Lindsey Graham After Talking To Trump About Syria: "I'm Increasingly Optimistic This Could Turn Out Very Well" | Video | RealClearPolitics

Lindsey Graham After Talking To Trump About Syria: "I'm Increasingly Optimistic This Could Turn Out Very Well"

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South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham joined FNC's Maria Bartiromo on "Sunday Morning Futures" to weigh in on Turkey's invasion of Syria, a State Department report finding hundreds of violations in Hillary Clinton's email scandal and the Trump-Ukraine controversy.

Graham, who last week called President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Northern Syria "the most screwed up decision I've ever seen," said that after speaking with the president yesterday he is "increasingly optimistic this could turn out very well."





"The big thing for me is the oil fields," Graham said. "President Trump is thinking outside the box. I was so impressed with his thinking about the oil. Not only are we going to deny the oil fields falling into Iranian hands. I believe we're on the verge of a joint venture between us and the Syrian Democratic Forces, who helped destroy ISIS and keep them destroyed, to modernize the oil fields and make sure they get the revenue, not the Iranians, not Assad."

BARTIROMO: My next guest just spoke with President Trump last night about the objectives in Syria. Senator Lindsey Graham joins us. He is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And, Senator, it's always a pleasure to see you.

Your reaction to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Well, no, it's a blessing to have him on the team. He's sort of the anchor tenet.

General Milley is doing a great job. Ambassador Jeffrey, who has the Syrian portfolio, is the best in the business. And we have got a really good team. The vice president did a terrific job.

So let me tell you where I think we are. Withhold judgment as to what's going to happen in Syria until it's all in. I am increasingly optimistic that we can have some historic solutions in Syria that have eluded us for years, if we play our cards right.

I blame Erdogan for the invasion, not Trump. But here is what the president told me over the weekend. Here are our objectives, to make sure we have a demilitarized zone between Turkey and the Kurds. The Kurds were the allies what helped us defeat ISIS. They lost 10,000 soldiers. We have lost eight in four years. God bless the eight, but it was the Kurds who did most of the fighting.

Protect our NATO ally Turkey from elements of the Kurds that they considered to be terrorists, a demilitarized zone occupied by international forces, no Americans, but we provide airpower.

The president appreciates what the Kurds have done. He wants to make sure ISIS doesn't come back. I expect we will continue to partner with the Kurds into Eastern Syria to make sure ISIS doesn't reemerge. That is in our national security interests, and we owe it to the Kurds.

The big thing for me is the oil fields. President Trump is thinking outside the box. I was so impressed with his thinking about the oil. Not only are we going to deny the oil fields falling into Iranian hands. I believe we're on the verge of a joint venture between us and the Syrian Democratic Forces, who helped destroy ISIS and keep them destroyed, to modernize the oil fields and make sure they get the revenue, not the Iranians, not Assad.

And it can help pay for our small commitment in the future. And protecting Israel is the number one objective. And we can do all of that with a very small force.

BARTIROMO: Senator, you...

GRAHAM: I'm increasingly optimistic this could turn out very well.

BARTIROMO: It could turn out very well.

This is completely different than what you have been saying all week. You have been a staunch criticizer of the president's move to pull all the troops out of Syria.

GRAHAM: Yes.

BARTIROMO: You said, in fact, on this program just two weeks ago, if we abandon the Kurds, ISIS is going to come back and that there's an attack on our allies.

So, you have changed your mind based on what you have heard from the president last night?

GRAHAM: Yes.

I still believe that, if we abandon the Kurds, nobody helps you in the future. They have lost 10,000 fighters to destroy the caliphate. But there are 15,000 or 20,000 ISIS fighters running around in Syria and Iraq.

A small contingent of Americans providing airpower and capability will keep ISIS at bay and keep the jails locked up and the Kurds -- I mean, the ISIS fighters won't break out.

What I heard from the president was a very -- play the ball as you lie is a concept in golf. Well, after Erdogan's invasion, things have gotten scrambled in Syria.

But I see a way forward now that really, quite frankly, is historic, historic security for Turkey, historic security for the Kurds. A plan to keep ISIS down and out forever, and a chance to keep the oil fields in the hands of our allies, not our enemies, would be a hell of an outcome, and I think that's now possible.

BARTIROMO: Let me ask you, Senator.

The president says that he wants the troops home, he doesn't want wars. And the American people, much of them, agree with him.

GRAHAM: Yes.

BARTIROMO: Why are we sending troops to Saudi Arabia then?

GRAHAM: Well, because Saudi Arabia is an ally and Iran is an enemy.

And Iran is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism on the planet. They're trying to build a nuclear weapon. They are liars. They murdered their own people. They dismembered Lebanon and Yemen, and on and on and on. They have got American blood on their hand. They attacked the largest oil field in the world in Saudi Arabia.

And it's in our interests to make sure that oil field is protected and the world's economy doesn't plunge because of misadventures of Iran. That's why what President Trump is proposing in Syria, a joint venture dealing with the southern oil fields in Syria, between our allies, the Kurds and the Arabs who helped us destroy ISIS, is a historic change that could pay dividends for the region.

And, quite frankly, we could generate revenue to pay for our commitment in Syria, something we haven't been able to do.

So, the bottom line here is, you have got to play the ball where it lies. And if President Trump fulfills the objectives he laid out to me, then I think we can end Syria successfully.

And God bless all those who have fought to destroy ISIS.

BARTIROMO: Wow.

Well, that's breaking news this morning, Senator, that you actually do see a way forward after you have spoken with the president on his plan to secure those oil fields.

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