Conservatives are using a U.N. report released today to instigate a confrontation with Iran. Drudge headlines “Iran Nuke showdown.” AEI writes, “Now is the time to ratchet up the pressure.” In a speech at the University of Nebraska, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) tamped down on such rhetoric, arguing the way forward must involve diplomatic engagement. The first step, he argued, is to make clear we do not see “regime change in Iran”:
The United States must be resolute and clear-headed in our dealings with Iran…just as the Administration has been in the latest round of the Six Party Talks regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons. The agreement that Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill reached on February 13 with his colleagues from China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia reflects the power of adept diplomacy, supported through regional coordination, strengthened by financial pressure, and our military presence in South Korea, Japan and across the Asia-Pacific region.
The United States must employ similar, wise statecraft to redirect deepening Middle East tensions toward a higher ground of resolution. We must be clear that the United States does not seek regime change in Iran. We must be clear that our objections are to the actions of the Iranian government…not the Iranian people.
In the last month, the Bush administration has deployed an additional carrier group to Iran, stormed Iranian government offices in Iraq, and accused the “highest levels” of the Iranian government of funneling weapons into Iraq. Today, Hagel warned that “careless rhetoric” and “flawed intelligence” risk triggering a military confrontation with Iran:
The United States needs to weigh very carefully its actions regarding Iran. In a hazy, hair-triggered environment, careless rhetoric and military movements that one side may believe are required to demonstrate resolve and strength…can be misinterpreted as preparations for military options. The risk of inadvertent conflict because of miscalculation is great.
The United States must be cautious and wise not to follow the same destructive path on Iran as we did on Iraq. We blundered into Iraq because of flawed intelligence, flawed assumptions, flawed judgments, and questionable intentions.
Read the full speech here.