A fact sheet circulating around Washington this week casts a dim light on the prospects of former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel as a candidate to head the Pentagon in the second Obama administration. The untitled paper, which the Tatler has obtained, states that Hagel has “an extremely troubling record on Middle East issues that casts doubt on his preparedness to support policies which advance U.S. national security interests in that region, such as isolating Iran and holding terrorist groups accountable for their actions.”
Specifically, the paper states that in 2009, Hagel “signed onto a letter urging President Obama to open direct negotiations with Hamas, which has perpetrated dozens of suicide bombings that have killed or injured hundreds of civilians in Israel, including even some Americans.”
The paper states that Hagel has refused to join large congressional majorities in expressions of support for Israel, and has advocated direct and unconditional talks with Iran.
The fact sheet cites numerous examples of Hagel’s record on Israel and the Middle East, including Hagel’s refusal in 2001 to sign a letter requesting President Bush not meet with then Palestinian Chairman Yassir Arafat until forces linked with Arafat’s Fatah party ceased attacks on Israel. The paper also calls out Hagel’s 2006 cease fire call on Israel as it was battling Hizballah targets in Lebanon, from which the terrorist group had fired numerous rockets into Israel.
The sheet also accuses Hagel of harboring hostility toward Israel and the Jews.
The full fact sheet, which is extensively footnoted with sources, strongly suggests that Hagel takes an accommodating view toward Iran, and as evidence calls out five instances in Hagel’s record. These instances include Hagel’s 2001 vote against renewing the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, and a 2007 letter in which Hagel urged then President George W. Bush to engage in “direct, unconditional” talks with Iran to create a “historic new dynamic in US-Iran relations.” Hagel retired from the Senate in 2008.
President Obama reportedly has not yet decided whether he will name Hagel to succeed outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Hagel’s past in the Senate would surely factor into the decision; the Senate rarely turns down one of its own for confirmation, and the appointment of the former Republican senator from Nebraska could be seen as a bi-partisan move. But the bi-partisan value of the appointment is likely to be very limited. Sen. John McCain blasted Hagel over his past remarks regarding the “Jewish lobby” this week. Hagel’s possible nomination has drawn fire from politicos ranging from the Anti-Defamation League to national security experts in both the Democratic and Republican parties.