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Public Statements

Fox News "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript

Interview

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BREAM: Joining us now from Kabul, Afghanistan, are two key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee: independent Joe Lieberman and Republican Lindsey Graham.

Senators, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: Good to be with you, Shannon. Thank you.

BREAM: I want to start with disturbing reports in "The Wall Street Journal" that concern Iran.

Senator Graham, this question for you. They say that Iran has, quote, "smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to its militia allies in Iraq, weapons that have already resulted in the deaths of American troops, and have also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit U.S. and other coalition positions from a safer distance."

In June, 14 U.S. service members were killed in combat in Iraq. Officials are also attributing those deaths to militias that were trained by the Iran's revolutionary guard.

Senator, what do we do about Iran?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, I think people need to understand why Iran is doing this. The biggest nightmare for the ayatollahs in Iran is to have a democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan on their borders. So, yes, they are helping the Taliban. They're trying to reactivate the Shias to bring down Iraqi democracy. They're trying to undermine our efforts here. They're responsible for material coming in both countries that are killing not only American soldiers but the Iraqi and Afghan people. They are also helping Assad in Syria.

I hope people understand what Iran is up to. Their biggest nightmare is that the Arab Spring is successful, that we can pull off Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of representative democracy. And they are going to fight to the bitter end.

And I hope we will be pushing back strong. I hope the president will condemn this. And put the Iranians on notice that you're not going to undermine your two neighbors who are trying to be democracies without some push-back here.

BREAM: Senator Lieberman, your colleague there mentioned their involvement, Iran's involvement in Syria. How concerned are you about that?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm very concerned about Iran's involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. And the fact is, as Senator Graham said, they've got the blood of a lot of people on their hands, including hundreds of Americans who have been killed in Iraq, as a result of Iranian training and equipping of extremists militias.

But today, in Syria, we know that the Iranian revolutionary guard corps is there helping the dictator Bashar Assad murder his own people. And it's why some of us are, Senator Graham and I and others, are cosponsoring legislation to impose additional economic sanctions on people within leadership of government in Iran, including particularly the Iranian revolutionary guard corps.

You know, this is after all a Fourth of July weekend. We're celebrating freedom -- not just for Americans but the ideal of freedom. And, right now, people in Arab world, including Syria, are fighting for their freedom. And Iran is doing everything it can, not only to suppress this freedom fighter uprising in Syria, but, of course, they have murdered and suppressed their own people in Iran.

So, I would say that a day of reckoning is coming for this extremist regime in Iran when the majority of Iranians who really yearn for freedom see that dream come true. And I hope we'll do everything we can to make it happen as soon as possible.

BREAM: Senator Graham, let's talk now specifically about Afghanistan. We think about the attack earlier this week at the Intercontinental Hotel -- 12 victims there. There has been a roadside bombing that killed 13 others.

Are you convinced that Afghanistan would be ready as we begin to make significant troop draw-downs?

GRAHAM: My concern about the president's speech last week is that he may have undercut the momentum we achieved in the last year. The last year has been phenomenal progress in terms of building the Afghanistan security forces -- 90,000 additional Afghan army and police forces, 6,000 a month are joining the armies now. In September of 2009, there were 1,200 a month. So, things were moving in the right direction. The enemy can mount spectacular attacks and we had them on their heels.

Here's what I fear, that this he announcement of accelerated withdrawal, which was not recommended by the generals, this is now the Obama-Biden strategy. No military leader recommended the decision the president chose. So, it is now the Obama-Biden strategy.

And my fear is that people are going to look this as a withdrawal, not a transition. And we're hearing that all over the country, uncertainty creeping back in about America and what we're up to.

So, I really do worry this may have undercut the momentum. I hope I'm wrong. Time will tell. BREAM: Senator Graham, you mentioned the president's decision- making process. I want to delve into that a little bit more with you because he's e announced, of course, 30,000-plus troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of next year.

Now, hours before he announced that decision, there was a conference call with reporters with a senior administration official, unnamed.

BREAM: And here's what they said. Quote, "The president's decision was fully within the range of options that were presented to him."

You asked Lieutenant General John Allen about that, the man who's been tasked to lead the war effort for the president in Afghanistan.

Here was your exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: Is it fair to say, General Allen, that was not one of the options presented to the president by General Petraeus?

LT. GEN. JOHN R. ALLEN, INCOMING CMDR. U.S. FORCES AFGHANISTAN: It is a more aggressive option than that which was presented.

GRAHAM: My question is -- was that a option?

ALLEN: It was not.

GRAHAM: So I just want the country to understand that this is not the Petraeus strategy any longer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: In addition to those comments from General Allen, you also note, of course, that General Petraeus and -- in addition to that, Admiral Mike Mullen, both used those words that what the president chose to do was more aggressive than the options he was presented.

