Graham talks Iran, ISIS in first foreign policy speech as 2016 candidate

Story highlights

  • The Republican senator from South Carolina said his credentials on foreign policy made him uniquely qualified to be President
  • Graham said Iran would be one of the highest priorities of the next administration

Washington (CNN)Lindsey Graham on Wednesday gave his first foreign policy speech since announcing his presidential campaign, touching upon ISIS, a potential nuclear deal with Iran and the possibility of more U.S. military involvement in the Middle East.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council, where he also sat down for a question-and-answer session with CNN's Jake Tapper, the Republican senator from South Carolina said his credentials on foreign policy, coupled with the importance of a strong commander-in-chief, made him uniquely qualified to be President.
    "When it comes to foreign policy, Lindsey Graham offers a very clear and different path," he said. "The foundation of my foreign policy is superior capability, overwhelming capacity and most important of all, determined will."
    Graham, who currently chairs three military, foreign policy and terrorism-related Senate subcommittees and is considered one of the most hawkish senators, said Iran will be one of the highest priorities of the next administration. He's been critical of Obama and his approach to reaching a nuclear deal with Iran, and he has been a part of passing a bill that requires that Congress approve the final deal.
    "There are some things you can get wrong and live to fight another day," Graham said. "There are some things you have to get right, because if you don't, you throw the world in chaos."
    If Iran's leaders want to start a military confrontation with the U.S., Graham said, the U.S. will be ready to respond.
    "I would love to end the nuclear ambition of the Iranians without firing a shot, but you have to know who you're talking to and what they actually want," he said. "This is North Korea in the making."
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    As for ISIS, Graham said the Obama administration's response to the terror group has been insufficient.
    "As recently as Monday of this week, Obama claimed that his strategy against ISIS is working," he said. "In my view, the President consistently oversells our successes and minimizes the threat to our nation."
    The war on terror is not limited to Iraq, said Graham, who served in the Air National Guard during the Gulf War. He said that there are more Syrian refugee children in Lebanese schools at the primary level than Lebanese children. Iraq and Syria must be viewed as safe havens for terrorists that need to be addressed, Graham added.
    He also said Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton was an architect of Obama's foreign policy and would continue his approach if elected.
    At one point in the Q&A portion of the event, Graham was interrupted by a protester from the anti-war group Code Pink, who called his foreign policy "a prescription for endless war."
    "I couldn't disagree with you more," Graham fired back. "I think people like you make the world incredibly dangerous. I think people like you are radical Islam's best hope, because you don't understand. ... We got attacked on September 11, 2001. This is a religious war, and if you don't understand that, you shouldn't be President of the United States."