OTR Interviews

Sen. Graham: Blame Obama for al Qaeda resurgence, 'We won the war and lost the peace'

President invokes same old partisan rhetoric in jobless benefits extension debate in first remarks of the new year. Plus, how does the administration explain al Qaeda resurgence in Iraq, Syria?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 7, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: After all the American sacrifice, the situation in Iraq is deteriorating. Senators Lindsey Graham and John King saying al Qaeda's gains in Iraq are both tragic and predictable. Senator Lindsey Graham joins us. Nice to see you, sir. So who do you blame for the advances of al Qaeda?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: President Obama.


GRAHAM: President Obama had an opportunity to leave a residual force behind in Iraq that our military commanders recommended. Somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 and that would have secured Iraq and we would have had a successful outcome. The surge worked. Our military performed brilliantly. We won the war and lost the peace.

I blame Obama and Biden for not listening to their commanders, rejecting them, advising. Bob Gates talks about that in his book. Military overruled by the political people and the White House. Now you see al Qaeda on the rise. I would say this to the American people. Any time al Qaeda occupies this city anywhere in the world.

SUSTEREN: You mean Fallujah.

GRAHAM: Fallujah and Ramadi, every other city in the world. These are the people that attacked us on 9/11. This is an affiliate group of al Qaeda that is trying to drive every western interest out of the Middle East and take over impose a radical Islamic agenda on the Middle East that would make it impossible for us as Americans to be successful in the world.

SUSTEREN: It's not just contained to Iraq.

GRAHAM: Syria.

SUSTEREN: In Syria, the rebel groups now --

GRAHAM: -- yes, ma'am.

SUSTEREN: As I understand it dominated by al Qaeda, which puts us in a very precarious position. Do we support Assad which we don't because he gases people or do we support the rebel groups, which we can't. But you think that they are still -- Syrian army that can still --

GRAHAM: Yes, ma'am. You got to change the battle.


GRAHAM: By empowering those you can live in peace with once they went. Al Qaeda is coming from Iraq into Syria. They are about 10,000 of them going. But with a good drone program, you don't need American troops. No weapons have gone to the Free Syrian Army.

SUSTEREN: Is there time?

GRAHAM: Yes, there is time.

SUSTEREN: Everything seems to be deteriorating over there and here in the United States, I don't think a lot of Americans have an appetite for getting the re-investor.

GRAHAM: I totally get that I'm not talking about ground troops. The king of Jordan, have you ever met the king of Jordan?

SUSTEREN: I met his father.

GRAHAM: He is one of the solutions not the problems. He has a peace treaty with Israel. What happens' if he gets overrun by radical Islamists. That will happen a year from now or less if something doesn't change in Syria. What about Lebanon? It's falling apart because of Syria. Look at Iraq? Syria is a cancer, it has to be contained and we could.

SUSTEREN: You mentioned Israel, you were just there with Senator McCain and I know that Prime Minister Netanyahu grateful to you being there and supporting the Israelis. What is sort of the Israeli -- what is Prime Minister Netanyahu thinking about Obama administration actions?

GRAHAM: Well, Iran's nuclear program is the biggest threat to the existence of Israel and to our -- if the Ayatollahs get a nuke, God help the Israeli people. They believed that backing off on sanctions sending the worse possible signal to Ayatollahs. They believe that the research and development provisions of the interim agreement allowed the Iranians to continue to enrich uranium to go toward developing a bomb.

SUSTEREN: Are you for more sanctions?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. If we don't put sanctions on the table and let the western world and Iranians know that we are serious about stopping their program, this deal is going to come apart.

SUSTEREN: Is the president in favor of sanctions?

GRAHAM: The president is not in favor of additional sanctions. The only reason the Iranians are at the table today is because the sanctions brought them there. If you back off, they are going to play us like a fiddle. And the biggest fear of the Israelis is for the king of Jordan to be a victim of Syria for the whole region to be taken into chaos. You know, the Syrian war to spread throughout the region and the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon.

Radical Islamists are getting closer by the day to having weapons that could destroy us all. The biggest challenge of my lifetime and your lifetime is to contain radical Islam and keep them away from weapons of mass destruction. If the Ayatollahs in Iran develop a nuclear weapon, I'm afraid they will share it with terrorists.

These chemical weapons in Syria and all the weapons in the Middle East are now about the fall in the hands of the most radical hands on the planet. I blame President Obama. He is AWOL when it comes to leadership. When it comes to Afghanistan, we have got a chance to get that right. He hasn't talked to the Afghan president since July.

SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you very much, sir.

GRAHAM: Thank you.