News Column

Hagel: All Options on Table With Iran

Jan. 31, 2013

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel told a Senate panel considering his nomination as U.S. defense secretary he is committed to keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday he agrees with all of President Obama's positions on national security, including Iran.

"I am committed to the president's goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Hagel said, adding all options were on the table. He said the president's policy was prevention, not containment of Iran, and he would make sure the Defense Department was prepared for all contingencies.

Among the goals he shares with the president, Hagel said, is continued U.S. counter-terrorism in Afghanistan and training that country's security forces, and to keep the pressure up on terror groups in the Middle East and North Africa.

He said he and the president are committed to keeping Israel's "edge" in military affairs in the region.

Also, "I am committed to maintaining ... a strong nuclear arsenal," he said. "I am committed to modernizing our nuclear arsenal."

Hagel told the senators that massive spending cuts in a "sequester" would be a disaster for the Pentagon.

Before Hagel's opening statement, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee indicated he would not support Hagel as defense secretary.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said he told Hagel "after a long and careful review, we're too philosophically opposed, and therefore I would not be supporting his nomination."

Inhofe said "Sen. Hagel's record is troubling and out of the mainstream," and his record is one of "appeasing our enemies and shunning our friends."

Hagel was introduced to the panel by two former chairman of the committee, former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and former Sen. John Warner, R-Va.. Nunn cited Hagel's service in Vietnam and his two purple hearts, and strongly endorsed him. "War for Chuck Hagel is not an abstraction," he said.

Warner said he would only say "a few words from the heart," adding he had read Hagel's statement to the committee, which he said outlines Hagel's precise goals. Warner said Hagel "took the point" as a sergeant in Vietnam, and as defense secretary, "Chuck Hagel will do it again."

If confirmed, Hagel would be the first Vietnam veteran to head the Pentagon.

As a senator, Hagel broke with many in his party on the Foreign Relations Committee to criticize the management of the Iraq war after initially supporting the U.S.-led invasion.

Hagel will need 51 votes to win confirmation, unless Republicans threaten to filibuster. That could trigger a rule requiring 60 votes.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2013

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