear.

Hagel, like Obama, has consistently emphasized diplomacy first in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. But, while Obama has long been clear that he considers military strikes a viable last resort, Hagel’s statements on the matter have been far more ambiguous. The now-retired GOP senator publicly opposed a strike on Iran during the Bush administration, but Hagel appears to have possibly changed his position since Obama came into office in 2009. Earlier this year, Hagel signed his name to a five-author Washington Post op-ed that called strikes an acceptable option. That said, I’ve been unable to find any clear statements supporting or opposing strikes since Bush left office.

November 2005, at the Council on Foreign Relations: “Any lasting solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program will also require the United States’ direct discussions with Iran. The United States is capable of engaging Iran in direct dialogue without sacrificing any of its interests or objectives.”

April 2006, while visiting Islamabad: “I would say that a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option. … I believe a political settlement will be the answer. Not a military settlement. All these issues will require a political settlement.”

August 2006, in a profile in the Lincoln Journal Star, his home state’s paper: “Some in this administration want some excuse to take military action.”

October 2007, in an alleged private letter to President Bush: “Dear Mr. President: I write to urge you to consider pursuing direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran.”

March 2012, in an interview with Al-Monitor: “There will be a lot of killing. These things start and you can’t control. They escalate. They always do and they always will. … I don’t think that we are necessarily locked into one of two options. And that’s the way it’s presented. We are great in this country and in our politics of responding to false choices; we love false choices.

September 2012, in a Washington Post op-ed co-authored with four others: “War with Iran is not inevitable, but U.S. national security would be seriously threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran. … Our position is fully consistent with the policy of presidents for more than a decade of keeping all options on the table, including the use of military force, thereby increasing pressure on Iran while working toward a political solution. Since the consequences of a military attack are so significant for U.S. interests, we seek to ensure that the spectrum of objectives, as well as potential consequences, is understood.”


It’s worth noting – as many Republicans are sure to do if Obama nominates Hagel – that he declared his opposition to a U.S. strike on Iran several times during Bush’s presidency. It’s possible that Hagel has since changed his position, perhaps due to changing facts on the ground as Iran’s nuclear development has grown and diplomatic efforts have seen setbacks. In a March interview with Al-Monitor, Hagel conspicuously avoided answering a direct question on whether he thinks the United States should bomb Iran as a last resort.

Here’s what I could find of Hagel’s previous statements on Iran and how to respond to its nuclear developments; some of them come from an earlier post by Foreign Policy’s Joshua Keating. Following are some of the key quotes.
 

Littlejoe

Well-Known Member
The Hagel Thesis | The Weekly Standard


The Hagel Thesis


Dec 24, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 15 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL

As we go to press on Friday, December 14, former Republican senator Chuck Hagel appears to be the leading candidate to become the next secretary of defense. Anti-Israel propagandists are thrilled. Stephen Walt, junior partner of the better-known Israel-hater John Mearsheimer, writes that if President Obama nominates Hagel, it will be “a smart move.” Why? Because, “unlike almost all of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill, he hasn’t been a complete doormat for the Israel lobby.” Indeed, a Hagel pick would “pay back Benjamin Netanyahu for all the ‘cooperation’ Obama received from him during the first term.” Furthermore, Walt writes approvingly, Hagel is “generally thought to be skeptical about the use of military force against Iran.”


Hagel certainly does have anti-Israel, pro-appeasement-of-Iran bona fides. While still a senator, Hagel said that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” Hagel, one of only two senators who voted in 2001 against renewing the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, also voted in 2007 against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization and opposed the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act.



Hagel also has a record of consistent hostility to Israel over the last decade. He boasted in 2008 that, unlike his peers, he wasn’t intimidated by “the Jewish lobby.” The next year, he signed a letter urging President Obama to open direct negotiations with Hamas. Later in 2009, he revisited another of his longstanding foreign policy fixations​—​his belief in the good intentions of the Assad regime​—​and told a J Street conference, “I believe there is a real possibility of a shift in Syria’s strategic thinking and policies. .  .  . Syria wants to talk​—​at the highest levels​—​and everything is on the table.”
All of this helps explain why, when Hagel was appointed to an advisory board at the beginning of Obama’s first term, Ira Forman, Obama’s 2008 campaign Jewish outreach director and former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, acknowledged, “If [Hagel] was taking a policy role, we’d have real concerns.”


Why is President Obama tempted by the prospect of nominating Hagel? Because Hagel was a Republican senator. The Obama political types think they’d get credit for bipartisanship by appointing Hagel. And they think they would avoid a confirmation fight because Hagel’s former GOP colleagues wouldn’t dare oppose him: senatorial courtesy, party solidarity, and all that.

Whether Hagel is nominated is above all a test for President Obama. Is he serious about having Israel’s back? Is he serious about preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons?
It’s a test as well for pro-Israel, anti-nuclear-Iran Democrats. Will they go along with a major policy role for a man they know shouldn’t be in one?

But a Hagel nomination is also a test for Republicans. Does senatorial clubbiness trump the good of the country? Do former party ties trump the importance of having a sensible and mainstream secretary of defense over the next four years?

The Weekly Standard salutes the Republican senators who stood up against the prospect of U.N. ambassador Susan Rice as our next secretary of state. But let’s be clear: Chuck Hagel would do far more damage at Defense than Rice would have done at State. To have blocked Rice and then roll over for Hagel would be a disgrace. It would even give some credence to the thesis that Rice fell victim to a kind of sexism and certainly to old-boy-network-ism. So, if President Obama goes ahead and advances what we might call a Hagelian thesis, Republicans have an obligation to embrace their role as Obama’s antithesis, and to block him. The synthesis we’ll end up with—a mainstream liberal at the Pentagon—will still be problematic, but will better serve the nation that the older Hegel once called “the land of the future, where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the World’s History shall reveal itself.”
 
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