Throughout his career, Chuck Hagel has sought to soften U.S. pressure on Syria, one of the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism and Iran’s only Arab ally, believing that engagement and diplomatic graces will convince Syria to change its path.
In 1998, Hegel seems to have imitated the thesis of a Syrian dictator. “Mr. Hegel met in Damascus in 1998 with a dictator who supports terror, Hafez Assad, and returned to tell the reporter about the meeting: “Peace comes through communication with people. Peace does not come at the end of a bayonet or at the end of a gun.”
In November 2003, Hegel did not vote for the Syria Accountability Act. “Another indicator came on November 11, 2003, when the Senate by 89 votes against 4 voted for the Law on Responsibility of Syria, authorizing sanctions against Syria for its support of terrorism and occupation of Lebanon. Mr. Hegel – along with Mr. Kerry – did not vote”.
In July 2006, after Hezbollah’s attacks led to a war with Israel, Heigel called on the Bush administration to begin direct negotiations with Hezbollah’s sponsors Iran and Syria. “Ultimately, the U.S. will need to engage Iran and Syria with an agenda open to all areas of agreement and disagreement. For this dialogue to have any meaning or lasting relevance, it must cover the entire agenda”.
In June 2008, Hegel attempted to reduce Syria’s diplomatic and political isolation earned from sponsoring terrorism and assassinations, saying, “We must take the initiative to resume cooperation with Syria by returning the U.S. Ambassador to Damascus.
In June 2008, Hagel published an article in which he argued that a “diplomatic breakthrough” with Syria would be highly likely if the U.S. only “sat down again at the negotiating table. Hegel said that “our policy of non-intervention has isolated us more than the Syrians” and that Syria’s longstanding alliance with Iran is merely a “marriage of convenience”.
In October 2009, Hegel said – as it has for many years – that the Syrian regime wants to abandon Iran and terrorism and move towards the United States and Israel. I believe that there is a real possibility to change Syria’s strategic thinking and policy”. It is in their own interests, not because they want to do the US or Israel a favor”. If we can convince Damascus to pause and reconsider its positions and support against Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and radical Palestinian groups, we will make progress for the entire Middle East, Israel, and Syria wants to talk – at the highest level, and everything is on the agenda.