On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”
After bringing up Syria’s recent chemical weapons attack, as well as the way in which President Trump responded, host Martha Raddatz asked Graham for his take:
RADDATZ: We’ve all seen those horrific images this morning. The president just tweeting: “Many dead, including women and children, in mindless chemical attack in Syria…President Putin, Russia, and Iran are responsible for backing animal Assad. Big price to pay.” [What do you] think he means by that? Tom Bossert told me nothing’s off the table.
GRAHAM: Well, it’s the defining moment in his presidency because he has challenged Assad in the past not to use chemical weapons. We had a one-and-done missile attack, so Assad’s at it again. They see us — our resolve breaking; they see our determination to stay in Syria waning; and it’s no accident they used chemical weapons — but President Trump can reset the table here.
To me, I would destroy Assad’s air force; I would create safe zones in Syria where people can come back to their country from the surrounding area and live a better life. Train up Syrians to take on Assad so we can negotiate in Geneva from a position of strength.
If it becomes a tweet without meaning, then he has hurt himself with North Korea. If he doesn’t follow through and live up to that tweet, he’s gonna look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran. So this is [a] defining moment, Mr. President. You need to follow through [with] that tweet, show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right.
RADDATZ: And Senator Graham, this week also, you heard President Trump saying he wanted to pull our troops out of Syria. They clarified that somewhat. What do you think about doing that? I know it’s a different fight. It’s against ISIS.
GRAHAM: Complete, utter disaster to leave before the fight’s done. Have we learned nothing [from] what happens when you leave too soon? We pulled our troops out of Iraq — ISIS came back. But President Trump made a speech in Riyadh, Martha, that was very important. He went to the Arab world and said two things: I stand with you against Iran, and I stand with you to defeat radical Islam.
If we leave Syria by the mere passage of time, we undercut that policy. ISIS will come back; you will be giving Damascus to the Iranians; they’ll have a land bridge from Tehran to Beirut; Syria will be occupied by Hezbollah, Russia, Iran — a nightmare for our friends in Israel. You’ve got to stick with it. You need a holding force as part of a regional force. If Americans are not part of a holding force, ISIS will come back.
There is no strategy by the Trump administration to counter a running expansion, and you need a strategy to deal with Iran just as much as ISIS, and the test of that strategy is in Syria.