One of the most informed and balanced experts on international relations in the U.S. Senate is Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel. In a cogent, well-reasoned letter to President Bush, Hagel recently urged a change in U.S policy toward Iran.
Hagel began by reminding the president he has supported American initiatives at the United Nations to apply diplomatic and economic pressure to halt Iran’s nuclear development program. However, recent developments have created concern for U.S. allies that the administration is pursuing a policy of regime change in Iran rather than a change in that government’s behavior. According to Hagel, the resultant strategy is not only undermining the U.S. position, but also emboldening Tehran, leading it to believe its position has been strengthened.
In recent weeks the United States has imposed unilateral financial sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the paramilitary Quds force and some Iranian banks and financial institutions. Few of the countries that supported the invasion of Iraq effort have indicated support for those sanctions. Statements by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney warning of stronger action have fueled fears that the administration is leaning toward a military solution.
“Unless there is a strategic shift,” Hagel argued in his letter, “I believe we will find ourselves in a dangerous and increasingly isolated position in the coming months. . .If this continues, our ability to sustain a united international front will weaken as countries grow uncertain of our motives and unwilling to risk open confrontation with Iran, and we are left with fewer and fewer policy options.”
One senator is not enough to turn around an administration that is on the wrong course. There are others lurking who share Hagel’s views — but there need to be more.
Senator Hagel will be speaking today (11 a.m.) at a forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies at 11 am at the Capitol Hilton, Federal Ballroom, 1001 16th Street NW, Washington DC. The topic is “The United States and Iran: At a Dangerous Crossroads.” The program appears to be free and open to the public.
— Steve Clemons