Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina raised eyebrows on Sunday when he said on national television that the United States should coordinate with Iran to fight Muslim jihadists threatening to capture Baghdad.
He reiterated the idea during a visit to Greenville on Monday, but this time he wasn’t the only one talking about it.
In Washington, Democratic Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States wouldn’t rule out military cooperation with Iran in order to halt the advance of the Sunni extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.
The group’s rapid advance across northern Iraq in recent days has shocked the world and left the White House pondering its options. It has also triggered another round of debate about the wisdom of the U.S. invasion of Iraq more than a decade ago.
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Graham appeared with fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg at the American Legion War Museum along North Main Street to call for final adoption of legislation designed to correct abuses at Veterans Administration hospitals.
Graham and Gowdy said the legislation would allow veterans to seek treatment at non-VA health-care facilities under certain circumstances and allow the firing of underperforming VA administrators.
They promised to keep an eye on the measure as different versions passed by the House and Senate are reconciled in committee.
Talking to reporters about the crisis in Iraq, Graham reiterated his call for U.S. air strikes in coordination with Iranian troops on the ground – an idea he brought up Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Iran is “up to no good” and wants to make Iraq its puppet, Graham said.
“But for the moment we have a convergence of interests,” he said.
Graham, a colonel in the Air Force Reserves and member of the Armed Services Committee, called ISIL “homicidal maniacs” and said, “We need to act quickly. We need to act decisively.”
Kerry, asked about possible military cooperation with Iran during an interview with Yahoo! News, said he would “not rule out anything that would be constructive,” The Associated Press reported.
At the Pentagon, however, spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said any U.S. discussions with Iran about regional security wouldn’t include military coordination.
Gowdy said he hadn’t studied the issue and was undecided.
State Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, Graham’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 4 election, accused the senator of flip-flopping.
“A few months ago he wanted to go to war with Iran,” Hutto said.
“Now he wants to form an alliance with them. Lindsey needs to stop pretending to be the junior secretary of state and start focusing on the people back home.”