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Sen. Lindsey Graham to seek authorization for U.S. attack on Iran

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Congress,Byron York,Iran,Syria,Lindsey Graham,Foreign Policy

Sen. Lindsey Graham is one of the strongest advocates of an American military strike against the Assad regime in Syria. He was unhappy when President Obama decided to seek congressional authorization for an attack, and then unhappy when his fellow lawmakers voiced disapproval of the president's plan. Graham believes the diplomatic path chosen by the administration will lead to a debacle.

Given all that, Graham now says he will work with a bipartisan group of senators to craft a resolution authorizing the president to use military force -- not against the Syrian regime but against Iran. In an appearance on Fox News' Huckabee program over the weekend, Graham argued that such a resolution is essential, because American inaction in Syria will encourage Iran to go forward with its nuclear weapon program, eventually leading toward a Mideast conflagration if the U.S. doesn't intervene.

"Look how we've handled the chemical weapons threat in Syria," Graham said. "If we duplicate that with the Iranians, they're going to march toward a nuclear weapon and dare Israel to attack them. So in the next six months, our friends in Israel are going to have to take the Iranians on, unless the United States can send a clear signal to Iran, unlike what we've sent to Syria.

"The mixed message and the debacle called Syria can't be repeated when it comes to Iran," Graham continued. "So here's what I’m going to do. I'm going to get a bipartisan coalition together. We're going to put together a use-of-force resolution allowing our country to use military force as a last resort to stop the Iranian nuclear program, to make sure they get a clear signal that all this debacle about Syria doesn't mean we're confused about Iran."

After Graham repeated his intention to draft a use-of-force resolution, Huckabee stepped in to make sure everyone understood. "Lindsey, I want to clarify," Huckabee said. "You actually are going to seek sort of a pre-emptive approval to give the president a loaded weapon so that he feels the absolute freedom and support of a bipartisan Congress to take whatever action, including military, against Iran to prevent them from having nuclear weapons?"

"That's exactly right," said Graham.

Graham knows that Congress, particularly the House, was moving strongly against authorizing Obama to use force in Syria. And that was after a chemical weapons attack that clearly violated the president's "red line" in the Syrian civil war. Given that, congressional authorization for an attack on Iran seems far-fetched at best -- a reality Graham seemed to acknowledge. "I'm going to need your help, Mike," Graham said. "I'm going to need your audience's help. Every friend of Israel needs to rally behind this endeavor. Israel feels abandoned after Syria, and I want to send a signal to Tehran and Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that we're not going to leave our friends in Israel behind. And to the ayatollahs: If you march toward a nuclear weapon, all options are on the table, including the military option."

On Capitol Hill Tuesday, Graham repeated his pledge to seek a use-of-force authorization against Iran, although he sounded a touch less assertive than in his conversation with Huckabee. "I do believe without the threat of credible military force by us, the Iranians are going to just slow-walk," Graham said, according to an account in the Hill. "So I'm trying to create the dynamic that there is bipartisan support for continued diplomacy, sanctions and the use of force as a last resort."

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Byron York

Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner