(JNS.org) Chuck Hagel, whose confirmation for Secretary of Defense was recently opposed by more than 400 pro-Israel Christian leaders on Capitol Hill, mistakenly expressed support for a U.S. policy of “containment” in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat at his Senate confirmation hearing Jan. 31.
“I’ve just been handed a note that I misspoke and said I supported the president’s position on ‘containment,’” Hagel went on to say. “If I said that, I meant to say that obviously—his position on containment—we don’t have a position on containment.”
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) then intervened, saying, “Just to make sure your correction is clear, we do have a position on containment—which is we do not favor containment.”
Responding to U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who questioned Hagel on a 2007 speech he gave the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in which he said “the strategy of containment remain[s] relevant today” regarding Iran, Hagel said “I don’t have the speech in front of me.”
“I think there was more to it,” Hagel added.
Hagel’s initial comment supporting containment came after he had read from a different speech, in which he stated that he was “committed to the president’s view that the United States should take no options off the table in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
“What should we believe? What he read from the page or what he said later on?” Boaz Bismuth asked in an oped for Israel Hayom, adding that Hagel “perhaps ‘slipped’ at his Senate hearing—but his appointment will be a slip up for the administration.”
During the same week as Hagel’s confirmation hearing, the Action Fund of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) convened an “emergency summit,” bringing more than 400 Christian leaders, in addition to some rabbis, from 46 different states to Washington, DC, to lobby their U.S. senators and U.S. representatives to vote against Hagel’s confirmation.
U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NB), at the confirmation hearing, said Hagel’s ideas are “extreme.” Hagel chairs the Atlantic Council think tank, which in December published a column titled “Israel’s Apartheid Policy” as well as a policy paper predicting that Iran “should be viewed as a potential natural partner” for the U.S.
Hagel did not sign various pro-Israel letters backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) while he served in the Senate, but did sign a 2009 letter asking Obama to directly negotiate with Hamas.
But in his opening statement Jan. 31, Hagel said, “No one individual vote, no one individual quote or no one individual statement defines me, my beliefs, or my record.