Share This Page

In Israel, Hagel presses agenda on Iran

| Sunday, April 21, 2013, 5:54 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Israel on Sunday to begin a weeklong tour of the Middle East as the region grapples with the worsening civil war in Syria and the stubborn nuclear threat from Iran.

Making his first visit to the region as Pentagon chief, Hagel is seeking to demonstrate solidarity between the United States and Israel — allies whose relations have been strained over how to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon. Israel is said to be considering unilateral military action against Iran's nuclear facilities, a move that Obama administration officials consider extremely risky.

Hagel arrives bearing gifts, including the hope of cementing major arms sales to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, that officials say would bolster each ally's military capabilities against the “shared threats” of Iran, the Syrian war and terrorism. The $10 billion deal, which requires approval from Congress, would send V-22 Osprey transport aircraft to Israel, 25 F-16 fighter jets to the UAE and F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, among other equipment.

“That's another very clear signal to Iran” that the United States hasn't ruled out trying to resolve the crisis with military force, Hagel said en route to Israel, where he was due to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials.

His two-day stay in Israel carries political significance because he was stung during his Senate confirmation process in January by charges from the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States that he wasn't sufficiently supportive of the Jewish state.

Although he often called Israel “a close friend and ally,” critics pointed to statements the former senator made that questioned the wisdom of military action to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. They referred to his remarks in a 2006 interview in which he said the “Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” on Capitol Hill.

As Defense secretary, Hagel has echoed the Obama administration's line that “all options are on the table” with regard to Iran, and he has supported Israel's right to defend itself.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.