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Graham, Lieberman Seek Greater Sanctions Against Iranian Leaders

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) called on President Barack Obama on Sunday to push back against Iranian interference with democratic movements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

“I hope people understand what Iran is up to,” Graham said during an appearance with Lieberman on “Fox News Sunday.” “Their biggest nightmare is that the Arab Spring is successful, that we can pull off Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of representative democracy. And they are going to fight to the bitter end. And I hope we will be pushing back strong. I hope the president will condemn this and put the Iranians on notice that you’re not going to undermine your two neighbors who are trying to be democracies without some pushback here.”

The two Senate Armed Services Committee members were interviewed from Kabul, Afghanistan. Graham accused the Iranian government of meddling in the three nations and sending weapons into Afghanistan and Iraq. For these reasons, Lieberman and Graham had joined other Senators in co-sponsoring legislation to impose additional economic sanctions on Iranian leaders, Lieberman said.

“I’m very concerned about Iran’s involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria,” said Lieberman, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “And the fact is, as Sen. Graham said, they’ve got the blood of a lot of people on their hands, including hundreds of Americans who have been killed in Iraq, as a result of Iranian training and equipping of extremist militias.”

Graham said he feared that Obama may have undermined progress made in the past year in Afghanistan when he announced his drawdown plan last month.

“The difference between transitioning to Afghan control in a reasoned way and withdrawing from the fight as Americans is hugely important,” Graham said. “The perception that I’m finding on the ground is that the announcement by the president is more of a withdrawal than it is transition. And that has to be corrected or it could jeopardize our whole operations.”

Like Graham, Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain expressed concern Sunday that the plan had not originated with military leaders.

McCain, who was also in Kabul on Sunday, spoke to CNN’s “State of the Union.” The Arizona Republican said he was hearing on the ground that the president’s plan to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan by 33,000 by September 2012 was creating an unnecessary risk. He also said the Taliban are not ready to strike a peace deal.

“When the Taliban are ready to talk peace, it will be when they are convinced that they can’t achieve their goals on the battlefield,” he said.

The Senate is scheduled to take a procedural vote Tuesday on a resolution that would authorize the limited use of U.S. forces in the NATO mission in Libya. Lieberman called on the president to make the case for continuing operations in Libya and to lay out a plan, as did National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas), who appeared separately on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I know it’s complicated. And I think, frankly, there wouldn’t as much opposition in Congress to our action in Libya if there was a strong argument being made on behalf of why we are there,” Lieberman said.

Cornyn said he plans to vote “no” on the procedural motion and offer an alternative resolution. He said he wants the nation’s stated goal to be the removal of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and to lay out a plan.

“Once the American people understand what the goal is and the means to achieve that goal, then I think we’ll become unified behind this effort,” he said.