Chuck Hagel speaks in Islamabad 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mian Kursheed)
WASHINGTON – Chuck Hagel informed US senators on Wednesday that he is committed
to ensuring the military is prepared for a potential attack on Iran and that
defense cooperation with Israel continues a day before his hearing to be
confirmed as the next secretary of defense.
“The United States should
take no options off the table in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a
nuclear weapon,” he wrote in a 112-page questionnaire submitted to the Senate
Armed Services Committee ahead of their consideration of his nomination
Thursday. “If confirmed, I will focus intently on ensuring that US military is
in fact prepared for any contingency.”
He also said, “While there is time
and space for diplomacy, backed by pressure, the window is closing.” He listed
the race to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon as a top security
challenge, adding that the next Pentagon chief “must maintain our unshakeable
commitment to Israel’s security” to protect US strategic interests.
so, Hagel noted that he would seek to increase US-Israel joint cooperation on
“I am proud of the work that the United States has done
in support of the ballistic missile defense of Israel and, if confirmed, I will
continue to support these efforts,” he wrote.
On Syria, Hagel also
indicated he was in agreement with current American policy.
people are in great need during this difficult period, and the United States is
helping to address those basic needs by providing medical assistance,
humanitarian assistance and political support on the international stage,” he
said. “I do not believe that providing lethal support to the armed opposition at
this time will alleviate the horrible situation we see in Syria.”
written answers to the committee’s questions gave an indication of what his
testimony is likely to reveal Thursday about his views, and the prominent role
Iran, Israel and Syria will probably play in the hearing.
activists on both sides of the divide have been hard at work trying to persuade
senators to endorse their view of the former Republican senator from
Christians United for Israel brought more than 400 members to
Washington on Tuesday to oppose the nomination, and on Wednesday J Street held a
conference call praising the senator in hopes that he would be
Those speaking in favor of the nominee included Sen. Jack Reed
(D-Rhode Island), former US ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering, former
Democratic Florida representative Robert Wexler and Lawrence Korb, a former
assistant secretary of defense.
Wexler pushed back against critics who
have called Hagel weak on Israel and Iran, arguing that is an inaccurate reading
of his record.
“For those of us who hold the unbreakable bond between the
United States and Israel dear, senator Hagel’s nomination for secretary of
defense is yet another strong indicator of President [Barack] Obama’s historic
commitment to the security of the state of Israel,” Wexler said.