Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged over the weekend that Iran can still be plenty deadly even without nuclear weapons, but praised his boss’ plan on the Islamic Republic’s nuke ambitions.
“For decades, Iran has exported instability and violence across the region and beyond, as it continued to develop its nuclear program. Iran has been a profoundly destabilizing influence, and a nuclear- armed Iran would pose an unacceptable threat to regional and global stability,” Hagel said over the weekend in Bahrain at the IISS Regional Security Summit.
“Since coming to office five years ago, President Obama has had no higher priority in the region than preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He has pursued this goal through a comprehensive strategy with our international partners, combining diplomacy, unprecedented international economic pressure, and the resolve to keep military options on the table,” he continued.
Hagel said the P5+1 agreement forged in Geneva was a first step, but it “could be an important step.”
“It halts any further expansion of Iran’s nuclear program, begins to roll it back in important ways and provides sweeping access to verify unfettered verification of Iran’s intentions. Its purpose is to facilitate a longer-term comprehensive solution and to ensure that Iran cannot use this period of negotiations to advance its nuclear program,” he argued.
“We have bought time for meaningful negotiation, not for deception. All of us are clear-eyed — very clear-eyed — about the challenges that remain to achieving a comprehensive nuclear solution with Iran. I know that Iran’s nuclear program is only one dimension of the threats Iran poses in the region. I’m briefed virtually every day about these threats. That’s why we remain committed to ballistic missile defense for our partners here in the region and for Europe.”
Obama angered Eastern Europe four years ago by canceling a missile defense plan started under the Bush administration that would have put 10 long-range missile interceptors in Poland, among other measures.
“No strategy is risk-free. Diplomacy takes courage. It takes vision. But our emphasis on diplomatic tools should not be misinterpreted. We know diplomacy cannot operate in a vacuum. Our success will continue to hinge on America’s military power, the credibility of our assurances to our allies and partners in the Middle East that we will use it. They have bound the United States together with nations of this region for decades through administrations, all administrations, the administrations of both political parties, from Eisenhower to Obama. These commitments are not open for negotiation,” Hagel said.
“…Our commitment to these core interests is absolute, and the interim agreement with Iran calls none of them into question. The Department of Defense will continue to maintain a strong military posture in the Gulf region, one that can respond swiftly to crisis, deter aggression, and assure our allies. DOD will not make any adjustments to its forces in the region or to its military planning as a result of the interim agreement with Iran.”