Hagel ‘Felt Sorry’ for Kerry After Iran Negotiations Faltered

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, citing the recent Pay Our Military Act, will recall to work hundreds of thousands of furloughed civilian employees of the Department of Defense next week.
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
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Sara Sorcher
Nov. 14, 2013, 11:18 a.m.

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.”

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