U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham met with the media Monday before speaking to the Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce, and he outlined his thoughts in detail on the Syria situation. Here are some highlights:
On President Bashar Assad’s opponents:
“I’m asking the opposition publicly to renounce the use of chemical weapons. If you get in charge of Syria with our help, turn these weapons over to the international community. If they say yes, that would be very reassuring to me.”
On the cost of striking Syria:
“You’ve got to look at these operations in terms of what it costs to do nothing. 9/11, the attack cost less than $1 million to plan, and look what it cost our country.”
On how he’s sure Assad’s forces used chemical weapons:
“I’ve seen the evidence. I’ve been briefed. It’s overwhelming. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure this out. The people that were hit were all opposition people. It was in an area of Damascus controlled by the opposition. The delivery system is consistent with the regime’s capability, not the opposition forces, Assad has used chemical weapons twice before. We’ve got intel (intelligence) where you see commanders talking about getting the chemicals prepared and ready to launch three days before the attack. That’s not even a debate any longer for me.”
On how Syria matters to South Carolina:
“If the Iranians believe we don’t have the willingness and resolve to deal with Assad when he uses chemical weapons, they’re going to take it as a signal we don’t care about their nuclear program. And they are marching toward a nuclear weapon. ... My biggest fear is that the technology developed by the Iranians could wind up in the hands of a terrorist and it comes to Charleston Harbor or New York Harbor.”
On President Barack Obama seeking Congress’ approval to fire on Syria:
“This is the most illogical military operation I’ve ever seen. You’re telling the enemy weeks ahead what you’re going to do and how long you’re going to do it. The Israelis don’t go down that road. The Israelis hit their enemy without telling them what they’re going to do. That’s the best way to do it, but that’s behind us now.”
On Obama’s plan:
“If we don’t start training and upgrading the equipment of the opposition, this war is going to go on for a very long time. For the first time, I heard from the president a willingness to train the opposition. ...
“I left the White House somewhat hopeful a plan is emerging, but details matter.
“I don’t want an open-ended, unlimited military campaign. I want an effective strike. I’m not supporting a check-the-box strike. I want a military strike that will degrade Assad’s ability to deliver chemical weapons and change the tide of battle. Hopefully, that’s what we’re going to get.”
On his role in convincing Congress to approve Obama’s plan:
“Senator (John) McCain and myself, I can’t guarantee we can get Congress and the Senate to a yes vote, but I can guarantee you this: If you can’t get us, you’re going to lose.”
On whether the U.S. should take Assad out:
“I think the president said Assad should go. ... Let’s say that a year from now he’s still in power, how do you convince Iranians that we’re serious about their nuclear program when we couldn’t affect our policies in Syria? Yes, Assad should go because he destabilizes the region. It’s not just about him killing his own people. It’s about the signal we send to tolerate this behavior.”
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