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Obama Advisor on Hagel Hearing: 'Baffling and Incomprehensible'

2:41 PM, Feb 1, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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An advisor to President Obama describes Chuck Hagel's hearing as, "somewhere between baffling and incomprehensible." The advisor made the comment to the New York Times.

The Times reports:

Dealing with Iran is complicated, but President Obama's policy on the question of whether a nuclear-armed Iran could be successfully "contained'' - the way the Soviet Union was during the cold war - is simple.

His answer is no.

But in the weeks of preparation for his Senate confirmation hearing to be defense secretary on Thursday, either no one explained that to Chuck Hagel, Mr. Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, or he forgot it. And so on his first outing, Mr. Hagel fell immediately into the trap that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and several other administration officials have complained about in recent years. He became the latest official to send what many inside the administration fear has been an inconsistent and confusing message to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, about whether the Obama administration would, if there was no other option, take military measures to prevent Iran from possessing a weapon.

"It's somewhere between baffling and incomprehensible," a member of Mr. Obama's own team of advisers on Iran said on Thursday night when asked about Mr. Hagel's stumbling performance on the question during the all-day hearing. The worry was evident in the voice of the official, who would not speak on the record while criticizing the performance of the president's nominee. For those who question whether the no-containment cornerstone of the Obama approach to Tehran is for real, or just diplomatic rhetoric, Mr. Hagel clearly muddled the message, he said.

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