William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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IRAN REACTS – AT 8:45 A.M. ET:  Iran has reacted to the nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.

(Reuters) - Iran's foreign ministry said on Tuesday it hoped the appointment of Chuck Hagel as the next U.S. defense secretary would lead to "practical changes" in Washington's foreign policy.

Iran and the United States, adversaries for more than three decades, are at odds over many issues, including the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme, which Western countries say is aimed at forging a nuclear arms capability. Tehran denies this

"We hope there will be practical changes in American foreign policy and that Washington becomes respectful of the rights of nations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference, Iran's IRIB news website reported.

He was answering a question about Hagel's views on Israel and U.S. sanctions on Iran. Israel has threatened military action against its arch-enemy's nuclear sites if sanctions-backed diplomacy fails to rein in Tehran's atomic work. Mehmanparast did not elaborate.

Hagel is expected to face a tough confirmation fight amid accusations that he has anti-Israel views and has previously urged direct nuclear talks between the United States and Iran.

COMMENT:  I'm so glad to know that Iran welcomes the nomination of Chuck Hagel, aren't you?  Just at the time when we should be applying maximum pressure on Iran, Obama nominates to a key position a man whose "soft on Iran" mentality is a matter of record.

It is the Obama policy that we've seen too often:  Punish our friends, appease our enemies.  Ask the Poles.  Ask the Czechs.  Ask the Japanese.  Ask the Israelis.  Ask the Canadians.  Brilliant, really brilliant.

January 8,  2012