Hagel Spoke Of Cooperation With Iran In 2007 Speech

According to the Free Beacon Hagel allegedly said during the Q&A after the speech the State Department was adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office. The prepared text accessed via a Nexis search of press releases from his old Senate website does not include the Q&A, but does include praise for U.S. cooperation with Iran in Afghanistan. [[Update]] Chuck Hagel’s 2008 speech to the ADC, also sought by conservatives is at the bottom of this post as well.

In the speech at Rutgers, delivered in 2007, Hagel suggested reopening a U.S. consulate in Tehran. He also offered his view that the U.S. could find ways to work with Iran, based on “clear-eyed” common interest:

Iran has cooperated with the United States on Afghanistan to help the Afghans establish a new government after the Taliban was ousted. Iran continues to invest heavily in the reconstruction of western Afghanistan.

On Afghanistan, the United States and Iran found common interests - defeating the Taliban and Islamic radicals, stabilizing Afghanistan, stopping the opium production and the flow of opium coming into Iran. From these common interests emerged common actions working toward a common purpose. It was in the interests of Iran to work with the U.S. in Afghanistan. It was not a matter of helping America or strengthening America’s presence in Central Asia. It was a clear-eyed and self-serving action for Iran.

Here’s the full text of the speech:

“I want to speak today about a subject that I know is very much on the minds of Americans…and the world…America’s relationship with the Middle East and in particular Iran. This relationship is at the center of some of the most important strategic challenges that America faces today and in the future…energy security…America’s relationship with the Islamic world…and the future of the greater Middle East.

Today, the Middle East is more combustible and dangerous than any time in modern history. It is experiencing political upheaval driven by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, religious and ethnic differences, radical Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, despair and the war in Iraq.

Forces and events in the Middle East cannot be neatly categorized. The swirl of Middle East history creates layers upon layers of complexity. There is little transparency in the Middle East. That is a reality that is inescapable and cannot be assumed away. To ignore this reality is to risk being trapped by false choices….false choices such as the question, ‘which is worse - Iran with nuclear weapons or war with Iran?’

These are not our only choices in dealing with the Middle East and Iran. Diplomatic initiatives, UN mandates, regional cooperation, security frameworks, and economic incentives are part of the mix of international possibilities that must be employed to comprehensively address the challenges of the Middle East.

The United States must approach the Middle East with a clear understanding of the complexities of the region. Our strategic policies must be regional in scope…integrating Iran, Iraq, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, violent Islamic extremism, access to energy supplies, and political reform into a comprehensive policy equation. This should be developed through consultation, cooperation, and coordination with our regional allies Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Israel. This will require a new regional diplomatic and economic framework to work within…a new Middle East frame of reference.

On Tuesday, the Bush Administration announced a critical step forward by agreeing to participate in the two upcoming regional security conferences being organized by Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. Iran and Syria have also agreed to participate in these conferences. I support the Administration’s decision and have advocated such a diplomatic initiative for three years. There will be no stability in Iraq and the Middle East without the involvement of all of the nations of the Middle East.

It will be very important that the U.S. follow-through from the conferences be comprehensive, sustained, and at the highest levels of our government… including the direct involvement of President Bush at the appropriate time.

In the Middle East of the 21st Century, Iran will be a key center of gravity…a significant regional power. The United States cannot change that reality. America’s strategic 21st century regional policy for the Middle East must acknowledge the role of Iran today and over the next 25 years.

To acknowledge that reality in no way confuses Iran’s dangerous, destabilizing and threatening behavior in the region. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and provides material support to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups. Iran publicly threatens Israel and is developing the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. Iran has not helped stabilize the current chaos in Iraq and is responsible for weapons and explosives being used against U.S. and Iraqi military forces in Iraq.

Iran must be held accountable for its actions. These actions by Iran are one part of a complicated picture of a country with a three thousand year history, governed by a complex and opaque political structure, burdened by a stagnating economy, and located in a geostrategically unstable region.

