Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he “felt sorry” for Secretary of State John Kerry as members of Congress and pundits skewered the Obama administration for failing to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva last week.
Speaking at the Defense One summit in Washington, Hagel defended the ongoing diplomatic outreach aimed at eventually curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
“If we can move toward some common interest, move to some higher ground, to some possible potential resolution to a problem, aren’t we smarter to do that? Engagement is not surrender. It is not appeasement,” Hagel said.
“I felt sorry for Secretary Kerry, because people jumped into this, saying ‘Well, he didn’t get anything; he didn’t get a deal.’ Wait a minute. We’ve been at some kind of unofficial war with Iran since 1979. Does anybody really think we’re all going to get together in some kind of P5+1 [negotiations] for a week and come out of that with some tiny little agreement?”
All the world powers at stake — and Iran, too — have political issues to contend with in the negotiations, Hagel continued. “It’s going to take time,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, members of Congress from both parties are talking tough about keeping the existing raft of sanctions against Iran in place, and possibly even levying more measures against the Islamic Republic despite the administration’s pleas for them to hold off.
Hagel cautioned against abandoning diplomacy and risking another war, especially as the U.S. draws down its forces after more than a decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Still, Hagel stressed the need for keeping the U.S. military at the ready for any possibility. The threat of military force recently proved effective in convincing President Bashar al-Assad to agree to a deal to destroy chemical weapons in his country.
“I don’t think we would have had any kind of opening to get to where we are with chemical weapons in Syria “¦ without the real, live threat of military force,” Hagel said. “Whether it’s Iran or Syria, it’s how do you smartly use your military to influence outcomes.”
What We're Following See More »
In light of his recent confessions, the speakership of Dennis Hastert is being judged far more harshly. The New York Times' Carl Hulse notes that in hindsight, Hastert now "fares poorly" on a number of fronts, from his handling of the Mark Foley page scandal to "an explosion" of earmarks to the weakening of committee chairmen. "Even his namesake Hastert rule—the informal standard that no legislation should be brought to a vote without the support of a majority of the majority — has come to be seen as a structural barrier to compromise."
Even if "[t]he Republican presidential nomination may be in his sights ... Trump has so far ignored vital preparations needed for a quick and effective transition to the general election. The New York businessman has collected little information about tens of millions of voters he needs to turn out in the fall. He's sent few people to battleground states compared with likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, accumulated little if any research on her, and taken no steps to build a network capable of raising the roughly $1 billion needed to run a modern-day general election campaign."
Rep. Dave Young can't even refuse his own paycheck. The Iowa Republican is trying to make a point that if Congress can't pass a budget (it's already missed the April 15 deadline) then it shouldn't be paid. But, he's been informed, the 27th Amendment prohibits him from refusing his own pay. "Young’s efforts to dock his own pay, however, are duck soup compared to his larger goal: docking the pay of every lawmaker when Congress drops the budget ball." His bill to stiff his colleagues has only mustered the support of three of them. Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), has about three dozen co-sponsors.
Sixty miles away, in Sandusky, Ohio. "We're pretty bitter about that," said Harmeet Dhillon, vice chairwoman of the California Republican Party. "It sucks to be California, we're like the ugly stepchild. They need us for our cash and our donors, they don't need us for anything else."