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Report: Hagel meeting with Pentagon officials to explain Iran stance

Former Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelIntel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security Hagel: Trump is 'an embarrassment' Tax cut complete, hawks push for military increase MORE (R-Neb.), who was nominated to be the next Defense secretary, is meeting with Pentagon officials this week to discuss his views on Iran policy, according to a report from The Associated Press.

Defense officials say that Hagel intends to reassure senior staff that he supports tough sanctions to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and believes the U.S. should keep all options on the table, including the threat of military action.

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Hagel has also been given office space within the Pentagon so that he and his aides can begin preparing for what is likely to be a tough confirmation battle, according to the AP.

The report also says Hagel has already had a private dinner this week with outgoing Secretary Leon Panetta and has met with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

The report comes as Hagel, who was nominated for the top Pentagon post on Monday, faces strong opposition from many GOP lawmakers who charge that their former colleague would be soft on Iran and a poor defender of Israel.

Pro-Israel groups and Republican senators have seized on Hagel’s statements that a “Jewish lobby” intimidates lawmakers and past calls for diplomacy with Hamas and Iran.

Sens. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers feel pressure on guns Kasich’s campaign website tones down gun language after Florida shooting Murphy: Trump’s support for background check bill shows gun politics ‘shifting rapidly’ MORE (R-Texas), David VitterDavid Bruce VitterTrump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge Where is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? Not the Senate's job to second-guess Alabama voters MORE (R-La.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week MORE (R-Texas) have already said they will vote against Hagel, while other lawmakers have expressed strong concerns about his views.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures MORE (R-S.C.) on Sunday called Hagel’s selection an “in-your-face” nomination and said he could expect to face tough questioning during his confirmation hearing.

But Hagel’s stance on Middle East policy is also inviting caution from across the aisle. On Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinWashington puts Ethiopia's human rights abusers on notice Overnight Defense: Mattis vows Dreamers in military won't be deported | Pentagon unsure if military parade will be in Washington | Dem bill would block funds for parade Dems introduce bills to block funds for Trump's proposed parade MORE (Md.) said his primary concern was on Hagel’s “position in regards to Iran."

"He has not been supportive of action taken by the United States to impose sanctions, he believes that we should move only with the international community, and I believe it's important for the United States to lead in the effort to isolate Iran,” said Cardin. 

As a senator, Hagel opposed implementing unilateral economic sanctions on Iran, but says he supports the Obama administration’s sanctions in concert with the European Union and other allies.

The White House, though, is confident Hagel will be confirmed and is touting the nominee’s service in Vietnam. If confirmed, Hagel would be the first former enlisted service member to run the Pentagon.