President appoints Hagel to be SecDef — here’s why it’s a terrible choice that will send wrong message to Iran.

The President has nominated fmr Sen. Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.

The President has nominated fmr Sen. Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.

President Obama on Monday nominated former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense. It’s a terrible choice and will send the wrong message at precisely the wrong time to Iran, Hamas and Radical Islamic enemies of the U.S. and Israel in the Middle East.

Interestingly, the Washington Post editorial page has come out strongly against Hagel. So have significant number of liberal Democrats. At least ten Democrat Senators are considering voting against his nomination, largely due to his weak and ineffectual approach to dealing with the mullahs in Iran who are steadily pursuing nuclear weapons.

  1. “Mr. Hagel has long been an opponent of unilateral American sanctions against Iran — among other American adversaries — viewing them as counterproductive,” notes the New York Times. “Notably, he was one of only two senators to vote against the Iran-Libya sanctions act in 2001, arguing that it would undercut efforts to engage with Tehran.”
  2. The editors of the Washington Post have come out strongly against the Senate confirming Hagel. “Mr. Hagel’s stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran, fall well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term — and place him near the fringe of the Senate that would be asked to confirm him,” notes a Post editorial headlined, “Chuck Hagel is not the right choice for defense secretary.” Noted the Post: “Hagel…repeatedly voted against sanctions, opposing even those aimed at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which at the time was orchestrating devastating bomb attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. Mr. Hagel argued that direct negotiations, rather than sanctions, were the best means to alter Iran’s behavior. The Obama administration offered diplomacy but has turned to tough sanctions as the only way to compel Iran to negotiate seriously.” Also: “Mr. Obama has said that his policy is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that containment is not an option. Mr. Hagel has taken a different view, writing in a 2008 book that ‘the genie of nuclear weapons is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does.’ The former senator from Nebraska signed on to an op-ed in The Post this September that endorsed ‘keeping all options on the table’ for stopping Iran’s nuclear program. But Mr. Hagel has elsewhere expressed strong skepticism about the use of force.”
  3. “NBC political director Chuck Todd said Monday there is a ‘soft count’ of 10  Senate Democrats who might oppose Chuck Hagel’s nomination to head the  Department of Defense,” reports Politico.
  4. “President Barack Obama’s Jewish point man has expressed fierce opposition to the prospect of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) serving in a senior role in the Obama administration,” reports the Washington Free Beacon. “Ira Forman, who served as Obama’s Jewish outreach director during the 2012 presidential campaign, has dubbed Hagel a concerning candidate….Forman’s NJDC went to great lengths to disqualify Hagel over the years, even releasing a comprehensive fact sheet outlining the former Senator’s ‘questionable Israel record.’ Hagel, for instance, was just one of four senators who refused to sign a Senate letter supporting Israel in October 2000, the NJDC reported.”
  5. “[F]ormer Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, a lifelong Democrat who supported President Obama’s recent re-election, expressed disappointment with the President’s decision to nominate former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense,” told a news outlet. “‘Frankly, I thought that there would come a time when he would renege on what he conveyed on his support of Israel,’ said Koch, adding, ‘it comes a little earlier than I thought it would.'”
  6. The Los Angeles Times reports that Hagel has been seen by many in Washington as sharply critical of Israel and out of the U.S. mainstream on key Middle East policy issues. “Critics have focused on his calls for direct negotiations with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that the U.S. and Israel refuse to deal with directly,” notes the Times.Hagel rankled many with comments he made in a 2006 interview with author and former State Department Mideast peace negotiator Aaron David Miller. ‘The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,’ Hagel said, but ‘I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.'”
  7. The Associated Press reports that “six years ago, [Hagel] refused to sign a letter pressing the European Union to  declare the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group a terrorist organization” and “has criticized discussion of a potential military strike by either the U.S. or  Israel against Iran.”
  8. Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, widely known as a pro-Israel advocate as well as a supporter of President Obama, says he will oppose the Hagel nomination over the Iran issue. “I’m opposed to him for one primary reason, and that is [Hagel’s appointment] is going to send the wrong message to the Iranian mullahs,” said Dershowitz. “They could easily misunderstand that the President is backing away from his commitment not to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, because Hagel has opposed keeping a military option on the table. And it’s the wrong time to send mixed messages to those who are looking for an excuse for misunderstanding.
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