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

Interview

By:  Richard Blumenthal Lindsey Graham
Date: March 4, 2012
Location: Unknown

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WALLACE: President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu were set to meet Monday and the top issue is how to stop Iran's nuclear program.

Joining us now are two key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, just back from the Middle East, Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

And, Senators, welcome to both of you.

The president and prime minister will be wrestling with two key questions tomorrow. First, what are their red lines, and how far will each leader allow Iran to go before giving up on diplomacy. And how, second -- and, second, how committed is each to a military strike in Iran if crosses that red line.

Senator Graham, what does President Obama say to Prime Minister Netanyahu to reassure him?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: That I am committed to stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons, not only in words but in deeds. That if necessary, we'll use military force. And they need a common definition of what change -- what kind of change were to be acceptable in Iran's part.

WALLACE: Meaning the red line -- how far they're willing to allow Iran to go?

GRAHAM: There needs to be a common definition conveyed privately to Iran so they'll know what they need to do.

WALLACE: Senator Blumenthal, does President Obama need to go farther than he has so far in reassuring the Israelis?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.: I think he needs to give a more specific and muscular content to the formulaic expression that's been used again and again and again, all options were on the table, to say that containment is not an option. Not a nuclear armed Iran -- all the reasons he stated so powerfully in the recently the interview that he gave recently with Jeff Goldberg -- is simply unacceptable because it would destabilize the Middle East, it would create access for terrorist to nuclear arms and it would make the Middle East a nuclear tinderbox. And that's the kind of passion and specificity that he needs to bring to this conversation now.

WALLACE: All right. On the other hand, Senator Blumenthal, does Prime Minister Netanyahu need to give tougher sanctions that have been imposed? An oil embargo by Europe against Iran, tougher measures against Iran's central bank -- does he need to give those more time to work before he launches a unilateral military strike?

BLUMENTHAL: You know, Israel's interests are its own, just as our interests have to be our own. Our national interest has to be the guiding principle.

And the cooperation, we come from the trip recently in the Middle East, my impression is that cooperation, strategic and intelligence have been never stronger between these two allies, and the prime minister of Israel has to recognize that the United States has its own interest. But in this case, they are aligned with Israel.

WALLACE: But there is a disagreement here. I mean, there is, Senator Graham, a disagreement at this point about when -- how far they should allow Iran to go and at what point a military strike should be --

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: There is a difference in capability.

WALLACE: But also a difference in their assessment of the situation.

GRAHAM: Sure. There's the intelligence picture difference. But here's what we agree on -- we've been talking to Iran for three years. They keep enriching. We've been sanctioning Iran seriously, I think in an effective way for about the last six months, they keep enriching. They have 3,000 kilograms of low enriched uranium, one and half times more than they need to make the bomb.

So, here's the situation in Israel. Their military ability is less than ours. There'll come a point where these sites get hard, and they are being hard.

If they wanted to build a power plant for peaceful purposes, the Iranians are going at it at a very odd way. When you put their rhetoric and their behavior together with their nuclear program, if you are Israel, you can't let -- you can't lose control of your own destiny.

So, that's what the prime minister of Israel told us. We will not lose control of our own destiny. We want sanctions to work. We will give it time.

But when Iranians get to the point where our military capability is not sufficient to stop their program, that's the red line for us. And we have a different point militarily than they do, and there is the conflict.

WALLACE: And how should that be resolved? Should it be resolved in what the Israeli capabilities are? And what -- at the point in which they have to strike?

GRAHAM: We should be talking about --

WALLACE: Or should they be willing to rely on the United States?

GRAHAM: Quickly, we should be talking about our differences. We should be talking about our commonalities.

The president's statement on not containing nuclear Iran was great. We should be talking about Iran's behavior, not our differences. And you've got to understand this: the Israeli government and people will not lose control of their own destiny, period. That's the end of the discussion from their point of view.

Sanctions could work, have not worked yet. But there'll come a point in time where they will lose control of their destiny militarily and they're not going to let that happen, and we should acknowledge it, and say that's OK with us.

WALLACE: So that, in other words, when they say we will no longer have the capability to take out the nuclear problem, we'll not rely on the U.S. We're going to do it ourselves.

GRAHAM: We should understand that's a reasonable position for the Israelis to take and we should support that position and hope we never get there.

BLUMENTHAL: And hope that our assurances will enable them to understand how we will be their ally, how we will stop a nuclear-armed Iran and how we will not tolerate it, as a matter of our national interest. Not Israeli interest.

The focus is so much restraining the Israelis. But it ought to be on making sure that our commonality interest is served by a strong United States policy that convinces the Iranians that they are crippling their economy, they are brutalizing their people, and the United States at the end of the day is not going to accept a nuclear-armed Iran.

