BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. GRAHAM. I wish to echo what my friend from Connecticut, Senator Lieberman, has said. I wish to get this done so we can vote and send the appropriate signal. It is not so much we act before Tuesday, even though that is important, but that we let the Iranians and the world know what we mean when we speak.
I hope they are watching in Tehran. I don't know if they get C SPAN. They will probably find it odd that Lindsey Graham is now being easy on Iran. Trust me, I am not. Senator Menendez has been a champion, along with Senator Kirk, of creating legislation we could all buy into 100 to 0. We can't agree we should take Sunday off 100 to 0. But what they achieved was remarkable.
I understand Senator Reid has been pulled and torn. I appreciate it. I enjoy working with him. He thinks maybe somebody is doing him wrong. We are not. He should ask himself this question: Why would Senator Graham be on the floor concerned about what we say if he genuinely did not believe we are making a mistake? I don't want to embarrass the President. I would say to the President: Keep it up with Iran. I hope sanctions work. And if you need to use military force to protect this Nation, if sanctions fail, I will be your strongest advocate.
But a couple of things have been said that need to be corrected. The managers' amendment is not what was in the base bill or we wouldn't need a managers' amendment. Section 102 in the base bill is approximately three paragraphs. Section 102 here is approximately 10 pages. The bottom line for me is that this section was added in the managers' amendment that didn't exist in the base bill:
Nothing in this act or this amendment or the amendments made by this act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran or Syria.
That wasn't in the base bill. Where the hell did that come from? This is not a declaration of war. But when this sentence is in there, and the new amendment doesn't say one thing about the use of force to control the Iranian behavior--the President's own words are ``all options on the table.'' And the reason I am exercised is we are now producing a product that backs away from where the President has been regarding all options on the table. We end the new managers' package with the statement ``nothing here authorizes the use of force against Iran or Syria.''
It is all about sanctions in the bill, and the only time we mention force is to say we won't do it or we won't authorize it. All I am asking is what Senator Lieberman mentioned. These sanctions are great. I hope they will change Iranian behavior. They haven't yet, and I don't think they ever will, but I am willing to go down this road. All I am asking is when we include in the legislation ideas or concepts that will change Iranian behavior that we include ``all options are on the table'' in the bill. Because this would be the first piece of legislation where that is ominously omitted.
To end, the whole concept of what we are trying to do with the declarative statement ``this is not a declaration of war or the use of force against Iran or Syria'' would make the Iranians believe, quite frankly, we are all about sanctions and that is it. I am all for sanctions, but if you are listening, Tehran, I want more on the table to make you change your behavior.
This summer is going to be tough for the world. The Iranians talk and enrich. There is nothing credible I have seen to make me believe they are not pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. I hope the talks next Tuesday will change their behavior.
I appreciate what Senator Menendez has done, along with his colleagues on the Banking Committee, to give this President more tools, to make them even tougher than they are today. But the worst thing we could do before next Tuesday is to leave any doubt to anybody who is watching this debate that there is nothing more on the table than just sanctions; that on the table--and we hope to God we never have to use it to stop the Iranian nuclear program--is the use of force, if that is required.
That is all I want to say. I hope we never get there.
I agree with this last statement--I am not asking for a declaration of war against Tehran or Syria--but I will not vote for a document at this critical time in our Nation's history, with the existential threat we are facing from a rogue regime that denies the right of Israel to exist, that has killed over 2,000 Americans in Iraq, that has been a proxy for evil throughout the planet, whose own President doesn't believe the Holocaust existed. And to my friends at APACS, whom I agree with most of the time, if they think this is the right answer, I couldn't disagree with you more.
Add one simple line, that in addition to all the fine work of the Banking Committee, and my dear friend Senator Menendez, that we in the Senate recognize what the President has been saying for months--that military force is also an option.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. GRAHAM. Senator Corker asked a very good question, and I will answer it directly, as Senator Lieberman did. The resolution is not designed to authorize the use of force where anybody in the State Department administration could say, we have the green light to go into Iran from Congress. That is not what we are intending to do. We are intending to echo a policy statement made by President Obama that the policy of the United States will be--if you are listening in Tehran--not to contain Iran if they obtain a nuclear capability.
I want to lodge an objection to my own resolution by my colleague Rand Paul, who could not be here, so I am going to object on his behalf. He wants to strike two provisions of the resolution, although I don't think we can get there from here.
But in response to Senator Corker, if he wanted to add a line into this resolution that it is not an authorization to use force, I will gladly do that so that nobody can mistake that. But here is what Senator Paul suggested to me. What if they get a nuclear weapon. You know, we don't want to contain them. That is our policy. But what if we wake up one day and they explode a bomb out in the desert and they have already got it? What would we do then? Does that mean we would go after their nuclear program or would we try to contain them? It means, from my point of view, we should go after their program. So we have a difference.
If the Iranians think they can sneak through and get a nuclear weapon, and then we are going to contain them, it doesn't work that way. They need to know their regime survival is at stake if they go down this road. If by some accident of our intelligence being wrong--if that could be even conceivable, which I think it could be given this closed environment--they need to know we are not going to allow a nuclear-capable Iran, period.
But to this resolution not being an authorization to use force, I would say to Senator Menendez that this last statement--which wasn't in the base bill--I don't object to that. This is not a declaration of war. I don't know why someone added Syria. We are not talking about Syria, but there are some people out there who want to limit the ability of the United States sometimes to defend itself. I want to put a sentence in your sanctions bill that all options are on the table, as they have been for months, if not years.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCAIN. Isn't it true that the President of the United States said that it was ``unacceptable'' for the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon?
