Jan 03 2020
ICYMI – TRANSCRIPT
Graham on Soleimani Airstrike: “This is not an act of revenge for what he’d done in the past. This was a preemptive, defensive strike planned to take out the organizer of attacks yet to come.”
Fox News Channel ‘Fox and Friends’
Video / Audio: https://youtu.be/r2La-EEYTNI
Senator, how significant is this move and what has Soleimani done in the past to Americans that you’ve seen?
Well he’s killed, the cone-shaped IEDs that killed over six hundred Americans came from Iran. How significant is this?
We killed the most powerful man in Iran short of the Ayatollah. He was the right fist of the Ayatollah and we took the Ayatollah’s arm off.
This is not an act of revenge for what he’d done in the past. This was a preemptive, defensive strike planned to take out the organizer of attacks yet to come.
The intelligence was very strong that Soleimani was orchestrating chaos in Iraq at our expense and throughout the region, the President was informed of these potential attacks, and he acted.
This was a defensive strike to neutralize future attacks that were being planned and executed by Soleimani and the popular mobilization front – the Shiite militias in Iraq.
So, Senator, it was preemptive because bad things were coming, the American government believed. The worry now is the retaliation because the Iranians have pledged a crushing response. You say if they mess around with us, next stop: their oil fields, right?
Well, what I am trying to do is create deterrence. So this was a preemptive attack that let everybody in the world know from North Korea, anybody else, that if you come after Americans on President Trump’s watch, you do so at your peril.
All the things that Soleimani had done in the past were real, but he’s not dead today because of what he did in the past. He’s dead today because he miscalculated what President Trump would do regarding future attacks.
So, what are they thinking about in Tehran right now? Revenge. What are they thinking about inside Iraq?
All of these Shiite militias are going to have three days of mourning. What kind of command and control do they have regarding Tehran? Who makes the decisions to strike, and what kind of strikes are they contemplating? How would you stop retaliation through deterrence?
What’s the one thing the regime can’t afford to lose? The ability to refine oil. So what President Trump has done is up the ante as high as you can up it.
He’s killed the most consequential military leader in Iran. He’s killed the guy who’s spreading terror throughout the world. When you say that Iran is the largest state-sponsor of terrorism, the question is who leads that effort. It was Soleimani. They will not let this go unanswered.
Senator, have you spoken to the President? Is this what he’s thinking or is this what you’re thinking?
This is what I’m thinking. I was briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida. I appreciate being brought into the orbit.
I really appreciate President Trump letting the world know you cannot kill an American without impunity. We will stand up for our people and that is an absolutely essential message.
But now, what will change Iran’s calculation? How will we respond?
They’re going to come after us with a vengeance if we do not reset the table pretty quickly. If I were the President, I would put on the table targets in Iran, not Iraq and Syria, economic targets that would crush the economy.
The maximum pressure campaign has worked. What would take it to the next level would be to destroy the ability of the Iranians to refine oil and then sell it. The oil refineries are the last thing they have in terms of an economy.
Senator, Nancy Pelosi said that “tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America, and the world, cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.” Ilhan Omar is saying that this was a conspiracy theory, that the President just wants distraction from the impeachment trial. Adam Schiff says “the world is better off without Soleimani, but Congress didn’t authorize the attack.” What’s your response? Do you think Congress should’ve made the decision or the President should’ve consulted Congress?
The last group of people you want to talk to about this is Democrats in Congress, Republicans in Congress, okay?
As to Omar: this is not a distraction. What President Trump did was save thousands or hundreds of American lives and our allies. The attacks that they were planning against American interests were real. The rocketing of the compound killing the contractor was foreshadowing of what was to come.
To all those Democrats who criticize the President, I was aware of what his options were. They were about to unleash holy hell on our people in Iraq and throughout the region and the President decisively took action.
Now, how do you prevent this from really going bad? You’ve got to put on the table quickly, in my view, the consequences of retaliation by the Iranians. They’ve got to know what comes next.
We took out the number one military mind of Iran. Okay, the next thing we need to put on the table is the number one economic engine of Iran, the oil refineries.
The President has to convince the Ayatollah that if he retaliates our response will be greater than the market can bear.
Senator, there’s no doubt about it. George Bush and Barack Obama had shots at him – did they make mistakes not taking those shots?
Well, see, this is always complicated. When the President brought up to me I was taken aback because the popular mobilization front, there are thousands of people in Iraq being armed by Iranians. These Shiite militias are the ones that attacked our embassy.
I’m worried about the stability of the Iraqi government today, I have no idea how they’re going to respond.
Soleimani was killed in Baghdad – he was in Baghdad, he was killed on Iraqi soil. But the reason the action was taken was that he was planning and about to operationalize further attacks against Americans.
I hope our Iraqi allies understand that we’re not going to allow our soldiers to be attacked by outside interests like Soleimani and people are going to pay a price if you come after an American, even in Iraq.
So we need them to reject the Soleimani model and embrace the fact that our troops are going to be protected. They need to help us to protect our troops. I’m looking to the Iraqi to up their game when it comes to helping us to protect Americans.
But Iran put these lawmakers in place, they’re going to help to expel us.
Okay, so this is – the Kurds have no love for the Iranians. The Sunni Iraqis have no love. You’ve got Shiite Iraqis, some of them spent time in Iran during the war, they hated Saddam, but they’re mostly Shiite nationalists, they’re Iraqi nationalists, they have ties to the Ayatollah, but there’s an element inside of Iraq that are completely wedded to the Quds force, and those are the ones that I worry about.
But the overwhelming opinion of Iraqis is they don’t want Iran to run Iraq. And now is going to be a time of testing of the Iraqi political system and their military system, they’ve got to choose between the Ayatollah and us.
It’s quite a choice – thank you Senator for joining us live.