Hagel, like Obama, has consistently emphasized diplomacy first in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. But, while Obama has long been clear that he considers military strikes a viable last resort, Hagel’s statements on the matter have been far more ambiguous. The now-retired GOP senator publicly opposed a strike on Iran during the Bush administration, but Hagel appears to have possibly changed his position since Obama came into office in 2009. Earlier this year, Hagel signed his name to a five-author Washington Post op-ed that called strikes an acceptable option. That said, I’ve been unable to find any clear statements supporting or opposing strikes since Bush left office.
It’s worth noting – as many Republicans are sure to do if Obama nominates Hagel – that he declared his opposition to a U.S. strike on Iran several times during Bush’s presidency. It’s possible that Hagel has since changed his position, perhaps due to changing facts on the ground as Iran’s nuclear development has grown and diplomatic efforts have seen setbacks. In a March interview with Al-Monitor, Hagel conspicuously avoided answering a direct question on whether he thinks the United States should bomb Iran as a last resort.