Commentary Magazine


Hagel Prescient on Iran? Nope

Michael Hirsh, chief correspondent for the National Journal (and a former member of ‘JournoList’), has now penned two columns, here and here, arguing essentially that Chuck Hagel got Iran and other topics right when everyone else got them wrong. From his latest:

The former Republican senator from Nebraska has distinguished himself with subtle, well-thought-out, and accurate analyses of some of America’s greatest strategic challenges of the 21st century–especially the response to 9/11–while many of his harshest critics got these issues quite wrong… Hagel also delivered some of the earliest warnings about the potentially disastrous effects of George W. Bush’s ill-grounded “Axis of Evil” speech, in which the president needlessly alienated Tehran only days after the Iranians had actually delivered up aid and support to stabilize post-Taliban Afghanistan.

As Newsweek’s former diplomatic correspondent, Hirsh is well aware of the full range of facts; he just chooses to ignore them in pursuit of a political agenda and, by so doing, sullies the National Journal. What did Bush know and both Hagel and Hirsh ignore?

  • The Karine-A. While Hagel was praising Iran and castigating his President for—gasp—harsh rhetoric, Iran was shipping 50 tons of weaponry to the Palestinian Authority in order to support terrorism and quash the fragile cease-fire.
  • Iran’s covert nuclear enrichment facility which was yet to be exposed publicly, but was known in intelligence circles (including presumably the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on which Hagel served) and to the White House.
  • North Korea-Iran cooperation of nuclear and missile proliferation is now well established. Iranian and North Korean scientists and nuclear engineers regularly attend each other’s tests and visit each other’s facilities.

Let’s give Hirsh’s source for both pieces—former ambassador James Dobbins—benefit of the doubt. Iran may have cooperated with him, but he’s guilty of being one the proverbial blind men describing an elephant. It takes a leap of logic to amplify Iranian behavior in Afghanistan—where Tehran believed initially they could out-compete us with soft power and out-influence the Afghan government—with Iranian cooperation across the board. In hindsight, we know that Hassan Kazemi Qomi, the chief Iranian official in Afghanistan at the time, was doing far more than cheering on the Afghans peacefully or drinking tea with American officials. Qomi, by the way, was the Qods Force commander who became Iran’s ambassador to Iraq and oversaw the supply of militias and terrorists killing U.S. forces.

Hirsh also appears willing to blame tension between Tehran and Washington on that one phrase—“Axis of Evil.”  Perhaps it would do Hirsh—and Hagel—well to listen to the rhetoric coming from Iranian officials on a weekly if not daily basis, where chants of “Death to America” still reign. When the Iranians shout that, they don’t mean “Let us shower them with puppies and lollipops.”

The Hagel nomination has not only shown light on a fantastically bad nominee who should have gone quietly into retirement, but also on the dishonesty of supposed nonpartisan journalists like Hirsh who appear willing to cast aside any evidence which they don’t like so they can use the pages of their magazines to push personal political agendas. Far from being prescient, Iran showed Hagel to be woefully naive, a useful idiot upon whom to advance Tehran’s own strategic objectives.