Fresh off his campaign to blame the crisis in Ukraine on Benghazi, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Monday that Iran will develop nuclear weapons if Crimea becomes part of Russia.
The South Carolina Republican — one of the Senate’s top Iran hawks who has said Tehran is a member of what he called “the trifecta from hell” — was on Fox News last night lecturing the Europeans to stop buying Russian oil. “Sometimes you have to suffer for your freedom,” Graham said. He later warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the entirety of the situation in Ukraine — and Iran — is on her shoulders.
“And the Iranians are watching every move,” Graham said. “I would tell Chancellor Merkel, if you give Putin a pass, if you allow him to annex Crimea by force, threat and intimidation, you are basically encouraging the Iranians to break out with their nuclear program.” Watch the clip:
As the Russians are tightening their grip on Crimea, officials there are preparing for a referendum on whether the Ukrainian peninsula should become part of Russia, a move that both U.S. and Ukrainian officials have already called illegal and non-binding.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday that it’s a forgone conclusion. “I do not think that Crimea will slip out of Russia’s hand,” he said.
Meanwhile, negotiations with Iran to reach a final agreement over its nuclear program continued in Tehran on Sunday. E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton — there representing the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the U.K., the U.S., China, France, and Russia), plus Germany — said there’s “no guarantee” all sides will reach a deal. She made no mention of Ukraine.