United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Hagel’s Past Comments on Iran

            On January 7, President Obama nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the Secretary of Defense during his second term. The following are comments by Senator Hagel on Iran since 2005.

            “War with Iran is not inevitable, but U.S. national security would be seriously threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran… Our position is fully consistent with the policy of presidents for more than a decade of keeping all options on the table, including the use of military force, thereby increasing pressure on Iran while working toward a political solution. Since the consequences of a military attack are so significant for U.S. interests, we seek to ensure that the spectrum of objectives, as well as potential consequences, is understood.” Sept. 28, 2012 in a co-authored op-ed for The Washington Post
 
            “You cannot push the Iranians into a corner where they can’t get out…You’ve got to find some quiet ways – and you don’t do this in the press or by giving speeches – to give them a couple of face saving ways out of this thing so they get something out of this, too…”
            “I don’t think that we are necessarily locked into one of two options. And that’s the way it’s presented. We are great in this country and in our politics of responding to false choices; we love false choices.” March 9, 2012 in an interview with Al-Monitor
 
            “The United States should open a new strategic direction in U.S.-Iran relations by seeking direct, comprehensive and unconditional talks with the government of Iran, including opening a U.S. Interest Section in Tehran. We must avoid backing ourselves into a military conflict with Iran. That need not happen, but it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.” June 26, 2008 to the The Brookings Institution
 
            “Regime change is desirable, but that should not be our objective. Bilateral talks with Iran would have no conditions and there would be no illusions that progress would be quick or easy, if progress is even possible…”
            “In making such an offer to Iran, America would be squarely placing the burden on Iran’s rulers to respond to the opportunity for a new relationship with the United States. Let them think about the substantial carrots of improved relations, not just the sticks, and there may be a deal to be had.” March 25, 2008 in his co-authored book with Peter Kaminsky, “America: Our Next Chapter: Tough Questions, Straight Answers”
 
            “Our differences with Iran are real. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and continues to provide material support to Hezbollah and Hamas. The president of Iran publically threatens Israel’s existence and is attempting to develop the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. Iran has not helped stabilize the current chaos in Iraq and is responsible for weapons and explosives being used against U.S. military forces there…”
            “We must be clear that our objections are to the actions and policies of the Iranian government, not the Iranian people, and that improved Iran-U.S. relations are a real possibility.” Nov. 8, 2007 to the Center for Strategic and International Studies
 
            “Unilateral sanctions rarely ever work. I just don't think the unilateral approach and giving war speeches helps the situation. It will just drive the Iranians closer together…It escalates the danger of a military confrontation.”
            “I certainly think engagement is critical … direct engagement... That’s what great powers do.” Oct. 25, 2007 in his weekly news conference
 
            “Now is the time for the United States to active consider when and how to offer direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran. The offer should be made even as we continue to work with our allies on financial pressure, in the U.N. Security Council on a third sanctions resolution, and in the region to support those Middle East countries who share our concerns with Iran...” Oct. 17, 2007 in an alleged private letter to President Bush published by Steven Clemons
 
            “There will be no lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat until the broader interests of Iran, the U.S., the region and the world are addressed.”
            “We must carefully think through the Iranian challenge - unlike how we proceeded in Iraq. A military option is not a long-term solution to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Attacking Iran and destroying its nuclear facilities would not destroy Iran's ability and knowledge to come back at nuclear capability again and again.” May 8, 2006 in an op-ed for the Financial Times
 
            “To further comment on it would be complete speculation, but I would say that a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.”
            “I believe a political settlement will be the answer. Not a military settlement. All these issues will require a political settlement.” April 13, 2006 at a news conference
 
            “Any lasting solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program will also require the United States’ direct discussions with Iran. The United States is capable of engaging Iran in direct dialogue without sacrificing any of its interests or objectives.” Nov. 15, 2005 to the Council on Foreign Relations
 

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