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July 31, 2015

John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, John McCain Vary on Working With Iran in Iraq

McCain and Graham talk near the Senate floor in the Capitol after a closed briefing for members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the situation in Iraq, June 12.(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

McCain and Graham talk near the Senate floor in the Capitol after a closed briefing for members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the situation in Iraq, June 12.(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday publicly opened the door to working with Iran to get the situation under control in Iraq. On the Hill, opinions aren’t exactly unified, even among people who are often on the same page.

Speaking with Yahoo’s Katie Couric, Kerry said, “Let’s see what Iran might or might not be willing to do before we start making any pronouncements,” but added:

“I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together — the integrity of the country — and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart.”

Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who usually forms a tight-knit hawkish bloc in the Senate with John McCain, R-Ariz. and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., lined up with Kerry on Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. (He also advocated for Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down.)

The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure Baghdad doesn’t fall. We need to coordinate with the Iranians. And the Turks need to get in the game and get the Sunni Arabs back into the game, form a new government without Maliki.

McCain, though, is not on board with that idea, via a statement Monday. He called the idea “the height of folly.”

The reality is, U.S. and Iranian interests and goals do not align in Iraq, and greater Iranian intervention would only make the situation dramatically worse. It would inflame sectarian tensions, strengthen the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), drive more Sunnis into ISIS’s ranks, empower the most radical Shia militants, deepen the Iraqi government’s dependence on Iran, alienate U.S. allies and partners in the region, and set back the prospects of national reconciliation.

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