Oct 21, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from Briefing Room: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday slammed President Obama’s policy towards Iran, saying the “time for talking is over” after reports suggested that Washington and Tehran had reached an agreement on continuing negotiations over nuclear enrichment.
“We should be demanding transparency and access to their nuclear program,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Fox News Sunday.
Graham said sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program have “been a miserable failure” and had failed to prevent Iran from continuing to enrich uranium.
He called the reports that administration officials and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear program as just a “ploy by the Iranians” to stall action against its nuclear efforts, which Iran says are peaceful, but Western powers fear will develop weapons.
The White House on Saturday denied reports they had reached a deal on talks, with National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor saying that the White House remained open to such one-on-one negotiations.
“We continue to work … on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally,” Vietor said in a statement.
Graham said that the Iranians were using the upcoming presidential election for their own policy advantage. “I think it’s pretty obvious they’re trying to continue dialogue using our election cycle in a pretty clever way,” he said.
“There’s a pattern here: We talk, they enrich, Graham said. “It needs to stop. We need to have red lines coordinated with Israel and end this before it gets out of hand.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), also appearing on Fox News Sunday, defended the president’s policy, arguing that the sanctions regime imposed on Iran by the U.S. and other countries is working.
“There’s unrest in the streets of Tehran and the leaders in Iran are feeling it, Durbin said. “That’s exactly what we want the sanctions program to do.”
He said The New York Times report about the one-on-one talks with Iran is “a clear indication that the sanctions regime that President Obama has put together with Israel and many other nations across the world is putting pressure on Iran to sit down and acknowledge that they cannot have a nuclear weapon,” calling it “a positive step forward.”
Graham and Durbin also sparred on the show about the Obama administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that resulted in the death of four Americans.
Graham hammered the Obama administration for not beefing up the security of the consulate in Benghazi or closing it after violence in the region grew, calling it a “death trap long in the making.”
“I am totally convinced this is going to go down in history as one of the most major breakdowns of national security in a very long time,” Graham said.
The South Carolina Republican also lambasted the administration for initially saying an anti-Islam Web video incited the attack on the consulate.
“This was not a spontaneous riot. There never was a mob,” he said. “It was a seven-hour planned attack, pre-planned in the making.”
Durbin said the intelligence community initially told administration officials that “they believed [the attack] had something to do with this video but they were going to gather” more evidence to be sure.
“We aim to have a thorough investigation to get to the bottom of it, and as the president said, hold those accountable who did it,” Durbin said.
The Illinois senator also criticized Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for releasing more than 100 pages of documents detailing the embassy’s requests for additional security, saying Issa was putting the lives of Libyans who are helping the U.S. at risk.
Durbin slammed it as “an effort to get a political toehold in this election” and called it “unacceptable.”
A report Friday said that State Department cables released by Issa had not been redacted and included the names of Libyans helping the U.S. on the ground.
Issa is investigating the administration’s handling of security matters at the embassy before the Sept. 11 attack and its response to the violence.