On Jan. 7, Obama formally tapped Hagel to run the Pentagon. The move quickly set off a wave of opposition ads from pro-Israel groups. Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former Republican senator from Nebraska, has long pushed for diplomacy over military threats when it comes to Iran. Hagel has voted against unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran, describing them as ineffective and counterproductive. He has repeatedly supported multilateral U.N. sanctions. Hagel, June 28, 2001: "I fully agree with the objectives of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA). Combating proliferation and terrorism must remain at the forefront of our foreign policy. I do not agree, however, with a 'face value' policy that seeks to combat these twin scourges unilaterally. Right objectives but wrong policy."
Hagel, Oct. 17, 2007: "Now is the time for the United States to active[ly] 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 UN Security Council on a third sanctions resolution, and in the region to support those Middle East countries who share our concerns with Iran ... An approach such as this would strengthen our ability across the board to deal with Iran. Our friends and allies would be more confident to stand with us if we seek to increase pressure, including tougher sanctions on Iran." Their ad stated, "Hagel voted against labeling Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group." Hagel feared the Bush administration might use the Senate resolution on Iran as cover for a military attack. "I voted against that resolution for that very reason. It's a very dangerous resolution."
In Sept. 2007, Hagel voted against the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which, among other things, called for expressing a "sense of the Senate" that Iran's IRGC, the country's elite military branch, be designated as a terrorist organization. Hagel's position being Iran was a state sponsor of terror, but saw the Senate resolution as a "backdoor method of gaining congressional validation for military action."
Hagel, Jan. 7: "I have said many times that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. I have also questioned some very cavalier attitudes taken about very complicated issues in the Middle East. Israel is in a very, very difficult position. No border that touches Israel is always secure. We need to work to help protect Israel, so it doesn't get isolated. Furthering the peace process in the Middle East is in Israel's interest."
Hagel stated in 2007 with regard to Iran: "The United States must employ a comprehensive strategy that uses all of its tools of influence within its foreign policy arsenal - political, diplomatic, economic, cultural, and military. Our strategy must be one focused on direct engagement and diplomacy ... backed by the leverage of international pressure, military options, isolation and containment." Hagel said making the case that advocates for Israel harm its interests by making lawmakers do "dumb things:" "The political reality is that you intimidate, not you - that the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. Again, I have always argued against some of the dumb things they do because I don't think it's in the interest of Israel. I just don't think it's smart for Israel. I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator. I support Israel, but my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States - not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I'll do that. Now I know most senators don't talk like I do."
Sources: http://www.factcheck.org/, http://www.washingtonpost.com