Washington, DC – “If sanctions fail, and the President believes they’re going to fail, then you have to put on the table military force,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), outlining his plan for confronting Iran during a speech today at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Graham advocated for first applying broader and more aggressive sanctions against Iran. “I know they will hurt the people,” he said, “but they don’t mind because they want to be free at the end of the day.” He said the Obama Administration must get more aggressive with Russia and China. “I would tell the Chinese, ‘you import one third of the gasoline the Iranians use. You need to stop.’”
However, Graham said his optimism is at “less than 50 percent” that sanctions would change the Iranian regime’s behavior or lead to its ouster.
“So, if a year from now, after some real strong effort to sanction Iran, it didn’t work out, I would send signals to the Iranian regime ‘cease and desist; go forward at your own risk.’ And the only way to stop them for certain is to neuter their capability to stay in power.”
Graham urged for US action because, “the worst possible thing that could happen in the Mid-East is an Israeli strike against Iran because that changes the whole equation. The Iranians would be able on the ‘Arab street’ to have traction they wouldn’t have otherwise.” He did not address whether US strikes would have the same effect.
“Military force against Iran opens Pandora’s box,” he did acknowledged. But, he said, “If they get a nuclear weapon, you empty Pandora’s box. So those are the choices. They suck, but those are your choices if sanctions don’t work.”
In November of last year, NIAC condemned similar calls for military action by Graham as “a return to the failed approach of the Bush Administration, which prioritized saber rattling and war rhetoric over serious efforts.” NIAC said that approach “endangers human rights defenders in Iran, undermines Iranian democracy activists, and places American troops in the region at greater risk.”
At today’s event, Graham concluded by speculating how Iran would play into the 2012 Presidential elections. “If I were a Republican candidate for president, I would be telling the world my construct to constrain Iran: serious sanctions applied by the world community with the understanding if they don’t work, the Iranians will be confronted with a war they don’t need.”