Iran’s Foreign Ministry dumped more fuel on the fire of former Senator Chuck Hagel’s (R–NE) nomination for Secretary of Defense by announcing its approval for President Obama’s pick.
It’s no secret that Hagel, an outspoken critic of sanctions on Iran, has preferred a policy of engagement and direct talks with the rogue state. In 2001, Hagel voted not to renew the Iran–Libya Sanctions Act, denying said countries money that would be spent on funding terrorism and/or acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
Then, in 2007, Hagel voted against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, despite the force’s role in orchestrating attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. Hagel further opposed the Iran Counter–Proliferation Act and sent a letter to President George W. Bush, urging him to engage in “direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran.”
Despite Hagel’s objections, sanctions on Iran have had an impact, albeit limited. At the end of 2011, OPEC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iranian crude exports fell from 2.4 million barrels a day to approximately one million barrels a day by the end of 2012. In addition, on January 7, Iran’s oil minister, Rostam Qasemi, admitted to a 45 percent drop in oil exports.
Sanctions have also impacted the Iranian government’s sale of jet fuel to Iran’s heavily indebted domestic airlines. Now that airlines are required to pay cash up front for fuel, some commercial airline flights have been cancelled as a result.
The Obama Administration has drifted so far from the Bush Administration’s hard-line policy on Iran that Congress was compelled to take the lead in ratcheting up sanctions against Iran by large bipartisan majorities, often over the Obama Administration’s objections.
By nominating Hagel for Secretary of Defense, Obama is signaling that America can expect more of the same in his second term. That is, continued sanctions, with a firm reluctance to go any farther, despite Iran’s continued belligerence and nuclear advancements.
Iran welcomes Hagel’s nomination, just as it welcomed Obama’s victory in 2008. The opportunity for open dialogue provides Iran with the time it needs to develop its nuclear program with fewer constraints by the international community.