Lindsey Graham insisted on Sunday that the best path forward to dealing with Iran is to issue a reciprocal military attack when the Middle Eastern nation ‘acts out.’ ‘Don’t misunderestimate who we’re dealing with here,’ Graham said to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday morning regarding Iran.
‘This is not about oil. It is about nuclear weapons. Trump has done more to punish Iran than any president since Reagan, but this attack on Saudi Arabia is an act of war.’ ‘I hope the president will put on the table a military option that will restore deterrence, because sanctions are not enough,’ the Republican senator continued.
Earlier this month, Iran invaded Khurais world’s biggest petroleum refinery, Saudi Arabia, which knocked out half of the nation’s petroleum production and 5% of worldwide supply. The recent move is just one in a sequence of assaults in the Middle East with escalating tensions.
Iran denied any involvement in the blasts, but in response to Donald Trump’s claim that the U.S. is ‘locked and loaded’ and ready to respond to the attacks, the Iranian government said it is prepared for a’ full-fledged war’ if action is taken against them.
It was also disclosed that in July Tehran was liable for shooting down an unmanned U.S. drone that the president declined to react to in military terms. And Iran is also criticized a month ago in the Gulf of Oman for an assault on two petroleum tanker vessels– one from Japan and one from Norway.
Graham lauded the president for his restraint on a potential overreaction to the attack on a U.S. drone, but claimed Iran could have viewed the move as ‘a sign of weakness.’
‘When the president decided not to attack based on Iran shooting our drone down, I actually supported that,’ Graham said during his interview over the weekend. ‘I thought that was a level of restraint that I respected. The problem is, the Iranians took it differently.’
After the Saudi oil field attack, Graham said their continued violence was a sign that they felt they could get away with more with Trump as president. ‘The measured response by President @realDonaldTrump regarding the shooting down of an American drone was clearly seen by the Iranian regime as a sign of weakness,’ Graham tweeted earlier in September.
The president pushed back on the South Carolina lawmaker’s comment, claiming the move was actually a ‘sign of strength that some people just don’t understand!’ Graham is pressing Trump to take the same approach as former President Ronald Reagan when it comes to dealing with Iran – utilizing a military response.
‘If we give them a pass, everybody in the region believes that the Iranians will eventually break out and get a nuclear weapon and the Arabs are going to go buy one. And you’re going to have a nuclear-armed Mid-East, if you don’t stop Iran now,’ Graham said.
‘So what did Reagan do when the Iranians acted out?’ he queried. ‘They attacked ships, Reagan attacked them. He shot up a couple of oil platforms, and he sunk some Iranian naval vessels.’
In 1988, as retaliation for damage to a U.S. Navy vessel and Iran shooting down an American helicopter, the Reagan administration used six American ships to destroy two Iranian oil platforms – resulting in heavy Iranian casualties.
‘We’ve taken this action to make certain the Iranians have no illusions about the cost of irresponsible behavior,’ Reagan said at the time. ‘We aim to deter Iranian aggression, not provoke it. They must know that we will protect our ships, and if they threaten us, they’ll pay a price.’
Graham fears that the U.S. has lost its ability to deter Iran from engaging in violence like Reagan was able to do in the 1980s.
‘When it comes to Iran we have lost deterrence,’ he tweeted Friday. ‘To Pentagon planners: a weak response over this outrageous Iranian aggression only invites more aggression. It will also eventually lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Be Strong Now or pay a Bigger Price Later.’
‘I hope (but have my doubts) that Pentagon planners are giving President Trump a wide range of options that would punish Iran and restore deterrence,’ the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman continued in another tweet. ‘There are steps between being weak and total war.’
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who assumed his post in late July, announced that the Pentagon would be deploying forces on the heels of the oil field strikes. He said that Saudi Arabia requested the support.
Although Esper says he and the president want to avoid conflict with Iran, he admitted there could be more deployments should the situation escalate further. Graham said that the U.S. will be able to gain the power of deterrence again if it were able to ‘do to Iran now, what Reagan did to them in the ’80s when they acted up.’
‘You will restore deterrence, Mr. President,’ Graham asserted. ‘They will not get in an all-out war with the United States because that will be the end of their regime. So now’s the time to send a signal to Iran that’s unmistakeable and reset the world before it’s too late.’