JERUSALEM - Hagel stresses Israel's right to strike IranSubmitted by go213mph on Sun, 04/21/2013 - 13:28
By ROBERT BURNS | Associated Press – 48 mins ago
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel held out hope Sunday for a nonmilitary way to ending the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, but he also emphasized Washington's willingness to let Israel decide whether and when it might strike Tehran in self-defense.
Hagel, on his first visit to Israel as Pentagon chief, seemed intent on burying the image that Republican critics painted of him as insufficiently supportive of the Jewish state. That portrayal was central to a failed campaign to derail Hagel's Senate confirmation in February.
In an interview with reporters on his flight from Washington, Hagel said the United States and Israel see "exactly the same" threat from Iran, which he described as a toxic combination of nuclear ambition and support for terrorism.
But he acknowledged differences on when it may reach the point of requiring U.S. or Israeli military action.
Hagel stressed repeatedly that Israel has a sovereign right to decide for itself whether it must attack Iran. He made no mention of the possibility that an Israeli attack would draw the U.S. into the conflict and lead to a wider regional war.