First Published: 2013-01-31

 

Nominee for US defense secretary ready to attack Iran

 

Hagel says Iran should face ‘severe and growing consequences’ if it continues to flout international community.

 

Middle East Online

Like all defense secretaries before him

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee for defense secretary says the "window is closing" on Iran and the possibility of diplomacy if it continues to ignore international demands to end pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

Chuck Hagel made the comments in a 112-page questionnaire for the Senate

Armed Services Committee. The panel submitted the extensive questions to Hagel in advance of his confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Hagel said Iran needs to show that it is prepared to negotiate seriously. Iran insists that it is not seeking nuclear arms and its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes.

Hagel said Iran should face "severe and growing consequences" if it continues to flout the international community.

The Vietnam War veteran will face a tough grilling Thursday from Republicans who have painted him as hostile toward Israel and ready to appease Iran.

When Hagel appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing, Republican critics are expected to hammer him over his blunt comments in years past and to paint him as naive when it comes to national security.

"Too often, it seems, he is willing to subscribe to a world view that is predicated on appeasing our adversaries while shunning our friends," Senator Jim Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in a recent commentary in The Washington Post.

But despite the harsh criticism and a conservative media blitz against Hagel, the White House is optimistic that the Senate will approve his nomination in the end, albeit with little support from the Republican minority.

Prominent Republicans view Hagel, a former senator, as a traitor to their party for breaking with ex-president George W. Bush over the Iraq war, which he reluctantly supported before becoming disillusioned.

A fellow Vietnam veteran, Senator John McCain, is expected to take Hagel to task over his opposition to the troop surge in Iraq, which Hagel at the time referred to as "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

Hagel's off-the-cuff references to the "Jewish lobby" and that he was "not an Israeli senator," along with some of his stances while in Congress, have provided ammunition to some pro-Israel lobbyists and politicians who say he cannot be trusted to back the close US ally.

To soothe those concerns, Hagel has promised to stand by Israel and held a flurry of meetings with lawmakers, including Democrat Chuck Schumer, seen as an influential Jewish senator who had expressed ambivalence about Hagel's nomination.

After their meeting, Schumer came away satisfied, saying Hagel had cleared up questions related to past positions and had vowed to do "whatever it takes" to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

In written answers to senators before the hearing, Hagel echoed the same theme and made no reference to the skepticism he has sometimes expressed about a military confrontation with Iran.

"I agree with the president that the United States should take no options off the table in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," he wrote to the committee.

"If confirmed, I will focus intently on ensuring that the US military is in fact prepared for any contingency."

A decorated Vietnam War veteran who was wounded in the conflict, the 66-year-old Hagel is known for a fiercely independent streak and caution about resorting to military action.

Inhofe and other Republicans say Hagel appears ready to gut military spending, citing his comment that the Pentagon's budget was "bloated."

In his responses to the committee, however, Hagel said he shared the outgoing defense secretary's view that looming budget cuts -- including automatic reductions due to kick in if Congress fails to break a stalemate -- would be disastrous and "hollow" out the armed forces.

Hagel's nomination has sparked an unprecedented advertising campaign by conservative activists, who began airing ads not long after Obama announced his choice for the Pentagon.

Though the ad campaign likely will fail to derail the nomination, the attacks serve as a warning to Hagel should he revert to some of his past positions.

Bankrolled by anonymous donors, the advertisements urge Democratic senators in several states to vote against Hagel's nomination, alleging he would make the United States "a weaker country."

Asked in the committee's questionnaire what qualified him to be defense secretary, Hagel cited his harrowing time in the jungles of Vietnam.

"I served a twelve-month tour which included the Tet Offensive in 1968... I understand what it is like to be a soldier in war.

"I also understand what happens when there is poor morale and discipline among the troops and a lack of clear objectives, intelligence and command and control from Washington."

He said his experience would help him to "ensure that we are cautious and certain when contemplating the use of force."

 

UN Security Council lenient to Turkey’s Syria offensive

Washington probes Hezbollah ‘narcoterrorism’

Morocco's king appoints five new ministers

Pence pledges US embassy move by end of 2019 on Jerusalem trip

Iranian woman skydiver looks to break down stereotypes

Turkey arrests dozens accused of ‘terror propaganda’

Russia calls for diplomatic solution to Yemen conflict

Russia invites Kurds to join Syria peace process

Turkey shells Kurdish targets in northern Syria

Closer look at pro-Ankara rebels amassing around Afrin

Pence set for Palestinian snub

Abbas to ask EU to recognise Palestinian state

Saudi-led coalition to give $1.5 bln in Yemen aid

Mattis: Turkey gave US advance warning on Syria operation

Yemen releases budget for first time in three years

Saudi calls for cooperation between OPEC, non-OPEC countries

France presses Turkey to end offensive against Kurds

The changing faces of al-Qaeda in Syria

Kurdish militia fire rockets at Turkish town

Moroccans wary depreciation of dirham could raise cost of living, despite benefits

Deserted streets, terrified civilians after Turkey attacks Afrin

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict

Saudi's refined oil exports offset crude curbs

US to overtake Saudi as world’s second crude oil producer

Turkey's EU minister rejects any option other than full membership

Sudan clamps down on journalists covering bread protests

Tribal feuds spread fear in Iraq's Basra

Turkey says not reassured by US comments on border force

UN chief wants to revive Syria gas attack probe

US has no intention to build border force in Syria

Lebanese intelligence service may be spying using smartphones worldwide

Egypt's Sisi sacks intelligence chief

Trump dashes Netanyahu’s hope to move US embassy to Jerusalem