Iran has cooperated with the United States on Afghanistan to help the Afghans establish a new government after the Taliban was ousted. Iran continues to invest heavily in the reconstruction of western Afghanistan.
On Afghanistan, the United States and Iran found common interests - defeating the Taliban and Islamic radicals, stabilizing Afghanistan, stopping the opium production and the flow of opium coming into Iran. From these common interests emerged common actions working toward a common purpose. It was in the interests of Iran to work with the U.S. in Afghanistan. It was not a matter of helping America or strengthening America’s presence in Central Asia. It was a clear-eyed and self-serving action for Iran.

Complex sets of factors drive the dynamics inside Iran as well as Iran’s actions in the Middle East.Iran is not monolithic. Iran is governed by competing centers of power. The President and the parliament - known as the Majles - are elected. But it is the Supreme Council, lead by the Supreme Leader…currently Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei…who serves as the Commander in Chief and has formal authority over Iran’s armed forces and foreign policy. Ayatollah Khamenei has the power to dismiss Iran’s President. In fact, Supreme Leader Khamenei did not support President Ahmadinejad’s presidential bid. Power and influence in Iran evolve and shift…and are difficult to understand.

Two-thirds of Iran’s population is under the age of 30. Iran is undergoing a generational shift that will shape Iran’s outlook…and its opinions of the United States…for decades to come. Iran’s young people use the internet in large numbers, wear American jeans, listen to American music and are positive about America and the West. We do not want to lose this pro-American generation by turning them away from us. They are the hope of Iran. They bristle under the heavy yoke of the Ayatollahs’ strident limitations of personal freedom.

Our understanding of Iran is limited and incomplete. We have not had formal diplomatic relations with Iran for nearly three decades. Diplomatic contact at all levels is severely limited. We have no constructive military contact. Economic ties remain essentially severed as well. There is deep distrust and suspicion on both sides regarding intentions and motivations.
Put simply, the United States and Iran do not know one another. This unfamiliarity, distrust, and lack of engagement risks producing disastrous consequences. When countries do not engage, the risk of misperception based on faulty judgments spawns uninformed and dangerous decisions.

The United States needs to weigh very carefully its actions regarding Iran. In a hazy, hair-triggered environment, careless rhetoric and military movements that one side may believe are required to demonstrate resolve and strength…can be misinterpreted as preparations for military options. The risk of inadvertent conflict because of miscalculation is great.

The United States must be cautious and wise not to follow the same destructive path on Iran as we did on Iraq. We blundered into Iraq because of flawed intelligence, flawed assumptions, flawed judgments, and questionable intentions.

The United States must find a new regional diplomatic strategy to deal with Iran that integrates our regional allies, military power and economic leverage. This is why the regional security conferences being organized by Prime Minister Maliki are so important.
As the 2006 Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq concluded, “The United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues.”

The upcoming regional security conferences about the future of Iraq could provide an opportunity to begin a dialogue with Iran…and begin to develop a process of mutual understanding between the United States and Iran that is based on direct discussions…not public rhetoric, perceptions, assumptions, or third-party communication. Diplomacy is an essential tool in world affairs to ratchet down the pressure of conflict and increase the leverage of strength.

Regional dialogue with Iran and Syria that produces a sustained and committed diplomatic process can be the basis for a new U.S. strategic approach to the Middle East.

There will be no stability in the Middle East until the broader interests of Iran, the region and the world are addressed.

The United States must employ wise statecraft to redirect deepening Middle East tensions toward a higher ground of resolution. We must be clear that the United States does not seek regime change in Iran. We must be clear that our objections are to the actions of the Iranian government…not the Iranian people.

America must have a strategic and comprehensive Middle East framework of resolution using all the levers of influence available to the U.S. and its allies. Engagement with Iran must be integrated with our decision to deploy a second carrier battlegroup and other military assets into the Persian Gulf…with our the decision to target Iranian military assistance flowing into Iraq…and with the world’s response to Iran’s failure to comply with last week’s UN Security Council deadline to halt its uranium enrichment activities. A strategic and comprehensive strategy will create an opportunity for the United States to reaffirm, expand, and strengthen the international consensus to address Iran’s nuclear program.

The United States must be prepared to act boldly and exploit opportunities to re-frame our relationship with Iran. Engagement should not be limited to government-to-government contact…but rather find new and imaginative ways to reach out to the Iranian people. Part of that initiative could be offering to re-open a consulate in Tehran…not formal diplomatic relations…but a Consulate…to help encourage and facilitate people-to-people exchange. All nations of Europe and most of our allies in the Middle East and Asia have diplomatic relations with Iran.

