Graham after 'unnerving' visit to Middle East: 'Iran is winning'

Graham after 'unnerving' visit to Middle East: 'Iran is winning'

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote Dem leaders request bipartisan meeting on Russia probe Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (R-S.C.) in a new op-ed says Iran is "winning" in the Middle East while the U.S. and its allies are "on their heels."

"I have been to the region many times, and this was the most unnerving visit I've taken in a long time," Graham writes in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. "With the help of Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad, Iran is winning. Sunni Arabs, Israel and the U.S. are on their heels."

Graham blames former President Obama for not taking enough action against Syrian President Bashar Assad and for pulling U.S. troops out Iraq. 

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The senator also says, however, he does not see a coherent strategy to "combat Iran's growing influence in Iraq and the domination of Syria by Russia and Iran."

"I hope the administration will develop a strategy that includes no-fly zones inside Syria, so refugees can safely return home, and that the U.S. continues to train forces who want to take on Mr. Assad. We must also make clear to Iran and Russia that they engage these forces at their peril," he writes. 

Graham's comments come as U.S.-Iranian relations have declined under the Trump administration.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCEO of American investment firm believed Michael Cohen could bring in GOP donors for deals: report NAACP slams NFL for gag rule on national anthem Pelosi: Republican meeting over informant will 'nix' possibility of bipartisan briefing MORE has railed against the Obama-era nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers, including the U.S., calling it the "worst deal ever negotiated" and praised protests against the government last January. 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyHaley: Trump’s unpredictability a factor in pushing North Korea sanctions Stone vows to run candidate against Pence if VP makes 2020 bid Anti-Maduro Venezuelans not unlike anti-Castro Cubans of yore MORE also accused Tehran last year of supplying arms to Yemeni rebels in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Graham in the Journal op-ed also cites the fraught relationship with between Israel and Iran, referencing Tehran's support of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. 

"The Israel Defense Forces informed us that Hezbollah — with Iran's help — is manufacturing precision-guided weapons there. Under the nose of Unifil, there are thousands of intermediate-range rockets and missiles pointed at Israel," Graham said, referring to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. "Soon Israel will have to attack these rocket sites, which Hezbollah has integrated into civilian infrastructure such as apartment buildings, schools and hospitals.

"Israeli leaders are concerned that this integration will lead to high civilian casualty rates if the Jewish state has to defend itself." 

Graham says he intends to hold hearings about the military buildup in southern Lebanon, Unifil's "failures" and more missile-defense funding for Israel.