Chuck Hagel to Ensure Israel's Qualitative Military Edge
By Reuters, The Associated Press and Haaretz
February 01, 2013 "Haaretz" -- Chuck Hagel, expected to be President Barack Obama's defense chief, on Thursday told a skeptical Senate panel considering his nomination that he backs U.S. policy of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and supports a strong Israeli military.
"I will ensure our friend and ally Israel maintains its qualitative military edge in the region," Hagel said in his opening remarks.
said that if confirmed as the next defense secretary, he
would ensure that the military is prepared to strike Iran if
necessary but stressed the need to be "cautious
Hagel also said all options must be on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon language used to suggest the possibility of a nuclear strike. "My policy is one of prevention, and not one of containment," he said.
Hagel, in his opening remarks and responses to the panel, also voiced support for a steady U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan, pledged to ensure equal treatment for women and homosexuals in the military and assured the committee that the United States would maintain an "unshakeable" commitment to Israel's security.
Critics in Congress have sought to portray Hagel, a former Republican senator and decorated Vietnam war veteran, as a soft on Iran and anti-Israel, pointing to past comments that Hagel's supporters say were taken out of context or distorted.
Although most observers expect Hagel will eventually be confirmed, at least three Republican panel members, including James Inhofe, the party's leader on the Armed Services Committee, have said they did not support his nomination. Before Hagel started speaking, Inhofe spelled out his objections.
"Senator Hagel's record is deeply troubling and out of the mainstream. Too often it seems he is willing to subscribe to a worldwide view that is predicated on appeasing our adversaries while shunning our friends," said Inhofe.
Hagel, speaking publicly for the first time since the attacks against his nomination began sought to set the record straight. "No one individual vote, quote, or statement defines me, my beliefs, or my record," Hagel said in testimony prepared for delivery at the hearing."My overall world view has never changed: that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world."
Committee chairman Carl Levin said his concerns, especially
over Hagel's past comments about unilateral sanctions on
Iran, had been addressed. "Senator Hagel's reassurance to me
that he supports the Obama administration's strong stance
against Iran is significant," Levin said.Another member of
Obama's second-term national security team, Senator John
Kerry, sailed through his nomination hearing
entire Senate, which would vote on Hagel if he is cleared by
the committee, only one of the 45 Republicans -
Mississippi's Thad Cochran - has said he backs Hagel.
Hagel, backed by the White House and Pentagon, has been on
a charm offensive to win over recalcitrant senators since
Obama nominated him this month to replace outgoing Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta. Hagel held one-on-one meetings
Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican, said on Tuesday she
had spoken with Hagel for 90 minutes and been satisfied on
several issues, but stopped short of endorsing him. "We had
a good discussion, but it's obvious that we have very
different views on some fundamental issues," she said.
Hagel also detailed his views in 112 pages of written
responses to wide-ranging questions submitted by lawmakers.
Democrats control 55 seats in the full Senate and can approve Hagel with no Republican support, but they will need some backing from Hagel's party to overcome procedural hurdles that could stop the nomination.
has already emerged. Senator Lindsey Graham of South
Carolina, a committee member, has threatened to keep the
nomination from going to the Senate floor if Panetta does
not testify about a September attack on the U.S. diplomatic
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