As Dr. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, wrote in the Washington Post this week: “The proposed international conferences provide the best framework for serious diplomacy over Iraq. Iraq’s neighbors are too much at odds with each other to be able to establish the psychological or the security equilibrium for a regional conference by themselves. Participation of the Security Council’s permanent members, as well as Egypt as a nearby state, is vital…Paradoxically, [the conferences] may also prove the best framework for bilateral discussions with Syria and Iran…It is symbolically important that the Iraqi government call for the conferences as it has done, but the conferences cannot be concluded without consistent and strong American leadership.”

Without a wise and integrated strategy, we risk drifting into conflict with Iran.
America’s military might alone will not bring stability and security to the Middle East. That is an enduring fact of international relations that the late President Ronald Reagan understood well.

Throughout his eight years as President, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a global struggle, the Cold War. It was a war fought using containment, alliances, and political, diplomatic, economic and military power. Yet, nuclear war was averted and no shot was ever fired between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

President Reagan was always clear and resolute that the Soviet Union was our foe….that deep, fundamental differences divided the United States and the Soviet Union. He referred to the Soviet Union as the “evil empire.”

In a speech before the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983, President Reagan said:”I urge you to beware the temptation of pride - the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault - to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”

Yet it was President Reagan who, in 1986, almost reached an agreement with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to abolish nuclear weapons. President Reagan understood the need for America to engage…to understand our friends and our adversaries…to explore our options…to identify common interests. President Reagan understood that great powers engage because they are secure in their beliefs and purpose but humble and wise in their policies and actions.

Fourteen years earlier, in 1972, President Nixon boldly demonstrated the power of diplomacy to achieve America’s national interests when he announced that the United States would establish a strategic relationship with China and that he would visit Beijing for direct talks with Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Communist Party of China.

The United States must have a policy on Iran…on Iraq…on the broader Middle East…that the American people understand, and will trust and support. Our words and our actions must seek to make America more secure, and the world more peaceful and prosperous. The world must know that, like all sovereign nations, the United States will defend itself and its interests, but that military conflict will always be the last resort.

The American people are deeply concerned about our direction in the Middle East. The American people expect and deserve a strategy that shows prospects for resolution. A U.S. military conflict with Iran would inflame the Middle East and global Muslim populations, crippling U.S. security, political, economic and strategic interests worldwide. I do not believe that the American people will believe that such an outcome improves America’s security, stability and prosperity.

America cannot sustain political, diplomatic, economic or military engagement in the Middle East without the support of the American people. The rising tensions with Iran, the chaos in Iraq, the enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict present a deepening crisis in the Middle East. America’s policies must help lead the region out of the crisis. The American people increasingly understand this present and future danger.

Today, some of America’s own actions are undermining the very interests that we must protect and advance in the Middle East. A recent poll conducted by Zogby International in the countries of Arab allies…Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates…found that only twelve percent expressed favorable attitudes toward the United States. As David Ignatius wrote last week in the Washington Post from a conference in Doha, Qatar, “It isn’t a tiny handful of people in the Arab world who oppose what America is doing. It’s nearly everyone.”

If we lose our ability to influence outcomes in the Middle East, the consequences and implications for America and the world will be severe. We risk unstable energy supplies…growth in radical Islamic terrorism…increasing threats to Israel…and nuclear proliferation.

We are living today at an historic transformational time in history. The great challenges of the 21st century will require U.S. leadership that is trusted and respected, not feared nor resented. America cannot project only military power. Inspirational leadership and confidence in America’s purpose, not imposed power, will be essential for world peace. If we fail, we will lose the next generation in Iran and around the world. This would result in a far more dangerous world than any we have ever known.

For the 21st Century, the U.S.-Iran relationship will frame the structure and dynamics of the Middle East. We must be sure of our actions and wise with our words. The prospects for peace that have eluded all nations of the Middle East for so long may be on the edge of a convergence of historic intersects. America can help shape the outcome with active and focused diplomacy…worthy of our heritage.”

3. Bonus: Here is his speech to the ADC in 2008.

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