WALLACE: Let's turn back to the Afghanistan and the blowback of the burning of several Korans in that country in the last couple of weeks. In recent days, six U.S. servicemen have been killed by our Afghan partners. And the reaction from some leading Republicans and conservatives has been striking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's some problems where what you have to do is say, you know, you're going to figure out how to live your own miserable life.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's gotten to point where, why are we there? If this is the end result of us being there, let's get these people out and bring them home and to hell with the place over there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator Graham, are Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh?

GRAHAM: They are expressing frustration. But I know why we're there. General Allen will be here in two weeks to tell the Congress why we're there.

WALLACE: And he's the commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

GRAHAM: He's the commander. I spent an hour on the phone with him.

There are 30 million Afghans. It breaks your heart when six soldiers are killed for inadvertent burning of a religious document. They left their homes and their families to help the Afghans.

But this is not the total picture of what's going on in Afghanistan. We have made progress and we do have strong allies within Afghanistan.

So, don't let this snap shot ruin the strategic importance. General Allen will tell us why it is important we get it right. If we leave and it falls back into Taliban hands and Al Qaeda reemerges, we'll pay a heavy price. History will not judge by the day we left, about what we left behind. And General Allen has a plan for us to withdraw our troops and the key is a partnership agreement telling the Taliban, the Iranians, the Pakistanis, we'll have a follow-on military force, and the Taliban will never come back. What we do after 2014 and the way we do it determines our long-term security interests.

WALLACE: Senator Blumenthal, same basic question to you. When Afghan troops, Afghan police are turning their weapons not on the Taliban but on U.S. soldiers, when you see leading conservatives saying it's time to go to the exit -- is it time to get out of Afghanistan?

BLUMENTHAL: We will be getting out of Afghanistan, hopefully with that strategic partnership.

WALLACE: In two and half years.

BLUMENTHAL: On the timetable and strategy that General Allen and the commanders and the troops there are following.

WALLACE: So, you would speed it up.

BLUMENTHAL: I think if we can speed up, and accelerate that withdrawal with the kind of strategic partnership that we are building, and with special operators continuing to make the progress in taking out targets and turning over that function to the Afghans, that certainly is a goal to be pursued.

But let's -- let's remember, Chris, very importantly, three tremendous problems in Afghanistan -- economic weakness, safe havens, corruption in government. Beyond this incident, which is tragic, absolutely tragic for both sides really, there is an important point that we need to stick to the strategy and overcome this incident.

WALLACE: Finally, I just -- because we are running out of time and I want to talk about one last trouble spot and that is Syria, and the slaughter of the opposition of civilians in Syria continues unabated.

Senator Graham, what should the U.S. do? Should we start arming the opposition? And what do we do about Assad?

GRAHAM: I think the opposition needs military support. You can probably do it from the Arab League. Working with Senator Blumenthal, we're going to do a Senate resolution calling on the United Nations to declare Assad a war criminal because he is.

We need more international pressure. We need to help the rebels militarily, economically, and let Assad know that he is an international outlaw and be held accountable.

WALLACE: When you say -- I missed what you said when you said arm him in a --

GRAHAM: I think the Arab League would be a good vehicle to provide military assistance to the opposition forces and we should consider that. We should consider no drive, no fly zone, too, pretty quickly.

WALLACE: So, you're saying basically what we did in Libya?

GRAHAM: I think the Libyan could served us well.

WALLACE: Senator Blumenthal?

BLUMENTHAL: You know, Secretary Clinton is doing a very good job of bringing together rural academy, as well as the Arab League in support of some kind of aid to the opposition. And that aid can be technical assistance, communications equipments, humanitarian aid, financial support, and, if possible, arms that would go indirectly. There are means to do it. But it should be under the auspices of the international community -- that Secretary Clinton is endeavoring to do.

And this resolution I think will send a very important message. First of all, on Iran, on Israel, on Syria, we are bipartisan. And bipartisanship is breaking out as I saw on this great trip that we took with Senator McCain. There is very strong support for the kinds of initiatives that we saw in Libya. And Libya is a model for how we can aid rebels.

But let me emphasize, Chris: no American troops. None. No American troops on the ground, in direct aid, that will bolster that opposition.

WALLACE: Senator Blumenthal, Senator Graham, we're going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you both so much for coming in today. And we will see what comes out of that key Obama-Netanyahu meeting tomorrow. Thank you, gentlemen, both.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

WALLACE: Coming up, the Sunday panel weighs on what the U.S. and Israel should do about Iran.

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