Opinion: Why Iran Supports Chuck Hagel

January 14, 2013 12:43 am 1 comment

Chuck Hagel.

President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel was meant to send a message, and it has: That President Obama is not serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and that Tehran has an anti-Israel ally in the president’s war cabinet.

Chuck Hagel’s misguided policies on Iran and the Middle East have already received considerable coverage. Chief among them is his opposition to sanctions on Iran. Both in 2001 and 2008 (at which point the United Nations had already sanctioned Iran) Hagel steadfastly opposed sanctions against Tehran.

Hagel has tried to explain away those votes, but he has also opposed sanctions against countries such as North Korea, Syria, Libya, and Cuba. This aversion to sanctions is incompatible with Obama’s strategy on Iran, and it’s also flat-out wrong (the progress we’ve seen in Burma is a direct result of sanctions).

Hagel supporters say that the “Jewish lobby” is using paranoia and scare tactics to overhype the threat of a nuclear Iran. But President Obama himself said that “a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained” and promised to “do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

If President Obama wants to change course and claim we can tolerate a nuclear Iran, he should do so explicitly. Instead, by nominating Hagel, he has done so implicitly, and has signaled that he won’t do whatever it takes to prevent a nuclear Iran.

Obama’s goal has been to force Tehran to capitulate to sanctions by threatening to use force if sanctions fail. Iran probably never believed this to begin with. But by nominating Hagel, Obama has likely confirmed Tehran’s suspicions.

Without the threat of force, sanctions are unlikely to work. The mullahs believe that a nuclear weapon is the only way to preserve their regime (an argument which has credence if you examine what’s happened in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and North Korea).

The mullahs have also shown a willingness to kill and torture their own people to preserve power (both during the Green Revolution and in the years since).

So it’s hard to imagine that economic sanctions alone will convince Tehran to give up its nuclear weapons program. Further, sanctions have been undermined by China’s and India’s decisions to continue buying Iranian oil.

And any hope that sanctions will convince the Iranian people to overthrow the regime is similarly misplaced. The Iranian people tried this in 2009, and were snuffed out by the mullahs and Revolutionary Guard with absolutely no moral or other support from the United States.

Hagel’s nomination will be seen by Tehran as confirmation that Obama will not use force. Whether this is true or not, it is the signal that Obama has sent. And it may doom our chances of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Chuck Hagel has also been appallingly weak on standing up to terrorists and extremists in the Middle East. He has refused calls to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization. In 2007, the same year he opposed the surge in Iraq, he voted against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization — despite evidence it was responsible for the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Hagel repeatedly supported and misjudged the Assad regime in Syria; in 2008, he co-authored an op-ed with John Kerry entitled “It’s time to talk to Syria.” Hagel also urged President Obama to negotiate directly with Hamas, a terrorist organization that has vowed to destroy Israel and has purposefully killed innocent women and children.

In fact, when it comes to Israel, Hagel shares disturbing characteristics with the Iranian regime. Iranian state TV has labeled Hagel as “anti-Israel,” and it has good reason for doing so.

Hagel has, at numerous times, refused to sign symbolic letters of support for Israel (in October 2000, he was one of only four senators who refused to do so). He refused to call on President Bush to boycott Yasser Arafat until Arafat’s forces stopped committing acts of terror against Israel. Hagel also refused a call to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian elections. The list goes on and on.

Hagel is perhaps most famous for claiming that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates people on Capitol Hill, and declaring: “I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is … the United States.”

Hagel’s supporters, including Thomas Friedman, have defended Hagel’s comment on the “Jewish lobby,” claiming most senators feel the same way. Nonsense. Yes, supporters of Israel have a strong voice on Capitol Hill. But it’s not just because of the “Jewish lobby.” It’s because they support common-sense positions, including: Israel has a right to exist and fight terror; it’s wise to sanction and isolate terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah; and there’s no moral equivalency between terrorist acts designed to kill women and children and legitimate acts of self-defense.

It’s not the “Israel lobby” that convinces senators to vote a certain way; it’s their sense of right and wrong. Given that Hagel has a different view on many of these issues, it’s easy to see why he might feel pressured by the “Israel lobby.” Further, many steadfast supporters of Israel, Republican and Democrat, have differed on policy with groups like AIPAC. But those politicians held their ground, and did what they thought was right. Why, then, is Hagel so concerned about the “Israel lobby”?

By referring to the strength of the “Israel lobby,” Hagel is playing into the anti-Semitic stereotype that the Jews have too much power and their level of influence greatly outstrips their numbers. This is the exact same mentality that has been behind every major anti-Semitic movement, including Nazism.

Further, by stating that he’s a “United States senator” and not an “Israeli senator,” Hagel is accusing members of Congress and American Jews of putting Israel before their own country. This is simply disgusting, and another characteristic of the anti-Semitism that culminated in the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Finally, for those who believe that Hagel is simply anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic, here’s a closing anecdote. In 1989, Hagel tried to shut down a USO site in Israel, despite objections from Congress and the Navy. “Let the Jews pay for it,” he told Marsha Halteman at the time. Yes, it seems that Tehran has found a fellow traveler in Washington.

David Meyers served in the White House from 2006 to 2009, and later in the United States Senate. He is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University. This article was originally published by the Daily Caller.

So it’s hard to imagine that economic sanctions alone will convince Tehran to give up its nuclear weapons program. Further, sanctions have been undermined by China’s and India’s decisions to continue buying Iranian oil.

And any hope that sanctions will convince the Iranian people to overthrow the regime is similarly misplaced. The Iranian people tried this in 2009, and were snuffed out by the mullahs and Revolutionary Guard with absolutely no moral or other support from the United States.

Hagel’s nomination will be seen by Tehran as confirmation that Obama will not use force. Whether this is true or not, it is the signal that Obama has sent. And it may doom our chances of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

1 Comment

  • Arendt and Obama suffer from a naive intellectual desire to be objective and fairminded. This may be valid in cloistered tutorials, but horrific in the real world. Arendt may be deceased, but taking her perspectives as guides to action or inaction can prove suicidal. I see Obama as similarly dangerous for everyone including the US. Americans don’t remember how embittered and foolishly blind the American Firsters made them in the 1930′s. That element could easily be resuscitated with the disillusioned Hagel and Kerry. Israel must be able to go it alone, if necessary. How is Kerry still on the public stage after all the scandals about his own war record?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.