Hagel on Iran’s Legitimacy and Our Right of Self-Defense

Andrew, your Hagel clip cuts off just before the most important part of his answer, which was that he voted against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization because, as we had never designated part of a “legitimate” state a terrorist organization, he might be voting to give the president authority to use force against Iran.

His comments on Iran’s legitimacy are irrelevant to these hearings. Our diplomatic practice is to recognize the sovereign legitimacy of whatever government controls the country’s territory, and it doesn’t matter whether that government is a full democracy or a bunch of murderers. That is a failing of U.S. foreign policy, but it’s purely a State Department issue.

What is relevant to these hearings, and matters a lot more, is Hagel’s evident belief that the president would need congressional authorization to use force against Iran. Hagel has stated that his policy on Iran is the same as the president’s — prevention, not containment. He should be asked to clearly state the legal basis for using force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and whether a congressional authorization would be needed. If an authorizing resolution is needed, we need to start working on it soon — like next Monday. 

Mario Loyola — Contributing editor Mario Loyola is senior fellow and Director of the Center for Competitive Federalism at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. He began his career in corporate ...

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