Chuck Hagel on Iran at Senate Hearing

February 4, 2013

            On January 31, defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel said the United States should pursue all diplomatic options with Iran, including direct engagement if the “dynamics are right.” But he also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the “military option must remain on the table.” In his confirmation hearing, Hagel said U.S. policy on Iran’s nuclear program has always been prevention, not of containment. The following are Hagels comments on Iran from the confirmation hearing and his responses to written questions.  

MR. HAGEL : … I am fully committed to the president's goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have been on record on that issue and as I said in the past many times, all options must be on the table to achieve that goal. My policy has always been the same as the president's, one of prevention, not of containment. And the president has made clear that is the policy of our government. As secretary of defense, I will make sure the department is prepared for any contingency. That's my job. That's my responsibility. I will ensure our friend and ally Israel maintains its qualitative military edge in the region and will continue to support systems like Iron Dome, which is today saving Israeli lives from terrorist rocket attacks. That support, I have always made clear and been on the record for.
SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D-MI): … Do you agree with President Obama's position that, quote, "all options should be on the table," close quote, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon?
MR. HAGEL: I do, I have, and I strongly agree with it.
SEN. LEVIN: On Iranian sanctions, President Obama has said that the sanctions which have been put in place are crippling the economy of Iran. I happen to agree. Their currency's dropped 80 percent, oil production's plunged, economy's in a shambles.
Do you share the president's views on the importance and effectiveness of sanctions against Iran, and if so, how do you reconcile your position with some of your past statements that suggest that the national security of the United States is not served by isolating Iran?
MR. HAGEL: Well, first, I do agree with and always have agreed with multilateral sanctions, because I think they have an effect, and I think this president in particular has probably done more than any president to effectively employ those kind of international sanctions, starting with a Security Council U.N. agreement and U.N. mandates. So I agree with what the president is doing. And I've said publicly, incidentally long before the president had ever asked me to consider this job, that additional sanctions might be required.
As to my record on votes in the Senate regarding unilateral sanctions, I have differed on some of those. I have voted for some as well. It was always on a case-by-case basis. When I voted against some of those unilateral sanctions on Iran, it was a different time. For example, I believe one was in 2001, 2002. We were at a different place with Iran during that time. Matter of fact, I recall the Bush administration did not want a renewal of the -- five-year renewal of ILSA during that time, because they weren't sure of the effectiveness of sanctions. That wasn't the only reason I voted against it.
It was because I thought that there might be other ways to employ our vast ability to harness power and allies. It was never a question of did I disagree with the objective. The objective was, I think, very clear to both of us. I recall, for example, in 2008, Secretary of State Rice sending a letter to the chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Baucus, requesting that a sanctions resolution, unilateral in the Finance Committee, not come out of the Finance Committee because the Bush administration at the time was working with the Russians specifically but with the Security Council of the United Nations to try to get international sanctions, which I think that effort, by the way, in 2008 led to the 2010 international sanctions…
SENATOR JACK REED (D-RI): Senator Inhofe posed several issues about a 2007 vote, a 2006 resolution with the Hezbollah or 2003 Syrian sanctions, et cetera. You were prepared to comment. I think it's appropriate that you have an opportunity to comment. If you'd want to do so now, I'd invite you do so.
MR. HAGEL: Well, and I'd be glad to further comment for the record because I have none of those specific votes in front of me in which I -- well, Senator, listing every vote I took. I would say, though, included in those votes, which I do recall some of them, were a vote in 1998, a vote in 2000, a vote in 2006, specifically against Iran, sanctioning companies, unilateral sanctions, that in any way assisted in Iran's building their capability of nuclear weapons or rocket or missiles. I voted for those….
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): … Do you believe that all options should be on the table when we confront Iran?
MR. HAGEL: Absolutely.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Do you believe Iran is currently a state sponsor of terrorism and provides material support to Hezbollah and to Hamas?
MR. HAGEL: Yes. And I'm on the record a number of times saying that.
SEN. MCCASKILL:  …Do you support sanctions against Iran?
SEN. MCCASKILL: Do you believe that the United States should unilaterally eliminate its nuclear arsenal?
SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): … . 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 were on the table, and you've stated again that military options is one of those. If you will, talk about direct -- we've 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?...
MR. HAGEL: …Well, let's start with a 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," that doesn't 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's 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've just -- we've never done that.
And so you say, well, so what? What's the big problem? The problem was that, at least 22 of us believed -- and there 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's 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, and essentially, if we vote for this, we're giving that -- we're 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's -- 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's 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 didn't vote that day. Vice President Biden voted against it. Dick Lugar voted against it. Other -- there were some other Republicans.
As to the Iranians -- red line, Persian Gulf, some of the Iranian questions you ask, I support the president's strong position on containment, as I've said. And I'll speak more specifically to a couple of the examples you use from my book. But his position, I think, is right. And when you ask the question about red line, well, 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 weapon. What constitutes when action would be taken, I think that's 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 that military option should be on the table -- I had said that consistently as well as engaging with Iran -- I always thought it's far smarter to approach these very serious threats, including Iran, probably as significant a threat as we have out there today -- although North Korea is beyond a threat, it's a real nuclear power and quite unpredictable; I think Pakistan is another very complicated reality -- but staying on Iran, I think we're far smarter to do what the president's 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 chapter on the Middle East -- getting the world community behind us with these U.N.-sanctioned -- 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're 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 don't have a problem with engaging. I think great powers engage. I think engagement is clearly in our interests. That's not negotiation. Engagement is not appeasement. Engagement is not surrender. I think if the time is right, the climate's right, the dynamics are right, we should find ways if we can find ways. We can't force it. But I think we're always smarter and wiser to take that approach initially.
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's very ready. It's very capable. These are contingencies and options that the secretary of defense, working with these chiefs, and the combatant commanders always have to give the president and make sure that we are prepared…
SENATOR SAXY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Well, I'm understanding to say that you're not ready to discuss red lines in a specific way. Am I hearing that right?
MR. HAGEL: Well, I don't think that's 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's a far smarter way to handle it, and I think he has said what he needs to say. I think it's been understood in Iran. I think the world understands his position…
MR. HAGEL: …My record has been very clear on Iran. Senator Chambliss noted from my 2008 book, in my chapter, specifically noting that I said the military option must remain on the table. I said that as recently in an op-ed that I co-authored last year in The Washington Post with two former CENTCOM commanders. We talked about Iran. And one of the very specific points we bring out in that op-ed was the military option must remain on the table, along with all the other areas of effort and expertise and diplomacy and economics and sanctions the president's using, which I've already said I support. So my record is rather thorough on this, and I would continue to support that position, and I strongly support the president's position.
MR. HAGEL: … Where we are with Iran today, the international sanctions that had been placed on Iran -- that puts Iran -- the United States in a far different place than where we were in 2000 or 1998 or 2001, when I did not support the reimposition -- and by the way, the Bush administration didn't either. They didn't want a five-year reimposition, for some of the same reasons that I questioned that reimposition of five years on ILSA.
But my point in making where we are today -- connecting that to unilateral sanctions -- then we've got a different situation. Unilateral sanctions, because we've already got strong international sanctions, should be considered. You -- I think the president's right to consider those. I would support that, because it's different than it was in 2001 or 1998.
SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE (R-NH): … As I understand it, on October 2nd of 2008, Majority Leader Harry Reid brought a similar bill to the floor. In fact, it was called the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability Act of 2008. And he brought it to the floor on October 2nd of 2008. There have been media reports that you blocked unanimous consent for the consideration of that bill. Are those true or not?
MR. HAGEL: I was one of some Republican senators who did not want that vote to go forward. I voted against it in subcommittee. And the reason I did was because the Bush administration did not want that bill to go forward. The reason that they didn't is because they were involved in negotiations with the Russians in the U.N. and Security Council members to put multilateral sanctions on Iran.
SEN. AYOTTE: Can you help me understand, when you went to Islamabad, Pakistan in 2006, you said at that time that a military strike against Iran, an military option, is not a "viable, feasible or responsible option."…
MR. HAGEL: That statement was made in a context of all options regarding Iran. And Pakistan was where I was at the time. And the larger context of that was nuclear powers, which certainly Pakistan is part of that club. And not unlike what Secretary Gates said about a strike on Iran, my point was that this would not be a preferable option. There would be consequences to this option. Things would happen as a result of it. If we could find a better option, a better way to deal with Iran to assure they do not get nuclear weapons, then we're far better off. That was the context of that statement.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): … You said just a minute ago you think they're a terrorist organization. Do you agree with that?
SEN. GRAHAM: OK. And you voted against the amendment designating them a terrorist organization because you thought we'd be going down the wrong road by doing that because they are a recognized state -- Iran. You wouldn't want to designate the army of recognized state as a terrorist organization.
MR. HAGEL: I said Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. I also just clarified a statement on Iran being a recognized nation by the United Nations, by most world bodies. The reason, again -- I'll explain it again -- why I did not vote, as 22 other members did -- because I think Jim Webb's argument was a strong argument, and that was we have never -- this is what he said on the floor - designated part of a government as a terrorist organization. Thereby -- what his concern was, as was mine and other senators who voted against it -- would this be then tantamount to giving the president of the United States authority from the Congress to take military action against Iran.
SEN. GRAHAM: I got you. Now, let me just ask you this: Do you believe that the sum total of all of your votes, refusing to sign a letter to the EU asking Hezbollah to be designated a terrorist organization, being one of 22 to vote to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, being one of two to on two occasions to vote against sanctions that this body was trying to impose on Iran, the statements you've made about Palestinians and about the Jewish lobby -- all that together -- that the image you've created is one of sending the worst possible signal to our enemies and friends at one of the most critical times in world history?
MR. HAGEL: No. I would not agree with that, because I have taken actions and made statements, very clear, as to what I believe Hezbollah and Hamas are as terrorist organizations. In fact –
SEN. GRAHAM: If you were -- if there was a vote on the floor of the Senate this afternoon to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard -- the people who've killed our soldiers in Iraq, some of the most vicious people to the people in Iran themselves -- if there were a vote tomorrow or this afternoon or after lunch, would you still vote no?
MR. HAGEL: Well, I would want to know from the president what they were doing. But again –
SEN. GRAHAM: I mean, you read the paper; you watch TV. Have you got any doubt what they're doing? They're expanding terrorism; they're trying to intimidate their own people. They're the instrument of the theocracy to oppress their own people and they're the biggest supporter of the regime, keeping them in power, so then they get a nuclear weapon. If you had a chance tomorrow -- today, after lunch, to vote to say that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was a terrorist organization, would you still vote no?
MR. HAGEL: Well, the reason I voted no to start with begins with –
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I know why you told me that. My question is, would you reconsider and would you vote yes this time or would you still vote no?
MR. HAGEL: Well, times change. I recognize that. And yes, I would reconsider…
SEN. VITTER: Let me go to a third thing is actually what you said today, talking about Iran as a, quote, "legitimate, elected government," close quote. Do you think the election that had to do with this Iranian government coming to power was free and fair and legitimate?
MR. HAGEL: I noted that the term "legitimate" was not the term I should have used. I should have used "recognized." That's the more appropriate term. And I was referring to the fact that it's a nation that is a member of the United Nations. It has embassies from all our allies. It is a recognized nation.
SENATOR DAVID VITTER (R-LA): What about the word -- what about the word "elected"? Because you said "legitimate, elected government."
MR. HAGEL: Well, there was an election in Iran.
SEN. VITTER: So my question specifically was you apparently think that was a free and fair and legitimate election?
MR. HAGEL: That's not what I said. I said –
SEN. VITTER: Well, I'm asking what you meant, because you said "legitimate, elected government."
MR. HAGEL: I just explained I should have said "recognized" instead of "legitimate," which I did earlier today. There was an election. There will be another presidential election in June of this year for president of Iran. Whether it's free and fair, I don't know.
