Sen. Chuck Hagel
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, lambasted President Bush's foreign policy on Iran and the Middle East in a speech sponsored by a Washington think-tank Thursday.
"I do not see how the collective actions that we are now taking will produce the results that we seek on Iran's nuclear program, in Iraq, on the Israel-Palestine issue, or on any issue," he said.
He added that he believes the United States should engage countries like Iran immediately, much like has been attempted with North Korea, because "each day becomes more and more dangerous."
"Now is the time for the United States to actively pursue an offer of direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran. We cannot afford to refuse to consider this strategic choice any longer. We should make clear that everything is on the table, our issues and Iran's issues," he said.
Before the audience of academics and reporters gathered by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Hagel also accused the administration of using strong-arm tactics as diplomacy.
"Loose talk of World War III, intimidation, threats, bellicose speeches only heighten the dangers we face in the world. Without offering solutions and building international alliances we only strengthen the hand of those who prey upon and play to a confused, frightened and disorganized world."
Hagel, who earlier this year announced he would not run for president in 2008, said the president is aware of his concerns but has not yet responded.
"I wrote President Bush expressing my concerns about the path that we are now on regarding Iran," he said. "I told him that unless there is a strategic shift in our policies, I believe the United States will find itself in a dangerous and increasingly isolated position in the coming months."
But it wasn't just the Bush administration that was in his cross hairs - he also went after presidential candidates and Congress.
"None of us in public office today, the administration, Congress, our presidential candidates, are fulfilling the requirements of leadership at a crossroads time in history. Neither Republican nor Democratic candidates are speaking to the great challenges of our time - in particular Iran - with depth, strategic thinking and wise words," he said.
He also told the audience that he is concerned with how the international community views the country.
"You know the poll numbers - whether it's Gallup, or Pew or whatever - you know our standing in the world. Why is that happening to a great nation like America, a great people like the American people are?"
And when asked if he would reconsider his decision not to run in 2008 by a hopeful audience member, he explained that there is still a possibility of that in the future.
"Next year isn't the time, but I appreciate your confidence, your wise judgment," he answered to the amusement of the audience.
– CNN's Silvio Carrillo