One of Congress' most prominent foreign policy voices has expressed alarm that Iran is moving towards becoming a military nuclear power like its longtime ally North Korea.
In an interview published Friday by the Israeli media outlet Israel Hayom
, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he does not object to Iran having a nuclear energy program, but is "very concerned" about Tehran's uranium enrichment efforts becoming a path to atomic weapons capability.
Fifteen nations with nuclear power programs do not enrich uranium, Graham said.
That's why I want any deal to come before Congress for our vote and approval. I fear a North Korea outcome," he added.
The South Carolina Republican was referring to the last effort to regulate a rogue state's nuclear ambitions – the case of the communist regime in North Korea.
"Republicans and Democrats both bought into the idea that you could allow the North Koreans a small enrichment program and the U.N. would control the outcome," Graham said. "Well, it didn't work. They broke out. They have nuclear weapons."
In Graham's view, it is a mistake to treat the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the central threat to regional stability. The biggest problem, he said, is the Iranian nuclear threat
"The Iranian nuclear ambitions are the biggest threat to the world in general," he said. "Israel needs to be reassured that Congress will be there in an appropriate way."
Graham emphasized that House and Senate Republicans who will be in the majority in the 114th Congress "will be pushing measures to make sure that the Iranian nuclear negotiations are handled properly, that sanctions are reimposed if the Iranians walk away from the table or if they cheat on any deal."
Graham was scathing in his assessment of President Barack Obama's performance in addressing an array of issues related to radical Islam and terrorism.
Obama "approached Iran with an open hand, not a clenched fist, but I think that his 'leading from behind' model has not served our national security interests well," Graham said. "What you see is that after six years, there are more radical Islamic organizations than there were before 9/11, holding more territory, more safe havens, more money and more resources with which to strike the U.S. and our allies."
Graham also emphasized that Congress will not support imposing sanctions against Israel over issues such as settlements, which should be resolved in negotiations with the Palestinians.
"When it comes to military assistance, economic assistance, Congress is firmly in Israel's camp. There is absolutely no support in any segment of American political life to restrict aid to Israel. There is absolutely no support for the idea of sanctioning Israel over the settlement issue," he said.
"I just want the Israeli people to know that Congress does have your back," Graham stated.
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