Graham reverses course on interim Iran deal

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump’s danger on North Korea? Raised expectations Graham: If you don't like me working with Trump, 'I don't give a s--t' Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms MORE (R-S.C.) wants to keep in place an interim nuclear deal with Iran that he harshly criticized when it was unveiled in 2013.

Graham, who is considering a run for president, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that current nuclear talks with Iran should be suspended, with the temporary deal remaining in effect until President Obama leaves the White House in 2017. 

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“That is one way of looking at this program, keeping the interim deal in place that's been fairly successful and have a new crack at it with a new president that doesn't have the baggage of Obama,” Graham said

The interim deal, known as the Joint Plan of Action, provides Iran with limited sanctions relief in exchange for freezing uranium enrichment. The November 2013 pact paved the way for the broader framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program reached earlier this month. 

“Here is what I think we should do. Continue the sanctions under the interim agreement,” Graham told CBS. “That's worked pretty well for the world. It has controlled Iran's nuclear ambitions. They get some money, but do not do a final deal until you have the best opportunity to get the best result.”

In 2013, Graham slammed the interim pact as a giveaway to Iran. 

"The sanctions actually worked, but this interim deal gives the Iranians $7 billion in cash and leaves in place one of the most sophisticated enrichment programs around,” he said in an interview with CNN. 

In a separate CNN interview that month, the senator said backing off sanctions would send “exactly the wrong signal” and pledged Congress would pass a bill to impose new penalties on Iran. 

“You can't trust the Iranians,” he said. “They're lying about their nuclear program.” 

Graham’s office said that the senator changed his view because the framework agreement falls short of the goal set by Obama at the outset of talks: ending Iran’s nuclear program.  

“Sen. Graham wasn’t wild about the interim deal when it was announced but it’s looking better in light of what President Obama is now discussing,” spokesman Kevin Bishop said in an email.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Monday pointed out that Graham and other GOP lawmakers have switched their positions on the interim agreement, arguing that they should withhold judgment on the final deal until its June 30 deadline.

“Maybe they should just wait until June, because this way they can sort of save themselves from having to criticize an agreement that they later support,” Earnest said.