Sen. Lindsey Graham blasted the Biden administration for trying to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal following the election of a hard-line judge as the country’s president — even as Israel’s new prime minister warned the US to “wake up” to the dangers of negotiating with the regime.
“There are no moderates on the ballot in Iran. The ayatollah is a religious Nazi, he controls the place. Religious zealots run the place. Why in the world do you want to give massive enrichment capability to the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, I don’t know,” Graham (R-SC) said on “Fox News Sunday.”
He predicted an arms race and a possibly a war if the nuclear deal is renegotiated between the US and the original participants in the 2015 accord.
“So the idea of going back into negotiations with the ayatollah and his henchmen is insane. The Israelis hate this, right, center, left. The Arabs are scared to death. They’re going to be in the nuclear arms race,” Graham continued.
“If you go back into this deal with the Iranians, you’re going to have a nuclear arms race in the Mideast and you’re going to put Israel in a box so they have to use military force,” he said.
Naftali Bennett, speaking at a televised cabinet meeting on Sunday in Jerusalem, said the election of Ebrahim Raisi, a protege of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would establish a “regime of brutal hangmen.
“Raisi’s election is, I would say, the last chance for world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement, and understand who they are doing business with,” said Bennett, who replaced Benjamin Netanyahu last week after the former prime minister failed to form a new government.
“A regime of brutal hangmen must never be allowed to have weapons of mass-destruction,” Bennett said of Raisi, who has been hit with US sanctions for human rights violations.
“Israel’s position will not change on this.”
The comments come as diplomats from Iran and the world powers who signed on to the deal in 2015 — Britain, France, China, Germany and Russia — continued the latest round of talks on Sunday in Vienna.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord in 2018 and reinstated crippling economic sanctions against Iran.
Enrique Mora, the European Union officials who chaired the discussion, said the sides are “closer to a deal, but we are not still there.”
“We have made progress on a number of technical issues,” Mora said. ”We have now more clarity on technical documents — all of them quite complex — and that clarity allows us to have also a great idea of what the political problems are.”
National security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking on “Fox News Sunday” after Graham’s appearance, said the administration “vigorously” objects to Raisi’s worldview, but will “keep our eye on the ball.”
“The person who will call the shots on Iran’s nuclear program is not Raisi. It’s the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. … He’s the guy ultimately who will make the decision about whether Iran accepts the constraints on its nuclear program that will ensure that it does not get a nuclear weapon. That’s what we are testing right now. That’s what our diplomacy is all about. And we are determined to prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace asked him about reports that the administration wants to ink a deal before Raisi takes office in about six weeks.
“What we’re intending to do is to reimpose the constraints that put Iran’s nuclear program in a box. The limits on enrichment, the limits on stockpile, the intensive verification measures, all of which were included in the original Iran nuclear deal. Once we go back into that deal, Chris, the idea is to negotiate a follow-on agreement that will make for a longer and stronger agreement,” he said.
But Wallace pressed Sullivan on the difficulty of placing restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and extending the sunset provisions of the original pact if sanctions are lifted.
“I would say two things about that. The first is that we have proven now over the course of the past few years that we can reimpose sanctions in a devastating way and the Iranians understand that. So we retain substantial leverage,” Sullivan said.
“Second, there are many more things that Iran wants in the way of sanction relief that go above and beyond what’s in the original Iran nuclear deal. So we will come to the table, not just with sanctions leverage, but with a united front of the world powers that will pose to Iran a choice: either negotiate in good faith on a longer and stronger deal and make the commitments necessary to ensure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon, or they will face not just pressure from the United States but isolation in the international community,” he added.
Another alternative is to continue to pursue the former administration’s policy on Iran, which, he said, has put “Iran closer to a nuclear weapon and even more destabilizing in the region.”
With Post wires