During a conference call focused on laying out his agenda last week, the U.S. Senator said the nation must remain focused on bringing stability to Afghanistan and Iraq, while remaining mindful of threats posed by Hamas and Iran.
“2009, domestically and internationally, is going to be a pivotal year,” Graham said. “It’s a year where things are going to get better or worse.”
The war in Afghanistan in remains a priority for Graham, who serves on the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
“Afghanistan is in a stalemate situation,” he said. “I hope we can break out with a new strategy, having new troops, to really regain some lost momentum in Afghanistan.”
Iraq has “in many ways, turned a political, economic corner,” Graham said.
“However, we’re not there yet,” he said. “What happens in 2009, in terms of troop withdrawal, is going to be crucial to the future stability of Iraq and our long-term national security interest.”
This year will be pivotal in containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Graham said.
“I do believe the Iranian regime is pushing forward on all fronts to acquire a nuclear weapon, not nuclear power for peaceful purposes,” he said.
The Palestinan/Israeli conflict has take center stage so far this year, Graham said.
“I completely support Israel’s decision to launch military attacks into Gaza,” he said.
Graham supports a two-state solution to the conflict.
“An independent Palestinian state living beside Israel, democratic in nature, with a structure that will allow the Palestinian people prosperity and peace for the coming generations,” he said. “However, I do not support using the Palestinian-held territories as a launching pad for attacks against the sovereign state of Israel.”
Graham places blame for the conflict squarely on Hamas.
“There are plenty of problems that exists in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict where Israel could do better,” Graham said. “But the actual military conflict was brought upon, I think, by Hamas.”
Iranian officials “are the worst actors in the world,” supporting both Hezbollah and Hamas, Graham said.
“If Hamas comes out of this stronger, that emboldens Iran,” he said. “It’s in our best interest to make sure the Palestinian people have the chance to live in peace and prosperity, but the territory cannot be used by terrorist organizations to attack one of closest allies, Israel. Whatever it takes, that’s what Israel should do.”
An upcoming foreign policy trip will find Graham crossing continents and party lines.
Vice President-elect Joe Biden has invited Graham on a trip to an undisclosed country to begin work on foreign policy.
“He called me right after the election,” Graham said. “When the Vice-President said he wanted to go … he wanted me to go with him before he got sworn in, to start the new session and the new administration off with as much common ground as possible.
“I’m looking forward to the trip,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a big deal, quite frankly.”
Biden, the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Graham will be accompanied by incoming Committee chairman Sen. John Kerry, Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and Maine Senator Susan Collins, who also serves on the Armed Services Committee with Graham.
“I think all of us can play a very helpful role in fashioning good foreign policy to make sure we continue to win in Iraq and we turn Afghanistan around,” Graham said.