SEN. VITTER: Do you expect it to be free and fair and legitimate?
MR. HAGEL: I don't know.
SEN. VITTER: OK. You have no expectations one way or the other about that?
MR. HAGEL: Well, I do know that Iran is not exactly a model democracy, and it has not been. So I don't have any expectations for a free, fair election.
SEN. VITTER: OK. In 2008 you wrote that a nuclear Iran might be tolerable because, quote, "sovereign nation-states possessing nuclear weapons capability as opposed to stateless terrorist groups will often respond with some degree of responsible or at least sane behavior," close quote. Is that still your hope or expectation about this government of Iran?
MR. HAGEL: Again, I'm not sure the -- where the reference came from or the context, but what I obviously was referring to were different options that people will look at in regard to Iran getting nuclear weapons. I've always said that Iran must not get weapons of mass destruction. I've always said it's a sponsor of terrorist -- of terrorism. And I've always said the military option should remain on the table to assure that Iran does not get nuclear weapons.
SEN. VITTER: Well, again, this quote, you suggest that Iran would maybe or hopefully respond in a responsible or at least sane way. Those were the words. Is that still your expectation or hope?
MR. HAGEL: That -- well, I always have hope that people respond in a sane way. But that doesn't at all change the facts that it is a dangerous, dangerous country that's a threat to the United States, Israel and the entire world.
SEN. VITTER: OK. After your nomination, the Iranian government press noted with satisfaction that the, quote, "anti-Israel," close quote, Hagel -- obviously that's not your quote; that's theirs -- is known for, quote, "his criticism of Washington's anti-Iran policies," close quote and that he, quote, "has consistently opposed any plan to launch a military strike against Iran," close quote. Why do you think they have that impression?
MR. HAGEL: Well, first of all, it's not an accurate quote. I've never opposed military action against Iran.
SEN. VITTER: Let me just clarify. It's an accurate quote of the Iranian government press. Why do you think they have that impression?
MR. HAGEL: It's not an accurate statement about my position.
SEN. VITTER: Right, but why do you think they have that impression?
MR. HAGEL: As I said in answer to that question earlier, I have enough difficulty understanding American politics, Senator. I surely don't understand Iranian politics…
MR. HAGEL: …The military option is always on the table, must be on the table -- always should be the last option, always the last option. But aren't we wiser and smarter if we can figure this out, accomplish our objectives without having to go to war for everybody?
SEN. AYOTTE: … And I wanted to ask you about a speech that you made in 2007. It was at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and it was a speech entitled "The United States and Iran: At Dangerous Crossroads." And in that speech, you -- in referring to Iran, you said that the strategy of containment remains relevant today.
And so I wanted to ask you about that statement that you made in 2007 about the strategy of containment remains relevant with regard to Iran today. Now, that was in 2007. But why would you say that, first of all? And then, isn't that inconsistent with what you've been saying today with regard to containment?
MR. HAGEL: Well, I don't have the speech in front of me. And I think there was more to it than just that -- that few words that you quoted. If I recall -- the entire speech was about how do we deal with Iran. If I recall, what I was inventorying in the specific reference to containment was, within that inventory, what are the options? I don't think that speech says that I support it…
SEN. AYOTTE: Was it that containment was one of the options?
MR. HAGEL: Yes. I mean, of course, when you look at the whole range of what your options are, that certainly would be one of them.
SEN. AYOTTE: Do you think containment's one of the options now?
MR. HAGEL: No, I don't now, but -- doesn't make any difference what I think. It's when you look at ranges -- it's like the Global Zero. That was not a recommendation report. That was a range of goals, aspirations, possibilities. That wasn't in any way -- that report never said, we recommend the following…
SEN. AYOTTE: …do you think that the Iranian regime responds -- you talked about the difference between nation states versus, for example, stateless terrorist organizations. Do you believe -- in the context of Iran, do you believe that the Iranian regime responds with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior or will respond like that?
