New footage of a speech by Chuck Hagel in 2008 has surfaced, in which the former Senator mocked the idea of continuing the U.S. policy of confronting Iran and supporting Israel. “When I hear the talk about–well you can’t talk with Iran, you can’t talk with Syria and we’re, we should stay where we are and support Israel, and so on, well you miss the point,” he told the laughing audience at an event for his book, America: Our Next Chapter.
Hagel added that the U.S. “shouldn’t even be thinking about the options of bombing Iran,” even in the event of a nuclear attack on Israel, and suggested Israel would be the first to attack Iran with a nuclear weapon.
Hagel told the Senate on Jan. 31 that he could not provide records or video for more than four of the “hundreds” of speeches he had given over the previous five years because they had not been transcribed or recorded:
We have given the committee every copy of every speech that I have that’s out there, every video that I have that’s out there. On paid speeches, most every one of those paid speeches–in the contract it says that they are private and not videotaped. That wasn’t my decision. That was the contract of the group I spoke to. I believe every paid speech I gave I didn’t have a prepared text. I gave it extemporaneously, which is something I’ve been doing for long before I left the Senate.
However, records and recordings of many of those speeches do exist, suggesting the administration either did not perform the due diligence necessary to comply with the Senate’s request, or that Hagel misled the Senate.
In the new footage, which was uploaded to YouTube and is apparently from a question-and-answer session after his formal remarks, Hagel fields a question about whether the U.S. would attack Iran to help defend Israel from an attack by Iran or one of its proxies that threatened Israel’s existence. He says that the U.S. should not attack Iran, and that the U.S. should “engage” Iran instead–even in those circumstances:
Q: [I]f Israel is attacked by Iran or an Iranian proxy like Hezbollah in a way that existentially threatens Israel, almost to the extent that Israel was attacked in ’73 and it’s existentially threatened, would you support an American airstrike using U.S. forces, B2s, whatever on Iran?”
A: I’ll answer the question as honestly as I can. That’s a hypothetical question that somehow frames up the simplicity of the hypothetical question. The complications in the Middle East, and I’m certainly not an expert there, I have a chapter on the Middle East, I do know [laughter], I know a little something about the Middle East. I spent a lot of time there. And I spent a lot of time in Israel with the prime minister and others. You, who are well informed on this issue know the complexities starting with–go back to the Bible, go back to ancient times, thousands of years. I mean that, if you really want to start trying to understand the Middle East, Paul, or David Aaron Miller, who you may know, has a new book out on this, The Not So Promised Land, [sic]. And if you want to read something that is very, very enlightening, this guy, he’s getting tremendous reviews on it. He’s Jewish. He worked in the State Department , worked for Baker, worked for Albright, I think he’s worked for four Secretaries of State, different Democrats, Republicans. But it’s a great, great book.
But your question, I mean the complication of what’s going on there, Hamas is already attacking Israel. Iran supports Hamas. Iran supports Hezbollah. What I would much rather see is this administration, or hopefully the next administration, engage Iran, engage Syria. When I hear the talk about–well you can’t talk with Iran, you can’t talk with Syria and we’re, we should stay where we are and support Israel, and so on, well you miss the point.
Our policy has been so successful I believe, hasn’t it [laughter], that the Middle East is far better off today than it’s ever been, isn’t it? [Laughter.] I mean all those countries, Lebanon is in great shape, Gaza is in great shape, Israel is in good shape, Iran, Iraq, things have never looked better, because we won’t talk to anybody. We are not going to have peace, stability, security or anything that even hints of it in the Middle East until Iran and Syria and all the players are part of it.
Now that doesn’t apologize for, or doesn’t close our eyes to what Iran has been doing, what Iran does do. But unless they are engaged in some way, then I don’t see this getting any better. And where this could go, where this could eventually go–somebody was asking me the other day about a nuclear exchange in the world, where that would come from? And I said, well, I’ll give you a scenario that’s very real. If Israel gets backed up enough into a corner, and Israel uses a tactical theater nuclear weapon–you want to talk about seeing some things unravel in the world. The United States shouldn’t even be thinking about the options of bombing Iran or anybody else. I mean, we got our hands full right now… [Applause]
Last week, Iranian “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei bluntly rejected the suggestion by Vice President Joe Biden that the U.S. and Iran should meet for direct, bilateral talks on Iran’s nuclear program.