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President’s Nomination of Hagel May Encourage Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

January 7, 2013 2:00 pm 7 comments

Former senator Chuck Hagel in Iraq. Photo: Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq.

President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense risks increasing the likelihood that Iran will develop nuclear weapons.  It poses that risk because Hagel is well known for his opposition both to sanctions against Iran and to employing the military option if necessary.

These views are inconsistent with the very different views expressed by President Obama.  The President has emphasized on numerous occasions that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons and will use military force if necessary to prevent that “game changer.”

The nomination of Hagel thus sends a mixed message to the mullahs in Tehran, who will likely interpret it as a change from a red light to a yellow or green one when it comes to their desire to develop nuclear weapons.  Sending a mixed message at this point can increase the chances that Iran will miscalculate and act in a foolheartedly manner thus requiring the actual use of the military option—an eventuality that nobody wants.

The goal of America’s policy toward Iran has always been to frighten the mullahs into believing President Obama’s threat to use military force if sanctions fail.  “I don’t bluff”, President Obama has famously and publicly stated.  It is imperative that the Iranian leadership believe this.  If they do, they may well decide that the sanctions they are currently undergoing are too painful to endure, if the end result is that they will never be permitted to develop nuclear weapons.  If they don’t believe President Obama’s threat, then the sanctions alone will not dissuade them from pursuing their nuclear goal.  The nomination of Senator Hagel will strengthen the hand of those within the Iranian leadership who think that President Obama is bluffing.

It is also important that the Israeli leadership believes that President Obama really has Israel’s back when it comes to preventing Iran from endangering the Jewish state by obtaining nuclear weapons.  Any loss of trust with this regard may result in an Israeli decision to take unilateral military action to protect its citizens against nuclear attacks.

This is the wrong time to send mixed messages by nominating a man who has, at best, a mixed record with regard to sanctions and the military option against Iran and with regard to having Israel’s back.

Senator Hagel will have an opportunity to clarify, and hopefully to change, his previous statements with regard to these issues.  He should be asked probing questions about sanctions, about the military option and about Israel’s security.  In his answers he must persuade the Iranian leadership that there is no distance between his current views and those of the President who has nominated him.  The President must also persuade the Iranian leadership that his nomination of Hagel does not constitute any backing down from his commitment to use military force, if sanctions don’t work.

Independence may be a virtue for a Senator, but it is a vice when it presents conflicting messages at a time when it is imperative that the Iranian leadership understand that the Obama Administration, indeed the United States as a whole, speaks with one voice when it says that Iran will never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, even if that requires the use of military force if all other options fail.

Normally a president, especially a president reelected to a second term with a substantial majority, should be entitled to pick his own Secretary of Defense.  But when the President’s decision risks sending a mixed message that could increase the chances of having to employ the military option against Iran, the Senate has an especially important role to play.  The burden is now on Senator Hagel to persuade the Senate, the American people, and they leaders of Iran that he is fully supportive of the President’s commitment not to contain a nuclear armed Iran, but to prevent such a catastrophe from occurring, even if that requires the use of military force to achieve that commendable goal.

Nor is this a liberal-conservative or democratic-republican issue.  Reportedly, the Hagel nomination has been very controversial within the White House itself, with some of President Obama’s closest advisers being critical of it.  Many Democrats, both elected officials and rank and file voters, are deeply concerned about the wisdom of the President’s nomination of Senator Hagel.  Neither is this an issue that concerns only Jewish or pro-Israel voters.  There are serious policy issues at stake here.  Those of us who voted for President Obama and who want to be certain that Iran is never allowed to develop nuclear weapons, as the President promised, have legitimate concerns about this nomination.  We hope that these concerns can be allayed by the President and his nominee, but if they are not, it will be the highest of patriotic duties to oppose Senator Hagel’s nomination.


  • I guess we will need to rely more than ever on God.

  • Herb Grossman

    Dershowitz and Koch should hide their heads in shame for endorsing a man for President who made very plain his hatred for Israel and who will undoubtedly do all he can to harm it during his second term.

  • John Galt, Jr

    But towing the Neo-Bolshevik line, like a nice Jewish sheep, he endorsed B Hussein con gusto! Beware what you wish for.

  • To the not so brilliant Dershowitz, and the senile Ed Koch, you got what you voted for.

    Every appointment this Hate America president has made, is the antipathy of what is good for America, and certainly to hell with Israel.

    When there are no future elections in America, we will have the Koch & Dershowitz ilk to thank!


  • gregg solomon

    Absolutely agree on every point. And I’m even more fearful it’s an indication of where our President’s real views are on the world and the US.

  • Obama knows EXACTLY what he is case you don’t understand: He is aiding and abeting the “islamic revolution” aka arab spring aka jihad
    Obama nominated for CIA Director John Brennan, who redacted the word jihad, islam, and any reference to muslims in military manuals and called the Ft Hood Massacre “a case of workplace violence”

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    Since I do not take President Obama, who did not win a mandate in consequence of his re-election for President, at his word regarding Israel, I certainly do not take his nominee for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at his word. In this case, the prospective Secretary of Defense would probably act as his mentor: monkey see, monkey do. Here is the response to an appointment of former Senator Chuck Hagel to the position of United States secretary of Defense: .

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