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Hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services - Confirmation Hearing of the Nomination of the Honorable Charles T. Hagel


Location: Washington, DC


Chairman LEVIN. Thank you, Senator McCaskill.
Senator Chambliss.

Senator CHAMBLISS. Thanks, Mr. Chairman. Chuck, again, congratulations
on your nomination. As we talked the other day, you
and I have been good friends since I came to the Senate 2002, sat
next to each other for 6 years on the Intel Committee, and during
that process you cast some votes that I questioned. But we were
always able to dialogue, and it never impacted our friendship, and
I am very appreciative of that.
You also were introduced by two of my dearest friends, Senator
Nunn and Senator Warner, which certainly is a credit to you.
I want to drill down, Chuck, on the issue that I think is going
to be very much at the forefront of--probably the number one issue
you are going to have to deal with, assuming that you are confirmed,
and that is the issue of our relationship with Iran and
where we go in the future, short term as well as long term.
Now, you wrote in your book, and I quote, ""We blundered into
Iraq because of flawed intelligence, flawed assumptions, flawed
judgments, and ideologically driven motives. We must not repeat
these errors with Iran, and the best way to avoid them is to maintain
an effective dialogue.'' You then go on to advocate again, and
I quote, ""for a direct and strategic diplomatic initiative.''
Now, I heard you in your opening comments say that your position
on Iran is prevention, not containment, when it comes to their
nuclear weaponization. And I want you to expand on that, and I
want to go back to Senator Inhofe and Senator Reed's question or
comment relative to why you did not vote to designate the IRGC
as a terrorist organization.
Iran is the number one terrorist sponsoring state in the world.
I do not think there is any disagreement about that. I want you
to expand on your position on a nuclear weaponized Iran, and talk
about red lines. If your position is truly prevention and not containment,
Chuck, what is the red line? What is the point? We know
there are some things happening over there right now that are
very serious. So how far do we go?
Do you still advocate direct negotiations with Iran as you said
and you made clear that all options are on the table, and you stated
again that military options is one of those. If you will, talk
about direct negotiation. We have never negotiated with a terrorist
state. Why do you feel like that we ought to dialogue with them,
even on this issue today?
And lastly, what alterations, if any, do you think are necessary
to our military force posture in the Gulf region to deter Iranian regional
ambitions and support international diplomatic efforts to
stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability? That is a
broad statement on my part, broad question, but this is the issue
from a national security standpoint, Chuck, and I would like you
to be pretty specific.

Senator HAGEL. Well, let us start with the specific question on
a vote regarding designating the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist
organization. You recall because you were there, there were
22 senators who voted against that. The effort against it, the main
point made on the floor of the Senate came from Senator Jim
Webb. And his point was we have never, ever designated a part of
a legitimate government, a state--and when I say ""legitimate,'' it
does not mean we agree with Iran, but it is a member of the
United Nations. Almost all of our allies have embassies in Iran. So
that is why I note an elected legitimate government, whether we
agree or not.
But we have never made any part of a legitimate independent
government designated them or made part--made them part of a
terrorist organization. We have just never done that. And so you
say, well, so what? What is the big problem? The problem was, at
least 22 of us believed--they were both Republicans and Democrats,
by the way, in that vote, but it was Jim Webb who was on
the floor most of the time on it--said that if you do that, that is
tantamount to giving the President of the United States authority
to use military force against Iran without having to come back to
get a resolution from, or partner with, or cooperate with, the Congress
of the United States. Essentially if we vote for this, we are
giving that--we are giving a President, in a sense, that authority.
Now, you can agree or disagree with that.
But I listened to that debate, and there was some pretty thoughtful
debate. And that debate I thought was pretty powerful with me.
We were already in two wars at the time, and I thought that this
made sense, and so I voted against it. That is why I voted against
that. You might also remember that Secretary-designate--almost
Secretary of State Kerry voted against it. Then President Obama
or Senator Obama, he gave speeches against it. He did not vote
that day. Vice President Biden voted against it. Dick Lugar voted
against it. There were some other Republicans.
As to the Iranian red line, Persian Gulf, some of the Iranian
questions you asked. I support the President's strong position on
containment as I have said, and I will speak more specifically to
a couple of the examples you used from my book. But his position
I think is right.
And when you asked the question about red line, well, a red
line--I think the President has gone as far as he should go publicly
on that. And he said clearly that in his words, he has Israel's back.
He said that his policy is not to allow the Iranians to get a nuclear
What constitutes when action would be taken? I think that is always
something that should not be discussed publicly or debated
publicly or out in the public domain.
Your quotations from my book, which you acknowledge as well
that I always said the military option should be on the table, and
I had said that consistently as well as engaging with Iran. I have
always thought it is far smarter to approach these very serious
threats, including Iran, probably as significant a threat as we have
out there out there today, although North Korea is beyond a threat.
It is a real nuclear power and quite unpredictable. I think Pakistan
is another very complicated reality.
But staying on Iran, I think we are far smarter to do what the
President has been doing, which I laid out, by the way, in my book.
I have a chapter on Iran. I have two chapters on Iraq. I have a
chapter on the Middle East. Getting the world community behind
us with these UN sanctions through the Security Council of the
United Nations. These are tough sanctions. They are having a tremendous
impact, you know that, on Iran.
If, in fact, the military option is the only one required, I think
we are always on higher ground in every way, international law,
domestic law, people of the world, people of the region to be with
us on this if we have tried and if we have gone through every possibility
to resolve this in a responsible, peaceful way rather than
going to war.
Everything I said in my book was about that. I do not have a
problem with engaging. I think great powers engage. I think engagement
is clearly in our interests. That is not negotiation. Engagement
is not appeasement. Engagement is not surrender. I
think if the time is right, the climate is right, the dynamics are
right, we should find ways, if we can find ways. We cannot force
it. But I think we are always smarter and wiser to take that approach
Posture in the Persian Gulf. As you know, Senator, our Fifth
Fleet is located in the Persian Gulf in Bahrain. As you also know,
we have a couple of carrier battle groups in that area. Our military
posture there is very strong. It is very ready. It is very capable.
These are contingencies and options that the Secretary of Defense,
working with these Chiefs and their combatant commanders, always
have to give in the present and make sure that we are prepared.
So let me stop there, and I may have missed some of the specific
things that you wanted to discuss.

Senator CHAMBLISS. Well, I am understanding you to say that
you are not ready to discuss red lines in a specific way. Am I hearing
that right?

Senator HAGEL. Well, I do not think that is my role now to start
with. I am not the Secretary of Defense. But I think the President
is wise in his course of action in not discussing that publicly. I
think it is a far smarter way to handle it, and I think he has said
what he needs to say. I think it has been understood in Iran. I
think the world understands his position.
By the way, I have just been handed a note that I misspoke and
said I supported the President's position on containment. If I said
that, it meant to say that obviously his position on containment, we
do not have a position on containment. I recognize--I have had
more attention paid to my words the last eight weeks that I ever
thought possible, so I do not take any chances. Thank you.

Senator CHAMBLISS. I think I understood you correct on containment
and prevention.

Senator HAGEL. Thank you.

Senator CHAMBLISS. Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman LEVIN. Just to make sure your correction is clear, we
do have a position on containment, which is that we do not favor

Senator HAGEL. We do not favor containment. That is the President's
position, and that was my position.

Chairman LEVIN. Thank you. I just want to clarify the clarify.

Senator HAGEL. If you need further clarification, that is why I
am here.


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