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February 1, 2013 11:48 am

At Senate Hearing, Chuck Hagel Describes Iranian Government as ‘Elected’ and ‘Legitimate’ (VIDEO)

avatar by Max Elstein Keisler

Chuck Hagel, Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense.

Secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel faced the Senate Armed Services Committee in a confirmation hearing Thursday. Fielding questions from both Democratic and Republic senators concerned over his record on Iran sanctions, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, among other issues, Hagel defended himself.

On Iran, Hagel said of his senate record that “We have never ever designated part of a legitimate government—when I say legitimate I don’t mean we agree with Iran, but it is a member of the United Nations, almost all our allies have embassies in Iran, so that’s why I note elected, legitimate government, we have made part of a legitimate, independent government [the Revolutionary Guard], or designated them part of a terrorist organization.”

Confronted by Senator Lindsey Graham about his past claim that the US government is intimidated by the “Jewish Lobby,”  Hagel was unwilling to name anyone in the US senate intimidated by a “Jewish or Israeli lobby.” He said that “he didn’t have in mind a specific person” when he made the statement.

Hagel’s performance was poorly received by prominent liberals. Israel critic Peter Beinart described it as making “Biden look sure-footed.” And prominent journalist Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted his surprise when Hagel described the Iranian government as “elected and legitimate.”

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Watch a video of Hagel’s hearing below:

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