Sen. Graham: ‘We Need to Coordinate With the Iranians’ Over Iraq Crisis

By Patrick Goodenough | June 15, 2014 | 9:25 PM EDT

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, speaks in front of a portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini at Tehran University. (AP Photo)

( – Less than a year after Sen. Lindsey Graham was advocating for a use-of-force authorization against Iran, the South Carolina Republican on Sunday suggested the U.S. sit down and talk to the Iranians about stopping the advance of Sunni jihadists in Iraq.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Graham conceded that the notion of coordinating with Iran did not make him feel comfortable, but he argued that “we have common interests.”

“Why did we deal with Stalin? Because he was not as bad as Hitler,” he said. “The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure Baghdad doesn’t fall. We need to coordinate with the Iranians.”

Asked whether he was saying the U.S. should be working directly with Iran on dealing with the Iraq crisis, Graham replied, “We should have discussions with Iran to make sure that they don’t use this as an opportunity to seize – to seize control of parts of Iraq. They’re in this. They’re already on the ground.”

“How do you do that?” asked CNN’s Gloria Borger.

“Well, you just sit down and talk with them.”

CNN’s Dana Bash said she found it hard to believe she was hearing a Republican suggesting sitting down with the Iranians.

“Do you realize what’s happening here?” Graham asked. “If Baghdad falls and the central government collapses in Iraq, the Iranians are the biggest winner. We’re the biggest loser.”

He predicted that if ISIS captured Baghdad, Syria and Iraq would become the “new staging area for an attack on America.”

Graham suggested U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)-led Sunni fighters who have captured territory north of Baghdad, coupled with efforts to put a new Iraqi government in place. (Maliki’s Shi’ite-dominated government has been accused of stoking sectarianism through its actions against minority Sunnis.)

“You know your Middle East policy is in a complete shambles when you are considering partnering with Soleimani and [supreme leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies Iran specialist Mark Dubowitz tweeted on Sunday evening.

Ghasem Soleimani (Suleimani) is head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force, whose units have reportedly been deployed in Iraq in support of Maliki’s mostly Shi’ite forces fighting the ISIS-led Sunni militias.

Last September, Graham argued in favor of authorizing the president to use military force against Tehran over its suspect nuclear program.

“I’m going to get a bipartisan coalition together,” he told Fox News’ Mike Huckabee. “We’re going to put together a use-of-force resolution allowing our country to use military force as a last resort to stop the Iranian nuclear program.”

Huckabee asked, “You actually are going to seek sort of a pre-emptive approval to give the president a loaded weapon so that he feels the absolute freedom and support of a bipartisan Congress to take whatever action, including military, against Iran to prevent them from having nuclear weapons?”

“That’s exactly right,” said Graham.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow