Sen. Lindsey Graham tells Newsmax that with events unfolding in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, North Korea and elsewhere, President Obama’s foreign policy is “failing all over the world.”
The South Carolina Republican, a member of the Armed Services Committee, also says it’s time for the United States to “up our game” and pressure China into reining in North Korea and its missile and nuclear weapons programs.
President Obama has officially recognized the Syrian opposition, and Graham says “it was a good move but way too late.
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“A year ago, Sen. McCain and myself said that we should have a no-fly zone around the population centers that the rebels live in. If a Syrian jet crosses the line, it will be shot down. We could have ended this conflict a year ago. Forty thousand people have been killed. The red lines that Obama’s drawn just keep getting washed away.
“Syria is a contagion for the whole region. It’s affecting Iraq, it’s affecting Lebanon. Al-Qaida tried to move in to fill this vacuum. This leading from behind model has allowed Syria to disintegrate into a terrorist safe haven. It’s put doubt in the Iranians’ mind about our resolve to deal with their nuclear program. It’s made everybody in the region who wants to be a friend of the United States doubt our resolve and has put our enemies on steroids.
“He’s allowed this butcher to kill 40,000 of his people. Our strategic interests are best served by taking Assad out to send a message to the Russians and to the Iranians that we’re serious about protecting our interests.”
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Graham fears that Syria could disintegrate into sectarian violence when President Bashar Assad is no longer in power.
“The likelihood of a deeper, longer conflict after he falls are greater today because we’re now recognizing the Syrian Free Army here,” he says.
“Well, when they needed us the most we’ve been absent. So when they do take over one day, we’re not going to have much of a relationship.
“I really am very worried about the day after Assad falls. We don’t have much of a plan in place to fill in that vacuum. Learn from our mistakes in Iraq. Bush got it wrong after Saddam fell. Why repeat those same mistakes?
“I’m just astonished at how many of the same mistakes Obama’s making that we made in Iraq and Afghanistan. So at the end of the day, the sooner Assad falls, the better for the world at large but we need a plan to deal with the day after Assad. And this leading from behind – I’ve never seen our enemies so emboldened throughout the region. I’ve never seen our friends so worried, particularly Israel.”
Turning to Egypt, Graham discusses Obama’s recent approval of sending about 20 F-16 fighter jets to the country even as it deals with a constitutional crisis following President Mohammed Morsi’s attempt to centralize his power.
“I’m not so sure [Obama’s decision] was reckless because the military’s a component of the Egyptian society that we have a pretty good relationship with and it could be the one that keeps the place from going into the abyss. The Muslim Brotherhood miscalculated their mandate. Morsi misread his mandate.
“This chaos you see in the street is somewhat in a strange kind of way encouraging. There are people in Egypt who are not going to give in to an Islamist state that suppresses minority rights and makes life for women less than what they would like. So there’s a real fight going on in Egypt.
“Here’s what we should do: We should tie our aid to the continuation of the democratic process. If Morsi tries to shut down democratic institutions, we’ll cut our aid off. If they tried to abrogate the treaty with Israel, we’ll cut our aid off.
“But we need to have a dialogue with the military to make sure that they continue to support the democratic process. If there’s another election in Egypt two to four years from now and the Muslim Brotherhood has not delivered in terms of economic growth and reform, they’ll get beat.
“My fear is that they will try to destroy the democratic process. If that begins to happen then we need to cut our aid off because if the Muslim Brotherhood, without any doubt, loses the $3 billion from the United States, it’s just not the money you lose. You lose our relationship, and who is going to do business in Egypt? Who is going to grow the economy if America withdraws her support and tells her citizens don’t go to Egypt, it’s too dangerous? The heart and soul of the Arab world and the Mideast really does lie in Egypt.”
North Korea has launched another long-range missile, a move the White House calls provocative. Graham was asked what actions should be taken in response to the launch.
“South Korea and Japan and the United States are going to have to up our game,” he responds.
“We’re going to have to put more pressure on China to say you can control North Korea better than anybody else. Start doing better in that regard. We don’t put any pressure on Russia or China to help us solve the world’s problems.
“But here’s the thing to learn from North Korea: Their missile technology is improving. It’s becoming a direct threat to us. We don’t want to have Japan and South Korea wanting a nuclear weapon because the North Koreans have it. They trust us to help them.
“If the Iranian Shias develop a nuclear capability then the Sunni-Arab world is going to have a counter program. There will be a nuclear arms race in the Mideast and our friends in Israel would be threatened beyond imagination by an Iranian nuclear program.
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“So how we deal with North Korea sends a signal to Iran. How we deal with Syria sends a signal to Iran. Leaving no troops in Afghanistan sends the worst signal to Iran. Iraq is falling apart. We live in dangerous times and we have a president who doesn’t understand we’re an exceptional nation, and his foreign policy is failing all over the world.
“I hope and pray that he will be serious about the Iranian program to develop a nuclear program as being a no-go because if he’s not, the Israelis will be. Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear capable Iran. So what you see in North Korea is an ineffective policy on display. What you see in Libya and Syria is the result of leading from behind.”
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