Senator Lindsey Graham joined me on the program today to discuss the Iran deal:
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Lindsey Graham. Senator Graham, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
LG: Thanks for having me.
HH: Why is this such a bad deal, the negotiated agreement with Iran?
LG: Well, the goal was to dismantle the nuclear program. And we’ve now locked in place a nuclear program without any limitations based on the passage of time. The deal allows Iran to get more money without any behavior changes. It allows them to rebuild their conventional weapons program without any behavior changes. It gives them an industrial-sized nuclear program without any behavior changes. And with the passage of time alone, inspections are lifted. Sunni Arabs will feel threatened, they will get their own nuclear weapons. This could be a death sentence for the state of Israel, because the Ayatollah will finally have the capacity over time to actually achieve death to Israel. It’s a nightmare for us, because they can share their technology with terrorists. This is a radical regime that has been made more powerful, not less, by this deal.
HH: Do you think you can beat it in the Senate?
LG: I think we’ve got a very good chance, because at the end of the day, the deal sets in motion what I think will be a nuclear arms race between the Sunni Arabs and the Shiia Persians. Everybody in Israel, not just Bibi, objects to this deal. I think the American people will turn against this deal. So we need 13 Democrats to disapprove the deal, to take the waiver away from the President regarding Congressional sanctions. If we don’t beat this deal, God help us all.
HH: Now given that, Senator, and I’ve been talking to your colleagues Sullivan, Gardner and Cotton, and after you, I’ll talk to John Thune, you’re scheduled to go on vacation August 10th through September 7th. I think you ought to stay in session. I think you ought to cancel that recess and make the argument…
LG: Me, too.
HH: …because what do you think?
LG: Me, too, and I think this is the most important decision Senator Graham and every other Senator will make. There are three interests you have to consider with this deal – our own national security. They’ve got a radical regime that’s killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq, they destabilized the region, they’ve taken down the pro-American government in Yemen, exposing us to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Our allies, the Sunni Arabs, this is a virtual declaration of war against them. You’re empowering their mortal enemy, the Shiia Persians, which more money, more weapons, and a nuclear capability that is unfettered in the future. Our best ally in the region, you’ve given their biggest antagonist a chance one day to actually destroy their nation. So if this is not worth the debate in August, what would be?
HH: That’s, and it’s impossible for me to tell the audience that listens every day that it’s serious if you folks aren’t in D.C. making the case on the floor of the Senate, giving us a focus point. I mean, that’s what it is. It’s just optics. And if you’re out at, and I know some of you like to go to the state fairs or go abroad, but if you’re out doing that, the optics are horrible.
LG: It is. It takes the consequences of this decision and minimizes it because we took a break. This is one of those times when it’s an emergency within the family. You set aside everything you’re doing to deal with what I think is an international emergency. This deal empowers the most radical regime in the Mid-East with more money, more weapons, a nuclear capability that is unfettered in the future. And if we go on vacation, we’re not treating this as seriously as I think we should. Our homeland eventually will be at risk, because they’ll share this technology they’re certain to develop with terrorist groups. Our best ally in Israel, this could be a death sentence to them. So at the end of the day, I couldn’t agree with you more. We should treat it like the international event it is. It is the most destabilizing event in the Mid-East in my lifetime. We’re creating what I’ve always dreaded, a nuclear arms race in the Mid-East.
HH: Well said, and I think that’s going to earn you a lot of well-deserved applause. Let’s talk about the inspections regime, Senator Graham. You’ve been in the military longer than almost anybody else in the United States Congress. And you know what a military can do in 21 days. I think we’re giving them 21 days’ notice before we go to a military base, right?
LG: Yeah, this is not anytime, anywhere inspections under the usual international definition. This is a consultation that will lead to an inspection after a period of time so that they can change the lay of the land. This is by no means anytime, anywhere inspections under international law.
HH: How much can you move in 21 days? I thought Saddam, if we go back to the days before the Iraq war I and II, he would run our people around like through a maze.
LG: Yeah, here’s what people need to understand. Even if they complied with the deal in totality, every letter of the agreement was complied with, every word, they’re going to get billions of dollars without changing their behavior. They’re going to get more conventional weapons at the passage of five years. At the end of ten years, their industrial-sized nuclear program can advance without any inspections. That is, that’s even if they comply. So structurally, it’s a bad deal, even if they comply. The compliance regime, I think, is at best soft.
HH: Now I have been told that Senator Manchin indicated support for this today, which is very disheartening if it’s true. I haven’t seen that in his own words, I was just told that. Do we have six, are you certain of six Democrats to at least send a no vote from the Senate to the President’s desk?
LG: I think under the right construct, we can have a lot more than six. The goal was to basically dismantle the program. That’s what the President articulated. I agree with that goal. We haven’t dismantled. We’ve locked in place an industrial-sized nuclear program that can become as large as the Iranians want it to be with the passage of time. There was never any indication we would lift the arms embargo. That was placed on the table at the very end. So Senator Manchin and others are going to have to consider the consequences to the region and our national security. And I don’t see how in the world you can rationalize this away. You put the Arabs in a terrible spot. Israel is in a terrible spot. Everybody in Israel, not just Bibi, is opposed to this deal. So I hope that Senator Manchin will understand that we’re unleashing a nuclear arms race in the Mid-East, and our friends and Israel are in a terrible spot, and for our own national security perspective, we’ve compromised ourselves. I would like to have a deal with the Iranians. I don’t mind them having a power program. But I don’t want them to have an enrichment program to lead to a North Korean outcome. At the end of the day, why would you give them a dime until they changed their behavior? The $18 billion dollars they get early on is going to go into their war machine. So Senator Manchin needs to understand that this money will empower this regime at our detriment.
HH: Last question, unrelated to the Iranian deal, which I hope you’ll come back and talk about early and often.
HH: But earlier today, I saw Donald Trump say on CNN that every time he sees Lindsey Graham, Lindsey Graham wants to bomb somebody. What’s your response to that?
LG: Senator Graham would become President Graham and be the most prepared person to be commander-in-chief in a very long time. I want to use military force only to protect my nation. You cannot defeat ISIL by bombing them. Military force has to be used to stop the spread of radical Islam. The Iranians, if I were president, would believe that I would use military force to stop a nuclear breakout. If you don’t have the credibility, if you draw red lines and you don’t enforce those red lines, you have a world that is falling apart. I don’t want a war. But I will do whatever it takes to protect my nation. We’re going to have to send troops back to the Mid-East to keep this war from coming here.
HH: You’re not worried about Donald Trump blasting away at you?
LG: I am more worried about radical Islam striking the homeland because of a failed foreign policy of Barack Obama. I’m more worried about what he’s unleashed on the world. The next president needs to know what the hell they’re doing to clean up the mess created by Barack Obama, reset world order, be a good friend and a worthy adversary. I think I can accomplish that job. I think I’m better qualified than anybody running, including Hillary Clinton, to be commander-in-chief on day one.
HH: Lindsey Graham, always a pleasure, Senator. Thank you.
End of interview.