Graham to Seek Authorization for Strike on Iran as Last Resort

Saturday, 14 Sep 2013 10:50 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Saturday that he was going to get Congress to authorize President Barack Obama to use military force to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program "to make sure they get a clear signal that this debacle called Syria doesn't mean we're confused about Iran."

"We may be confused as a nation on what to do with the chemical weapons in Syria, but we're not confused as a nation as to what to do with the nuclear program in Iran," the South Carolina Republican told former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on his Fox News program.

Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he would begin work on developing a bipartisan coalition of legislators to back the resolution, predicting that it could stem a conflict between Iran and Israel that could occur within the next six months.

"Everyone believes the Iranians cannot be allowed to get a nuclear weapon, and we have to send that signal," Graham told Huckabee. "Israel feels abandoned after Syria — and I want to send a signal to Tehran, and Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv that we're not going to leave our friends in Israel behind.

"And to the ayatollahs," Graham warned, "If you march toward a nuclear weapon, all options are on the table, including the military option."

Graham's comments followed the announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that an agreement had been reached on destroying Syrian's chemical weapons.

The announcement came earlier Saturday in Geneva after three days of negotiations.

Under the accord, Syria must submit a "comprehensive listing" of its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week. Arms inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November, with the goal of eliminating the country's chemical weapons by the middle of next year.

The agreement, however, contains nothing about the potential use of force if Syria fails to comply — and Kerry said that no pre-agreement existed on what action the U.N. Security Council might take if Syria failed to comply with the plan.

Graham blasted the pact as "a debacle," telling Huckabee that neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor Syrian President Bashar Assad could be trusted to honor it.

"It's s blind alley," he said. "It's a box canyon for America. Putin's led us down a road here where there's just no good outcome. Without the threat of force, this agreement means nothing.

"The reason I wanted to strike Assad was to punish him, deteriorate his ability to deliver chemical weapons and change the tide of battle.

"What happens if Assad says, 'No, you can't go there?' " Graham asked. "Without a resolution, which the Russians are threatening to veto, that would allow the use of force to enforce the agreement, it means nothing."

He said the tide changed for the U.S. on Syria when President Obama asked Congress to back his resolution authorizing limited military strikes against Assad.

"Right after the red line was drawn a year ago, the question is, why would Assad do it, after he was told by Obama not to?" Graham asked. "From Benghazi forward, we've been sending a real signal that we're weak and we're a paper tiger.

"When they killed our ambassador and three other brave Americans in Benghazi, and a year later, nothing happened to anyone, every radical jihadist is now on steroids — and Assad sized up Obama and thought, 'Well, I'll do what I need to do to protect myself and I'll challenge this guy.'

"At the end of the day, the Russians and the Iranians and the Syrians have won this contest and we have lost, and I really worry about what's going to happen in Iran," Graham said.

That's why the resolution authorizing military force against Tehran's nuclear arsenal is of urgent importance, he said.

"Iran is the biggest ally of Assad. They're linked to the hip. Russia's been helping. Anything we do in Syria, we're sending a signal to the Iranians. The Iranians are trying to build a nuclear weapon, not a nuclear power plant.

"Look at how we've handled the chemical weapons' threat in Syria," Graham told Huckabee. "If we duplicate that with the Iranians, they're going to march toward a nuclear weapon and dare Israel to attack them.

"In the next six months, our friends in Israel are going to have to take the Iranians on, unless the United States can send a clear signal to Iran unlike we sent to Syria.

"The mixed message and the debacle called Syria can't be repeated when it comes to Iran," he said.

The senator added: "If the Iranians develop a nuclear weapon, it will start a nuclear arms race. I'm afraid that the Iranian ayatollahs would share the technology with terrorists — and that would work its way back to America.

"You're on the road to Armageddon if the ayatollahs in Iran get a nuclear weapon.

"I'm not asking the president to come to us; we're putting it on the table, because if we don't do this soon, this mess in Syria is going to lead to a conflict between Israel and Iran," Graham told the former governor. "The Iranians have to believe America is not serious about their nuclear program after the way we've allowed Putin to lead us into a blind canyon on Syria."

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