MR. HAGEL: Well, so far they have not. And I have said, as you know -- and I said in that same book that you're quoting from -- that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. I've said that many times. So no is the answer to --
SEN. AYOTTE: So if they're not -- I mean they haven't been responding with a level of -- with a degree of responsible or sane behavior, and, as you say in your book, that it's a state sponsor of terrorism, I'm also struggling with the question of why you would have thought that it was appropriate for us to have direct, unconditional talks with Iran…
MR. HAGEL: Well, first, I said engagement. And I think we should talk. We actually are, indirectly, in the P-5 plus one. We have been. I think that's responsible. I think it's always responsible to try to talk first. North Korea. I don't think that -- I don't consider North Korea a responsible, sane administration, but we're talking to North Korea.
We've been talking bilaterally to North Korea. We're talking with the parties six (sic) to North Korea. I think that's wise. I think it's always wise to try to talk to people before you get into war…
SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-TX): Senator Hagel, please answer the question I asked. Today do you think unilateral sanctions would be a bad idea?
MR. HAGEL: Not today, 12 years later.
SEN. CRUZ: So that is not a view you would agree with today.
MR. HAGEL: Because times have changed. We now have international sanctions on them.
SEN. CRUZ: Sir, I'm not asking the reason. I'm asking for your views today. Do you believe the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is a terrorist group, yes or no?
MR. HAGEL: It is part of a state sponsor of terrorism. So it's part of Iran, which I've said is a sponsor of state terrorism.
Answers to Advance Policy Questions for the Senate Armed Services Committee
In your view, what are the major challenges confronting the next Secretary of Defense?
…With the ever present threat of Iran, the next Secretary of Defense must be vigilant in pursuing the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and must maintain our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.
Assuming you are confirmed, what plans do you have for addressing these challenges?
            …As long as nuclear weapons exist, we must maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal to deter any adversary. I am committed to considering all options to counter Iran and its aggression, and to maintain U.S. support for missile defense systems in Israel.
In September 2009, President Obama announced that he had accepted the unanimous recommendation of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to pursue a Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) to missile defense in Europe. This approach is intended to defend all of Europe against existing and emerging threats from Iranian missiles… Do you support the Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense in Europe and, if confirmed, will you implement it?
            Yes. I support the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). If confirmed, I will ensure the Department continues to support implementation of EPAA.
Do you support the continued enhancement and sustainment of the Ground-based
Midcourse Defense system?
            I very strongly believe that we should sustain and enhance our national missile defense to protect the nation from limited ICBM attack by states like North Korea and Iran.
The United States and NATO are seeking options to cooperate with Russia on
missile defense… Do you agree that such cooperation could enhance the security of the United States, NATO, and Russia against common missile threats from nations such as Iran?

            Yes. I agree that missile defense cooperation with Russia has the potential to enhance the security of the United States, NATO, and Russia. I also agree with President Obama’s commitment to ensure that such cooperation will not limit U.S. or NATO missile defense capabilities.
What is your assessment of the military and political threat posed by Iran?
            Iran poses a significant threat to the United States, our allies and partners, and our interests in the region and globally. Iran continues to pursue an illicit nuclear program that threatens to provoke a regional arms race and undermine the global non-proliferation regime. Iran is also one of the main state-sponsors of terrorism and could spark conflict, including against U.S. personnel and interests. Iran is also actively investing in the development of a range of conventional capabilities, including air, missile, and naval assets that have generated regional anxieties and could threaten our interests and personnel in the region.
What is your assessment of U.S. policy with respect to Iran?

            I believe that President Obama has put in place and pursued effectively – with support from the U.S. Congress – a strong, multi-vector strategy to deal with the threats that Iran poses to the United States, particularly its nuclear pursuits. This strategy has included a strong diplomatic effort to test Iranian intentions, lay the ground work for an international coalition that holds Tehran accountable for its transgressions, and isolate Iran in the region and globally. This strategy has also included the application of smart, unprecedented, and effective sanctions against the Iranian regime that has sharpened its choices significantly. And lastly, this strategy has credibly, and smartly in my opinion, made clear that all options are on the table. I believe that this strategy has made it clear to Iran that the United States will do what it must to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and I will continue to implement this policy if confirmed.
