Graham says military operations may be necessary, Gates says political-economic approach is working

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the United States should use military force to provoke regime change in Iran if economic sanctions do not halt the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Speaking to attendees of the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday, Graham said that although the "last thing America needs is another military conflict," having a nuclear armed Iran is completely unacceptable.

Iran claims their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but many inside the United States believe the regime is planning to manufacture nuclear weapons.

"So my view of military force would be not to just neutralize their nuclear program, which are probably dispersed and hardened, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard," Graham said. "In other words, neuter that regime."

Graham added that the United States should destroy their ability to conduct military operations and "hope the people inside Iran would have a chance to take their government and be good neighbors to the world in the future."

When asked about Graham's comments, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said he thought they were a "joke" and that they should be ignored.

"Don't take the American senator's remark too seriously," he told reporters.

This is not the first time Graham has advocated the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in September, Graham called for military action to support "regime change" in Iran.

"From my point of view, if we engage in military operations as a last resort, the United States should have in mind the goal of changing the regime," Graham said. "Not by invading, but by launching a military strike by air and sea."

On Monday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the current sanctions imposed on Iran are having an impact.

"I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the actions that it needs to, to end its nuclear weapons program. We are prepared to do what is necessary, but, at this point, we continue to believe that the political-economic approach that we are taking is, in fact, having an impact on Iran," he said.

Although Gates believes the sanctions are working, he refused to rule out military action against Iran, saying that "all options are on the table."

The National Iranian American Council condemned Senator Graham's comments, referring to them as "saber rattling."

"Graham's confrontational war rhetoric sets back America's opportunities to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully and prevent a third costly and destabilizing US war in the Middle East," said Policy Director Jamal Abdi. "His approach endangers human rights defenders in Iran, undermines Iranian democracy activists, and places American troops in the region at greater risk."

Iran has agreed to talks with the United States and other world powers concerning their nuclear program, the Los Angeles Times reports.