THE WEEKLY STANDARD previously noted Senator David Vitter’s offense at Chuck Hagel’s “suggestion that my support of Israel is somehow contrary to my Constitutional oath.” Here’s Vitter’s full letter, laying out that concern and many others:
January 24, 2013
The Honorable Charles Hagel
Office of the Secretary of Defense
2000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-2000
Dear Senator Hagel:
I appreciated the opportunity to review the letter you sent to Senator Barbara Boxer last week, and I wanted to take the opportunity to follow up on that correspondence with further questions.
With regard to Iran, you told the Lincoln Journal Star just two weeks ago that you “have not supported unilateral sanctions because, when it is us alone, they don’t work and they just isolate the United States.” You continued that, “United Nations sanctions are working. When we just decree something, that doesn’t work.” One week later, your letter to Senator Boxer makes no mention of your previously expressed beliefs that unilateral sanctions do not work, that they isolate the United States, or that United Nations sanctions are working. Instead, you suggest in your letter that further unilateral sanctions against Iran “may be necessary.”
I am concerned that in a span of just a few days, your views on Iran sanctions appear to have changed three times – first opposing Iran sanctions altogether, then opposing just unilateral sanctions, and now supporting all sanctions.
Retracting your positions based solely upon public criticism of your record raises serious questions on issues that are critical to national defense. If you now claim to support unilateral sanctions, why did you vote against renewal of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in 2001; why did you refuse to cosponsor the Iran Counter Proliferation Act in 2007; why did you vote against the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) in 2008; and why you put a hold on CISADA in 2008 after it cleared the Senate Banking Committee over your opposition?
Furthermore, I am concerned by a subtle but critically important statement you made to Senator Boxer – that further sanctions may be needed because of Iran’s “rejection of diplomatic overtures,” rather than because of Iran’s continued enrichment activities in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. The implication of this statement is that if the Iranians merely agreed to sit down and talk, you would no longer support sanctions. Senator, the objective of our policy should not be talks – the objective should be a complete halt to all Iranian enrichment activities. Why do you believe sanctions should only be tied to “Iran’s continued rejection of diplomatic overtures” and not to the status of its nuclear program?
Separately on Iran, I am struck by what is missing in your letter to Senator Boxer – that being any comment regarding the need for a credible military threat to deter Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. During a visit to Pakistan in 2006, you declared that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” This puts you at odds with 77 Senators who signed a letter to President Obama last month, urging him to reiterate his “readiness to take military action against Iran if it continues its efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon.” I am concerned that your stance sends a clear signal of weakness to the Iranian regime at a time when we cannot afford such signals.
You have also failed to address many other concerns regarding your record and past statements related to Iran. Your opposition to designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist entity – at a time when the Guard was murdering American soldiers in Iraq – appears indefensible. Furthermore, your past statements, including in 2007 when you said, “Continued hostile relations between the United States and Iran will have the effect of isolating the United States,” and in 2008 when you wrote that, “America’s refusal to recognize Iran’s status as a legitimate power does not decrease Iran’s influence, but rather increases it,” leaves the impression that your view toward Iran is out-of-step with mainstream America and current U.S. strategy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.