Sen. Graham: U.S. Embassy Closures Show 'We've Learned From Benghazi'

Susan Jones | August 5, 2013 | 6:00am EDT
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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) (AP File Photo)

( - Shutting down 19 U.S. diplomatic posts, most of them in Muslim countries, "makes sense," Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" on Sunday.

He said the administration is right to take the terrorism threats seriously, and he indicated that the administration's "complete failure" in Benghazi prompted the extra precautions this time:

"Benghazi was a complete failure. The threats were real there, the reporting was real, and we basically dropped the ball. We've learned from Benghazi, thank God, and the administration is doing this right."

Graham noted that the terrorists' goal is to drive the West out of the Middle East and replace existing governments with an "al-Qaida-type religious entitity."

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In an effort to prevent that, Graham announced that he and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) are going to Egypt "very soon."

"I know it's dangerous, but we need to be there, with our diplomats, giving a unified message to Egypt: do not let these people drive us out of the Mideast, do not let them make us abandon our friends like Yemen, Israel, the king of Jordan. We can't let them get away with this. We have to stand up to them."

Graham said the successful terror attack in Benghazi has emboldened America's enemies: "And finally, after Benghazi, they're on steroids. They attacked our consulate, they killed an ambassador, a year has passed and nobody has paid a price. After Benghazi, these al-Qaida types are really on steroids thinking we're weaker and they're stronger."

Graham said he and McCain received a phone call from President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, asking them to send a message to both the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood:

"The Egyptian military must move more aggressively toward turning over control to the civilian population, civilian organizations. The military can't keep running the country. We need democratic elections.

The Brotherhood needs to get off the streets and back into the political arena and fight your differences there and we need to put Egypt back to work.

If this continues, it's going to be a failed state. That's why we're going."

Graham admitted that the Muslim Brotherhood-led government, recently ousted by the military, "did screw up big time."

"They went down the Islamic cultural road rather than creating jobs. And the military had to intervene. The one thing that's not sustainable is a military takeover of Egypt. They've promised new elections, they need to deliver. The Muslim Brotherhood needs to get off the streets so the economy can start anew, and reorganize and have a political contest, not a contest of violence.

Graham said a relationship between the U.S. and Egypt is "very important," since Egypt is "the center of the Arab world."

"I want to keep the aid flowing to Egypt, but it has to be with the understanding that Egypt is going to march toward democracy, not toward a military dictatorship. And that's the message we're going to send.

"To the Muslim Brotherhood, the only way you're going to be part of Egypt is to allow Egypt to get back to work. Start playing politics. That's the message.

Graham called this "a key moment in the history of Egypt."

On Monday, a top U.S. diplomat went to an Egyptian prison to meet with a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met in prison with Khairat el-Shater, who is charged with complicity in the killing of anti-Morsi protesters.

Burns and the three other diplomats are in Egypt as part of international efforts to end a standoff between Mohammed Morsi's supporters and the government installed by the military after it toppled the Islamist president in a July 3 coup.

More than a month after Morsi's ouster, thousands of the Islamist leader's supporters remain camped out in Cairo demanding his reinstatement. Egypt's military-backed interim leadership has issued a string of warnings for them to disperse or security forces will move in, setting the stage for a potential showdown.

Already, some 250 people have been killed in violence since Morsi's ouster, including at least 130 in two major clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters on July 8 and on July 26-27.

Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, has been held at an undisclosed location since his ouster.

(The Associated Press provided some of the information used in this report.)

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