At Thursday's confirmation hearing for defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the former Nebraska senator will have to answer for "troubling statements" he's made previously on issues related to Iran, Israel and Syria.
Senator Hagel has made a number of statements over the course of his career which committee members will ask him about during today’s hearing.
For example, Senator Hagel has stated that unilateral sanctions against Iran “are exactly the wrong approach,” and that the “worst thing we can do” is to try to isolate Iran. While effective multilateral sanctions are preferable, unilateral sanctions are an important part of the approach that the Obama Administration has followed and Congress has supported, and it appears that sanctions are producing tremendous pressure on Iran.
Another statement which has raised concern is Senator Hagel’s recommendation that we conduct “direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran.” While there is value in communicating with our adversaries, the formulation used by Senator Hagel seemed to imply a willingness to talk to Iran on some issues that I believe most of us would view as non-negotiable, and therefore any willingness to talk to Iran would need to be highly conditional.
Your reassurance to me in my office that you support the Obama Administration’s strong stance against Iran is significant and we look forward to hearing from you in some depth on this subject.
We will also be interested in Senator Hagel’s addressing troubling statements he has made about Israel and its supporters here in the United States, a statement in 2008 that our policy of non-engagement with the Syrians “has isolated us more than the Syrians”, and a 2009 statement that we should not isolate Hamas – a terrorist organization.