The Hagel Factor
Throughout his reelection campaign President Obama pledged that he would keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In particular, he said that the United States would not resort to a policy of containment but try to actively prevent Tehran’s nuclear ambition from being realized. With his choice of former Senator Chuck Hagel as his new secretary of defense, however, the president has sent a clear signal that his promises to halt Iran’s nuclear ambition are in doubt. Hagel has stalwartly opposed tough policy on Iran and has called to take the option of using force against that country off the table. He has also criticized what he called “the Jewish lobby” and earned a reputation as a critic of the U.S.-Israel alliance. Those who claimed that Obama can be relied upon to deal with Iran must now acknowledge that if Hagel is confirmed, the head of the U.S. defense establishment will be urging inaction on Iran. This news will encourage the Iranians, already floating the possibility of another round of futile nuclear diplomacy, to believe they needn’t fear whether the United States will make good on the president’s promises. It also signals to the Israelis that they may well be on their own when it comes to this existential threat.
About the Author
Jonathan Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY.