South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham exploded with anger Sunday when a CNN reporter tried to claim that former President Barack Obama’s 2011 decision to pull out of Iraq was forced upon him.
Graham also said that Obama’s actions helped fuel the rise of the Islamic State group.
Graham spoke to CNN’s Dana Bash Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Graham had initially reacted negatively to President Donald Trump’s announcement that U.S. forces would leave Syria. However, when Bash tried to pin any future problems on Trump, Graham bristled.
“If ISIS reconstitutes itself after the U.S. leaves, does President Trump bear responsibility?” Bash asked.
Graham then gave Bash a crash course in history.
“I was there, talking to the prime minister of Iraq — Obama wanted to get to zero. He got to zero. October 21, 2011,” he said.
Graham then shifted ground to Trump.
“I said I hope the president is right, but I fear this decision will come back to haunt us,” he said.
Graham then explained that his concern was rooted in what he has lived through.
“ISIS came about as a result of our withdrawal from Iraq. The caliphate was established in Syria because Obama sat on the sidelines and watched the place be dismembered,” he said.
“Everything we’re dealing with today falls on Obama’s watch,” Graham added. “He’s the one that withdrew from Iraq.”
“But he did it because there was a status of forces agreement with Iraq, right?” Bash said. The agreement had set a timetable for the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
“Listen — well, no, that’s a bunch of bulls—. Pardon my French,” Graham replied. “That’s a complete lie.”
During his interview, Graham explained his concerns.
“We’re fighting a war against ISIS. They’re still not defeated in Syria. I’m asking the president to make sure that we have troops there to protect us. Don’t outsource our national security to some foreign power. If we leave now, the Kurds are going to get into a fight with Turkey, they could get slaughtered,” he said.
“The last thing in the world we want is a war for Turkey and the Kurds,” Graham added. “That takes pressure off ISIS. The last thing we want in addition to that is Iran to be the big winner here. So I think the president’s going to finish the job when it comes to ISIS. I share his goal to withdraw our forces from Syria. I just want to do it in a smart way to make sure that Iran’s not the big winner.”
On Sunday, after the CNN show, he had lunch at the White House with Trump and amended his comments.
“I feel pretty good about where we’re headed,” he told Fox News. Trump “told me some things I didn’t know that make me feel a lot better about where we’re headed in Syria.”
“He promised to destroy ISIS. He’s going to keep that promise,” Graham said of Trump. “We’re not there yet. But as I said today, we’re inside the 10-yard line and the president understands the need to finish the job.”
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