U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said the Iranians don’t fear President Obama as a negotiator and suggested it would be better to wait until the next president takes over in 2017 to strike an agreement on a nuclear future.
Graham said the deal announced this week was the best Obama could get only “because the Iranians don’t fear nor do they respect him, and our allies in the region don’t trust the president.”
Graham’s comments came on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and was part of an offering of other Sunday morning talk show appearances by Republicans who are questioning the deal.
Graham, R-S.C., and a potential presidential candidate, said a better alternative than to sign something now would be to wait until the next administration takes over, be it Republican or Democrat, and try again. He called the president “a flawed negotiator.”
“What I would suggest is that if you can’t get there with this deal, is keep the interim agreement in place (and) allow a new president in 2017 — Democrat or Republican — take a crack at the Iranian nuclear program,” Graham told host Nora O’Donnell. He added, “the best deal comes with a new president. Hillary Clinton would do better. I think everybody on our side, except maybe Rand Paul could do better.”
Graham’s staff said afterward that they view Paul, the Kentucky Republican U.S. senator, as not being as far to the right as the rest of the GOP pack in terms of foreign policy.
Negotiators on Thursday announced they’d struck a framework deal with Iran but it would need to be finalized by June 30. It reportedly covers a variety of limits and requirements on inspections, incentives, installing advanced technology and penalties.
The Obama administration says the pact will be effective for years in stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, while critics see it having potential weaknesses and loopholes.
Graham said there has been enough blame to go around in allowing Iran to develop as far as it has on a nuclear front, with its centrifuge count expanding to 19,000 in recent years.
“I think the Bush administration, they were a miserable failure when it came to controlling Iran’s nuclear ambition,” he said.
Only the recent sanctions pushed by Congress have brought them to the negotiation table, he added.
Graham said one continuing nagging issue that also needs to be resolved is the anti-American, anti-Israel rhetoric that continues to come from Iran’s leadership, even during the negotiating process. He suggested the next deal require Iran to stop interfering in other states in the region.
“How many centrifuges should a nation have who is still the largest sponsor of state terrorism?” Graham said. “Does anybody in their right mind believe that Iran’s behavior is going to change because you gave them more money and more centrifuges to eventually make a bomb.”
Graham’s appearance came as Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that congressional scrutiny and approval of any nuclear agreement with Iran is still essential to ensuring the deal isn’t a bad one.
Corker says Congress has a responsibility to tease out the details of the final plan, ask the Obama administration hard questions and then vote on it. Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Corker countered Obama’s assertion that partisan politics in Washington could derail the landmark agreement to curb Iran’s bomb-capable nuclear technology.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to meet April 14 to consider Corker’s legislation to ensure Congress approves the final agreement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.