I have a series of questions.
Mr. GRAHAM. Yes.
Mr. McCAIN. So doesn't that mean the United States of America would reserve all options in case of an unacceptable situation where the Iranians continued--and we have seen no deviation from that path--toward the acquisition of a nuclear weapon?
Mr. GRAHAM. The Senator is correct.
Here is what President Obama said: All options are on the table when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program. Israel, I have your back. Containment is not an option.
I agree with the President. I think he has made the right statements, and I am just trying to reinforce them.
Mr. McCAIN. So isn't it true that we are having this debate about whether this amendment or this legislation could be construed as an authorization or opening the door for military action; that the administration's policy is already very clear that it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon? And I am sure that, over time, the three of us could talk for a long time about the implications for the entire region of Iran, not just the threat to Israel but the entire region of an Iranian government which is, quote, going to wipe Israel off the map, which then, of course, would force other nations in the region to develop nuclear weapons.
Isn't it true that it has been a matter of national policy--both Republican and Democratic--that it is unacceptable? And that does not mean we automatically would use military force, but it does mean we would have to react to the development on the part of the Iranians of a nuclear weapon.
So this resolution we are considering is no different in any way--in fact, it is less specific than what the President of the United States has said and what I believe most every Member of the U.S. Senate is on record one way or the other saying: that the development of a nuclear weapon by Iran would be an unacceptable situation.
Mr. GRAHAM. Well, let me try to answer that.
Senator Menendez and a group of us--Senators Lieberman and Casey and Hoeven and myself--did the resolution in question today to echo the President's statement that we are not going to have containment as a policy.
There are some people--even Republicans, I might add, some very prominent Republicans--who believe you could contain a nuclear-armed Iran if you told them: If you ever use a nuclear weapon, we would wipe you off the face of the Earth.
President Clinton gave a very good answer to that situation. He said that the biggest fear he has is not that the Iranians would put a nuclear weapon on the top of a missile and hit Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. That is a concern. His biggest fear is that they would share the technology with a terrorist organization. So that is why you can't ever let them get this capability.
So the resolution is basically echoing the statement of the President that containment is not an option. And it has 78 cosponsors.
Senator Paul has the right to object, and he did. I don't think we can get there from here. I think he has a different view of what we are trying to do--honestly held, a good man, just an honest difference of opinion.
Back to the sanctions bill. Senator Menendez did a great job, as he always does on things like this. The reason I found out about this and got so concerned is that section 603 is something that wasn't in the base bill. Again, it says: Nothing in this act or the amendments made by this act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization for use of force against Iran or Syria.
One, nothing in here has anything to do with Syria, and I am OK with saying that. I don't want this to be a declaration of war or an authorization to use force; I want it to be a good sanctions bill. But if you don't have the other means available to stop the Iranian programs--as the President has indicated, all options on the table--that has to be said because we would be leaving a gap in our policy.
So to Senator Menendez and Senator Reed, all I am asking is that we insert a provision that basically echoes what the policy of this country is--all options are on the table, not just sanctions. And we will get a lot of votes for this.
Mr. McCAIN. I know our friend Senator Menendez is going to speak, but this is not any change in American policy toward Iran, both Republican and Democratic, and that is that there is an existential threat to the State of Israel and other countries in the region, other Arab countries in the region, that would be posed if the Iranians continued on their development of nuclear weapons.
So this resolution is an important statement on the part of the Senate and Congress, but to somehow say this is a major change in policy of any kind obviously flies in the face of the record of this President and previous Presidents as regards this issue.
I also would like to thank the Senator from New Jersey for his continued contributions to these national security issues.
Mr. GRAHAM. I would just close and yield the floor to Senator Menendez. The Senator is right about the resolution. We are not coming up with a new idea; we are just reinforcing an idea put on the table by our own President--we are not going to contain a nuclear-capable Iran as a policy. It is not a declaration of war. It is not authorization of force. It is restating the policy at a time when it may matter.
Mr. McCAIN. And if there were a need for military action, it is the view of all of us that we would come back to the Congress of the United States before any such action were contemplated.
Mr. GRAHAM. Well, here is my view about that. I think the President would be wise to include the Congress.
I am a conservative who thinks the War Powers Act is unconstitutional. I find it odd that our party for all of these years has railed against the War Powers Act until President Obama is in office, and all of a sudden we are great champions of the War Powers Act.
But what I would say is that it would be wise for the President to consult with the Congress and for us to be united. And if you do believe in the War Powers Act, he has to, within a period of time, come back to get our approval to continue. I think whatever the President needs to do to defend us against a nuclear-capable Iran is best made by the Commander in Chief consulting with the Congress. But you can't have 535 commanders in chief.
Back to the sanctions bill. The problem I have is that it is silent on a concept on which we all agree, and I don't want to create a document before the negotiations Tuesday that doesn't include something beyond sanctions to change the Iranian behavior that we all want to avoid. And this says: It is the sense of the Congress that the goal of compelling Iran to abandon efforts to acquire nuclear weapons capability and other threatening activities can be effectively achieved through--it goes through 10 pages talking about sanctions, and not once does it mention the possibility of military force, and that is what I want to add, that concept.
With that, I will yield the floor. I hope we can work this out.
To the Senator from New Jersey, I think he is a great guy, and I am sorry we are having this problem. But it is very important to me that we get this part of it right.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT