Saba Farzan
Saba Farzan
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Teheran votes YES! on Hagel

What better signal does Obama need that Chuck Hagel is a bad idea than the warm reception his appointment is getting from Iran?

How can a world leader know for certain that his policies are going in the wrong direction? One way is if this leader is praised for his policies towards his enemies, not by allies, but by the very same enemies. This happened to President Barack Obama in the summer of 2009 when his silence and inaction towards Iran’s Freedom Movement was overly praised by apologists of the Islamic Republic.

Now, is there something even worse for an American president than receiving credit from such apologists? Yes: receiving credit from the Iranian dictatorship itself. President Obama is in the final stage of forming a cabinet for his second term. And as Iran’s dictatorship watches this process unfold in Washington they’re about to start dancing on the tables over in Teheran. Pro-government circles are already cautiously pleased about both the reelection of President Obama and the appointment of Senator John Kerry. Tabnak, a popular pro-government mouthpiece, owned by Major General Mohsen Rezai, former commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and currently the Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council, published a report under the title of “this American Secretary will support Iran” referring to Senator Chuck Hagel. The report concludes:

Considering that John Kerry has moderate views, especially regarding Iran, some observers believe after these appointments, there is a chance that US policies toward Iran will change.

But if the Kerry appointment is cause for optimism in Teheran, the prospect of having Senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense has elicited cheers from senior Iranian officials. In a report on Obama’s second administration, Alef – a conservative Farsi language Website belonging to Ahmad Tavakkoli, a former presidential candidate and currently a prominent conservative member of parliament – calls Senator Chuck Hagel the only silver lining in Obama’s second administration. Alef cites Hagel’s opposition to sanctions against Iran, his objection to a military option, and his insistence on negotiations. Tavakkoli does caution that Hagel may not manage to counter the Obama’s administration hard-line policies toward Iran.

Javanonline, a Farsi language news site close to IRGC, the paramilitary apparatus in charge of Iran’s nuclear program and responsible for severe human rights violations, calls Senator Hagel a renowned anti-Zionist figure who is moderate and soft when it comes to Iran.

As for Senator Hagel himself, who is chairman of the foreign policy think tank Atlantic Council, he stated at a panel discussion on Iran in 2011 that he doesn’t see engagement with Iran as appeasement.

But no matter how you look at engagement with the Islamic Republic today, it is nothing other than appeasement. In an era in which threats to national security will take a different form from those of past decades, the world’s leading power needs a secretary of defense with a different approach. It needs someone who represents the future of American strength and serves US national interests. Most critical to those interests is preventing a nuclear armed Iran by bringing an end to the Iranian regime.

Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense could be disastrous for the US in the Middle East, especially in the case of Iran. The mere prospect that Hagel will fill the job is already harming efforts to convince Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program; it sends Iran a signal that President Obama is not serious about his stated opposition to the regime’s nuclear weapons program and that Israel is losing its place as a US strategic ally in the region. Hossein Mousavian, who was Iran’s ambassador to Germany during the infamous 1992 assassinations by Iranian agents of Kurdish opponents in Berlin’s Mykonos restaurant, and a former senior negotiator on the nuclear issue, recently said in an interview with a conservative publication that the US Congress and House are the real problem and that if this problem could be overcome, then problem Obama can stand against Israel.

That’s how the Iranian regime sees US politics and by nominating Senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama confirms the regime’s perception. And that’s why the regime is not buying Obama’s warnings. On the contrary, Teheran believes, as Mousavian does, that the US will accept Iran going nuclear and will even lift sanctions. Iran sees itself almost nuclear right now and appointing Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense is an invitation to Iran’s dictatorship – signed, sealed and delivered by President Obama himself – to join the nuclear club.

Saeed Ghasseminejad
Saeed Ghasseminejad

This article was co-written with Saeed Ghasseminejad, a PhD candidate at Baruch college in New York, and the spokesperson for the Iranian Liberal Students and Graduates association.

About the Author
Saba Farzan is a German-Iranian journalist and Executive Director at Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin.