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Lindsey Graham: Iranian Regime Run by ‘Religious Nazis’

Sen. Lindsey Graham says Iranian regime is run by "religious Nazis."

By , a staff writer at Foreign Policy from 2014-2017.
GettyImages-487293780
GettyImages-487293780

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is running for president as a foreign-policy expert. So far, he has failed to make inroads with the GOP; according to a Real Clear Politics poll, he’s drawing zero percent of Republican voters. That’s been giving him the freedom to speak his mind, and he let loose Tuesday in a blistering tirade against President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal that compared Iran to Nazis intent on destroying the Jewish state.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is running for president as a foreign-policy expert. So far, he has failed to make inroads with the GOP; according to a Real Clear Politics poll, he’s drawing zero percent of Republican voters. That’s been giving him the freedom to speak his mind, and he let loose Tuesday in a blistering tirade against President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal that compared Iran to Nazis intent on destroying the Jewish state.

During a question-and-answer session, the three-term senator and foreign affairs hawk warned in stark terms about what the deal — secured Tuesday when Obama won enough backers to filibuster efforts to derail it — could mean for Israel, America’s main ally in the Middle East.

“The religious Nazis running Iran faced no consequences for their actions,” Graham said, referring to 2009 pro-democracy protests, known collectively as the Green Movement, that were crushed by the Iranian regime. “Without the support of the world’s greatest democracy, their effort was doomed. The ayatollah and his henchmen in the Revolutionary Guard killed, jailed, or terrified into silence every Iranian moderate.”

“If I were the Iranian ayatollah, I may not worry much about Obama, but I’d worry about Israel,” Graham said later, in a veiled reference to Israel’s suspected nuclear stockpile. Still, he warned those weapons might not be enough to deter Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who Graham said was “driven by his faith to do several things. To purify the faith, the religion of Islam. To destroy Israel.”

Graham then made reference to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s assurance before World War II that Germany would not attack its neighbors.

“At least Hitler lied,” Graham said while discussing Israel’s stance on the deal. “At least he told him, ‘This is all I want.’ You can’t say that about this deal. The ink is not even dry yet, and they still chant ‘death to America, death to Israel.'”

The 2016 hopeful, who is one of the most forceful supporters of Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Jerusalem would have to take military action if Iran seemed poised to take the final steps toward a bomb. “If there’s any indication at all that Iran is going to break out, Israel has to attack,” Graham said. “The idea of containing the ayatollah after he gets a nuke is a non-starter for people who lived through the first Holocaust.”

Graham isn’t the only second-tier Republican candidate to use Holocaust-related rhetoric to describe the deal. In July, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee — who is polling at 4 percent — said Obama’s Iran deal will “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven,” a reference to the furnaces Nazis used to kill Jews during World War II. The comment drew criticism from Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, and several other GOP candidates, but Huckabee has stood by it.

During Tuesday’s event at the National Press Club, Graham issued a broader critique of Obama’s foreign policy, accusing the president of having a myopic focus on getting the nuclear accord done, which allowed other crises around the world to fester. More specifically, Graham said Obama had been willing to look the other way as Russia and China — both members of the P5+1 alliance that negotiated the accord with Iran — meddled in Ukraine and committed widespread cyber-espionage against the United States, respectively. He then blamed Iran for sowing unrest across the Middle East in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.  

“Iran set the entire Middle East on fire, taking over four Arab capitals,” Graham said. “Obama has been unwilling to counter these provocations in a forceful manner for fear of jeopardizing his Iranian agreement.”

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

David Francis was a staff writer at Foreign Policy from 2014-2017.

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