South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham might not have the standing in the national polls to make the main stage at Thursday night’s Fox News debate in Cleveland, but when it comes to national security and foreign affairs, nobody who made the cut is as experienced as he is on what is likely to be one of the major issues of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Graham was in Iowa on Friday to launch his “No Nukes for Iran” tour. The tour is designed to build the necessary support to oppose the Iranian nuclear deal the Obama Administration recently negotiated that Congress is beginning to debate.
TheIowaRepublican.com interviewed Graham about the nuclear agreement on Friday morning before his town hall meeting in West Des Moines.
“This is a disastrous deal,” Graham told TheIowaRepublican.com. “It’s technically unsound.” Graham also explained that the side agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran about access and inspection to their military facilities to determine how far along they have gotten in developing a nuclear weapon is a joke.
“It’s secret,” Graham stated. “We will never know about it, but the Iranians are bragging about how they cut off access to their military sites.”
“The last thing I’d do as president is give the Iranians more money and more weapons until they change their behavior,” Graham added.
Graham is known for prowess on foreign policy matters, so it was no surprise that the fifteen minutes or so that TheIowaRepublican.com got to spend with Graham on Friday focused on the Obama Administration’s new deal with Iran.
Below are some segments of the interview.
What’s the current status of the Iran deal in Congress?
Bottom line is, we get sixty days to review the deal. We had hearings already. We will be voting sometime in September.
Here is what the vote is really all about. If you get 60 votes to disapprove the deal in the Senate, then the waiver the President enjoys in the current congressional sanctions is eliminated. There is not going to be approval of the deal. The only question is, can we get enough votes to disapprove the deal to override a veto? That’s the only question. If we disapprove the deal, it means that the national security waiver is eliminated, which means the President can’t do as much damage.
What would happen if Israel launched a preemptive strike against Iran? How would the current administration respond?
I doubt that Israel would do that right now because the world community has come together and blessed this deal.
Here’s my problem with the deal. You are ensuring that Iran gets a bomb, a missile to deliver it, and money to pay for all of the above. This is a dangerous, bad deal that puts us in a box. Every political party in Israel and their current government is opposed to the deal.
Graham’s Three Questions to the Obama Administration
I asked three questions that I thought were important.
I asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have they been trying to build a bomb for the last 20 years or a nuclear power program for peaceful purposes? He said a weapon. I agree.
I asked the Secretary of Defense, who is in charge of Iran? Who’s the commander and chief? The answer is the Ayatollah. Who decides if they go to war? The Ayatollah. Who decides if they break out? The Ayatollah.
I asked the Secretary of Defense the following.
If they have been trying to build a weapon, for what purpose? Do you believe that the Ayatollah is compelled by his religious beliefs to destroy Israel and attack us, because he’s also the keeper of the faith as well as their head of state?
He says, I don’t know. Well let me tell you, you shouldn’t do a deal with Iran until you can answer that question.
I think he is compelled by his faith to develop a nuclear program and one day share that technology with terrorists or use it in a direct fashion against Israel and eventually us, because under the tenants of the Islamic faith that he practices, the state of Israel cannot exist.
Was the President’s response to Mike Huckabee’s statement a precursor of things to come for those who don’t support the deal?
I think the analogy that Mike used was inappropriate. I like Mike a lot. He’s very pro-Israel, he’s a good man, but I’m not accusing President Obama and John Kerry of walking the Jews to the ovens.
I’m accusing them of negotiating a very bad deal with a very dangerous man and not understanding the times in which we live. You know, the Munich agreement would have made sense if Hitler truly only wanted to get German speaking people under the same umbrella. If he really wanted to create a master race, it was the blunder of all time.
The question for us is, do the Iranians want a nuclear program for peaceful purposes? If they got a weapon, what would they do with it? Is it a religious theocracy that’s motivated by a religious ideology to attack Israel and attack the United States? If the answer is yes, then it’s a terrible deal.
I think Obama is misjudging the Ayatollah the way people misjudged Hitler. Hitler at least lied about what he was going to do. He told them, ‘I don’t want any more, just give me half of Czechoslovakia, and I’m good to go.’ The Ayatollah, within days of signing the deal, announced his expressed hatred of the United States and [desire for] the destruction of Israel.
Is the deal with Iran today similar to the deal with North Korea in the 1990’s?
I think it’s worse in a couple ways. The same person who brought us the North Korea deal negotiated the deal itself. This deal takes the breakout time from two months to a year if they don’t cheat. At the end of 15 years no restrictions on their enrichment program, and they can actually repurpose, which is a stunning mistake.
Just by the mere passage of time, Iran will have an industrial sized enrichment program with the repurposing component with no limitations in terms of what they can do. You give the Ayatollah a hundred million dollars of sanction relief without any requirement that he has to change his behavior regarding Israel, the United States, or the region as a whole. You lift the U.N. weapons embargo on the conventional side in five years. Giving him more money and more weapons to further destabilize the Middle East. After eight years, they can start research and development of the ICBM program.
What does voting no on this deal really mean?
If you vote no on the deal, you allow the congressional sanctions to stay in place, giving the next president, whoever he or she may be, a chance to get a better deal.
If a French or German company wants to business with Iran and the congressional sanctions remain in place, they are denied access to American banking. Our sanctions do matter.
My goal is to get a better deal. It’s not a choice between a bad deal and a war. It’s between a bad deal and a better deal.
The problem with this deal is that nobody in Iran believes that President Obama would use military force to stop their breakout. As long as that’s true, you are never going to get a good deal. And nobody in Iran believed that John Kerry would walk away. So, the next president has to convince the Iranians that we want a better deal. We are going to insist on a better deal. If you try to break out, we are going to stop you militarily. When you negotiate with the Iranians, you have to act like you want a deal less than they do and actually mean it.
What are the odds of disapproving the deal?
Fifty-fifty. Public opinion is now in the mid-fifties against the deal. If we can get public opinion above 60 percent against the deal it will make every Democrat think twice about Obama’s legacy vs. their own future. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is making this a very big vote. The Arabs need to speak up about how dangerous this deal is. I think it’s 50-50 that we can get 13 Democrats to say ‘this is a bad deal, I want a better deal.’ All of it is not bad, but it is short of what we need. I really think it’s 50-50.