BuzzFeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski has dug up the prepared remarks that former Sen. Chuck Hagel delivered at Rutgers University in March 2007. Hagel’s speech was co-sponsored by the controversial American Iranian Council. In Q&A, Hagel said that the US State Department had become controlled by Israel. No transcript or video of those remarks has turned up yet.
But in his prepared remarks, Hagel called for cooperation with Iran on rebuilding Afghanistan.
Iran has cooperated with the United States on Afghanistan to help the Afghans establish a new government after the Taliban was ousted. Iran continues to invest heavily in the reconstruction of western Afghanistan.
On Afghanistan, the United States and Iran found common interests – defeating the Taliban and Islamic radicals, stabilizing Afghanistan, stopping the opium production and the flow of opium coming into Iran. From these common interests emerged common actions working toward a common purpose. It was in the interests of Iran to work with the U.S. in Afghanistan. It was not a matter of helping America or strengthening America’s presence in Central Asia. It was a clear-eyed and self-serving action for Iran.
Iran was engaged in another clear-eyed, self-serving action at the time, which Hagel does not admit. Iran was waging war against the United States via terrorist proxies in Iraq. Hagel had opposed the 2006 surge of troops into Iraq, which eventually defeated the insurgency and won the war.
In his full, prepared remarks, Hagel says that Iran “will be a key center of gravity…a significant regional power” in the Middle East over the next 25 years. He adds that Iran’s regime is “dangerous, destabilizing and threatening,” that it is a “state sponsor of terrorism and that it “publicly threatens Israel.” True, but not quite accurate, as Iran has been threatening Israel with annihilation for years. Hagel then turns to Iraq, and acknowledges that “Iran has not helped stabilize the current chaos in Iraq and is responsible for weapons and explosives being used against US and Iraqi military forces in Iraq.”
Hagel calls for holding Iran “accountable for its actions” in Iraq, yet also for cooperation with Iran in Afghanistan.
Hagel’s 2007 remarks address the potential rise of a new generation of pro-American activists and leaders in Iran. Hagel says:
Two-thirds of Iran’s population is under the age of 30. Iran is undergoing a generational shift that will shape Iran’s outlook…and its opinions of the United States…for decades to come. Iran’s young people use the internet in large numbers, wear American jeans, listen to American music and are positive about America and the West. We do not want to lose this pro-American generation by turning them away from us. They are the hope of Iran. They bristle under the heavy yoke of the Ayatollahs’ strident limitations of personal freedom.
Two years later many of them rose up against the mullahs, and cried out for support from America. Barack Obama turned his back on them.
In the 2007 speech, Hagel called for dialogue with both Iran and Syria, and that the United States must be clear that we do not seek “regime change” in Iran.
The fact that those young, pro-American Iranians do seek regime change makes no visible impression on Hagel or his would-be boss. The fact that the revolutionary Iranian regime is implacably hostile to the United States also appears not to matter to Hagel’s understanding.
Later in the speech, Hagel says that “without a wise and integrated strategy, we risk drifting into conflict with Iran,” ignoring the fact that Iran has been waging war against the US and our allies since 1979.
The 2007 speech was among those Hagel was required to disclose to the Senate Armed Service Committee as part of his confirmation process. Hagel failed to disclose it and at least one other speech.