So, has the White House been honest with us about how the decision was made? He is the commander-in-chief. The president can make the decision.

Do you think it was the right one?

GRAHAM: The commander-in-chief can make any decision he would like. He should listen to his military commanders.

I am confident that the decision made by President Obama was not one of the options given to him by the military commanders. He has chosen a different course, 10,000 out by the end of this year. All surge forces out by September. It's undercut the ability to have a second fighting season. All generals say that they will stand by the decision. That's their job. But it creates unnecessary risk and it has created risk. It has changed the momentum. People wondering what we're up to.

The difference between transitioning and withdrawal is huge. It is seen now as an effort to withdrawal rather than transition. And I just hope and pray that this works out well. It came at a very critical time. And we will see what the future holds.

BREAM: All right. Senator Lieberman, I want to talk to you about Libya. Let's turn to that topic now.

Here's what the president said earlier this week about what's going on there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I said to the American people, here's our narrow mission. We have carried out that narrow mission in exemplary fashion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: So, the president says he's laid out a mission to the American people. But in an op-ed that you co-authored this week in "The Wall Street Journal," Senator Lieberman, you wrote, quote, "The Obama administration has not done an adequate job making a public case for our intervention and its objective."

What kind of clarity, Senator, would you like to see from the president?

LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, when you commit the American military -- whether it's on the ground or in the kind of supportive role we play with our NATO allies in Libya -- you got to have a reason. And our reason was that we were trying to stop Qaddafi from massacring his own people and stopping the movement of democracy through the Arab world in the so-called Arab Spring.

So, I think what I'd like to see is the president making the case again for why we're doing this, and why it's important to our security, which I believe it is.

Secondly, I think that we've got to be clear about what our goals are. Even though different times the administration has said that we're not interested in overturning Qaddafi, clearly, we are. This is all about regime change and freeing the people of Libya from another brutal -- another time period when they'll be suffering brutal dictatorship.

So -- I know it's complicated. And I think, frankly, there wouldn't as much opposition in Congress to our action in Libya if there was a strong argument being made on behalf of why we are there.

The truth is, if we use our strength with our NATO allies, when you go in a fight, you can't be uncertain about it. If we use that strength, I think Qaddafi will go and it will be a tremendous step forward for the Arab world and the cause of freedom there and throughout the world, and, obviously, better for the United States.

Talk about blood on somebody's hands -- Qaddafi has a lot of American blood on his hands from the terrorist attacks that he sponsored against us going back to the 1980s. It's time for him to go.

BREAM: Well, Senator Lieberman, I want to follow up with you, because you said our mission now essentially does include overthrowing his regime. Does it also possibly include killing Qaddafi?

LIEBERMAN: Well, look, if Qaddafi is killed, so be it. I'm not saying that we are targeting him. But when you think about the thousands of people, including Americans, who have died because of Qaddafi's decisions, then one way or another, it's time for him to leave power in Libya.

BREAM: All right, Senator Graham, I want to ask about the bipartisan --

GRAHAM: Shannon?

BREAM: Yes, sir? Go ahead, Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: I think everyone in the world believes that if Qaddafi were taken out, this would be over. And if the goal is to protect the Libyan people and their human rights, the best way to do that is to break Qaddafi's inner circle and get rid of Qaddafi himself. So, I'm glad NATO has taken the fight to Tripoli. We should be going after the inner circle, trying to cut the head of the snake off.

And back to Afghanistan, perception is reality. The difference between transitioning to Afghan control in a reasoned way and withdrawing from the fight as Americans is hugely important. The perception that I'm finding on the ground is that the announcement by the president is more of a withdrawal than it is transition. And that has to be corrected or it could jeopardize our whole operations.

And remember what Iran is up to. Remember what Syria is up to. Remember what the Taliban and our al Qaeda want. They want to dominate this region. They want to destroy what we're fighting for, which is basic freedom.

So, we are in a titanic struggle with some very unsavory characters. And to the American people, the outcome does matter to us. If we win and help the people who can live in peace with us, we're all safer. If the people are willing to fight back here in the region are overtaken by these forces, then we're all going to pay a price back home. A lot is at stake.

LIEBERMAN: Yes. I agree. And I just want to add on the Fourth of July weekend, we're here because we were attacked from here on 9/11.And if we don't succeed here, and the Taliban comes back in to power, we'll be attacked again. And there could be no greater threat to our security and our freedom, the freedom that we celebrate on July 4th.

BREAM: Senator Lieberman, Senator Graham -- we thank you so for your time. Safe travels to you both.

Coming up, our Sunday panel talks campaign cash and what it means for the GOP field.

Back in a moment.

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