In your view, what has been the effect of sanctions against Iran – how effective have they been?

            I believe that the President with significant help from the U.S. Congress, has been able to bring the world community together to confront Iran with effective sanctions. As a result of these sanctions, Iran’s financial, trade, and economic outlook has deteriorated significantly. International financial institutions estimate that Iran’s economy contracted in 2012 for the first time in more than two decades. Iran’s access to foreign exchange reserves held overseas has diminished. Additionally, the Iranian currency – the rial – reached an all-time low in mid-October, losing more than half its value since the start of 2012. Inflation and unemployment are also growing. As the economic outlook for Iran continues to worsen and as the U.S. continues to reinforce our pressure track along with the international community, I believe that pressure is building on Iran.
You have said that “Washington should make clear that everything is on the table
with Tehran—an end to sanctions, diplomatic recognition, civil nuclear cooperation,
investment in Iran’s energy sector, World Bank Loans, World Trade Organization
membership, Iraq, Afghanistan, regional security arrangements, etc.—if Iran abstains
from a nuclear weapons program, ends support for terrorist groups, recognizes Israel, and engages in more constructive policies in Iraq.” Do you still hold this view?
            I do believe that if Iran lives up to international obligations, it should have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community and eventual rejoining of the community of nations. The other choice is clear as well – if Iran continues to flout its international obligations, it should continue to face severe and growing consequences. While there is time and space for diplomacy, backed by pressure, the window is closing. Iran needs to demonstrate it is prepared to negotiate seriously.
…Do you agree with the President's view that “all options should be on the table” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon?
            I agree with the President that the United States should take no options off the table in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. If confirmed, I will focus intently on ensuring that U.S. military is in fact prepared for any contingency.
Iran has hundreds of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles today that are
capable of reaching forward-deployed U.S. forces, allies, and partner nations in the
CENTCOM AOR. The Ballistic Missile Defense Review Report of February 2010 stated that the United States intends to pursue a phased and adaptive approach to ballistic missile defense tailored against such missile threats in various regions, including the Middle East.
Do you agree that such a phased adaptive approach will provide CENTCOM with the
missile defense capabilities needed to defend our forward deployed forces and our allies and partners in the region against Iranian ballistic missile threats?
            While I have not looked into the details of the phased adaptive approach, I believe this approach includes the appropriate steps to protect the United States as well as our forces and interests overseas. If confirmed, I will work to ensure the President continues to propose a budget sufficient to support our ballistic missile defense priorities, balanced with competing priorities, and consistent with the projected capabilities of missile defense systems to deal with the anticipated threats.
What role do you see for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system with Standard Missile –3 interceptors in U.S. regional missile defense capabilities against Iran’s ballistic missiles?
            My understanding is that today, U.S. Aegis combatants equipped with Standard Missile –3s are on station and protecting U.S. forces, partners, and allies in the Middle East as well as Europe against Iran’s ballistic missiles. My expectation is that this capability will continue to evolve.
In addition to U.S. missile defense capabilities in the CENTCOM AOR, what role do you see for other nations in the AOR to contribute to regional missile defense capabilities, such as UAE’s plans to purchase the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system?
            Recognizing that global demand for BMD will likely exceed the U.S. supply, it is
appropriate for the United States to seek appropriate burden-sharing arrangements with partners and allies in the CENTCOM area and other regions. Such arrangements can increase the quantity of missile defense assets in support of U.S. regional deterrence and security goals. If confirmed, I will encourage those contributions to our mutual defense needs.
The Intelligence Community assesses that, with sufficient foreign assistance, Iran may be technically capable of flight testing an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015. What should the United States do to hedge against this possibility?
            I understand that, with the deployed Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, the United States is currently protected against the threat of limited ICBM attack from states like Iran and North Korea. As noted in the 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review, it is important that we maintain this advantageous position by hedging against future uncertainties. If confirmed, I would continue the current efforts to prepare options in case the threat changes or if the development of new technical capabilities is delayed.
Click here for Hagel's past comments on Iran.