June 19th, 2009
04:15 PM ET
9 years ago

Congress overwhelmingly approves Iran resolutions

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelmingly approved resolutions Friday that support "all Iranians who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law."

The Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent, while in the House the resolution was approved by 405 lawmakers, with one congressman - Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas - voting against it. Two other lawmakers, Reps. Brad Ellsworth, D-Indiana, and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, voted "present."

The Senate also approved a resolution sponsored by Sens. Ted Kaufman, D-Delaware, and Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, supporting freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Iran.

In a statement on his Web site, Paul said he voted against the House measure because he is "always very cautious about 'condemning' the actions of governments overseas."

"I have always hesitated when my colleagues rush to pronounce final judgment on events thousands of miles away about which we know very little," said Paul, who attracted attention last year during his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination. "And we know very little beyond limited press reports about what is happening in Iran."

The resolution, which also "condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators," was sponsored in the House by Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Howard Berman, a California Democrat, and Republicans Mike Pence and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.

Speaking shortly after the resolution passed, Pence called it a message from the American people to the Iranian people.

"As Americans have done throughout our history, this Congress today, on behalf of the American people, has spoken a word of heartfelt support to all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law," he said.

He urged U.S. senators to support the "identical" resolution that was introduced Friday by Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut.

"The time has come for the United States Congress to speak out unequivocally in support of the fundamental right of the Iranian people to determine their future for themselves in freedom," McCain and Lieberman said in a joint statement.

"With this resolution, the Senate joined with our colleagues in the House of Representatives to affirm our shared commitment to the universal values of democracy, human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law, and to condemn the unacceptable violence against the peaceful demonstrators taking place in Iran."

Both Pence and McCain have been outspoken in their criticism of President Barack Obama's response to this week's massive rallies in Iran against the results of last week's presidential election.

The U.S. government is in a precarious position regarding how to respond to the situation.

Supporters of Iranian opposition leaders - including Mir Hossein Moussavi, who finished second to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the vote - have taken to the streets this week calling for a new election after the results of last Friday's vote showed an overwhelming victory for incumbent hardline president.

The rallies have also denounced the Iranian government's crackdown on the protests, which killed at least eight people.

Obama has said he is "deeply troubled" by the violent protests but he has avoided siding with Ahmadinejad's opponents, telling reporters that "It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be."

"It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections," Obama said this week.

On Thursday, Cantor joined the critics of the White House's response to Iran's disputed election, saying the United States has a "moral responsibility" to condemn attacks on protesters.

"The administration's position that what's going on in Iran is a 'vigorous debate' is absurd," he said. "People are being brutalized and murdered by the regime in Tehran. We have no idea exactly how many have died or have been seriously injured, since the regime has restricted journalists. In no way do these actions constitute a 'vigorous debate.'"

The congressman from Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, added that "America has a moral responsibility to stand up for these brave people, to defend human rights, and to condemn the violence and abuses by the regime in Tehran."

Pence has called on the United States "to take a half-step back from this administration's olive branch and the apology approach to enemies and countries that have been hostile to the United States of America and our allies, particularly with the road to Iran."

But Sen. John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Washington would be making an "enormous mistake" by taking sides in the Iranian protests.

"There is no need for the United States of America to step into the middle of it and make this about America," Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, told CNN's "The Situation Room."

"It is an Iranian moment, spurred on by Iranians, thoroughly supported by Iranians to the degree that the supreme ayatollah has now backed off his own support for the elections (and) called for an investigation," he said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs defended the administration's approach this week, telling reporters that Obama "believes that he's struck the right tone."

"I know some people agree with what Sen. McCain said. Some people agree with what other Republicans have said that's very much like the president's position," Gibbs said Thursday. "The president strongly believes that we should - and have - spoken out to ensure the demonstrators have the universal right and principle to demonstrate without fear of harm. But at the same time, we have to respect their sovereignty."

Moorhead Kennedy, a former diplomat who was among the hostages held in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran for 444 days from November 1979 until January 1981, said he supports the Obama administration's position.

"I think if I had any conclusion to draw, we would have been much better off not interfering in Iran now," he told CNN's "American Morning."

Because the United States backed a 1953 coup that put Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in charge, and supported him until the 1979 revolution that created today's Islamic republic, Kennedy said, "There are a great many resentments there."

- CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Deirdre Walsh, Peter Hamby and Dan Lothian contributed to this report.

Filed under: Iran
soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. RR

    Lets's vote for a resolution, That will show'em! This is a waste of time!. Let the Iranians take care of their own issues. Congress needs to take care of the Country's Business!!.......Are these the same Republicans that wanted to bomb Iran and not talk to them? These Republicans would sell their own mothers for a vote!

    June 19, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. Dave

    Supreme Leader Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are eager to claim that the demonstrators are actually US-backed agitators. This action by the House plays right into Khamenei's hands. If the reformers are framed as US-backed, then they'll lose popular support and be quietly crushed. Iranians are extremely sensitive to any perception of foreign meddling, especially by the US. Every Iranian knows that the US overthrew their democratic government in 1953 and installed the Shah (even though most Americans don't know that). Every expert on Iran, as well as Iranian Americans and Iranians, agree that President Obama is taking the correct approach. It appears that members of the House don't know how to handle this, or perhaps they don't care. They're more interested in scoring cheap political points. Obama doesn't need to say who's side we're on, everyone and their dog knows who's side we're on. Obama doesn't want to give Khamenei ammo by providing him with a video clip of Obama siding with the Iranian demonstrators.

    June 19, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  3. Pete East

    Did any of the Democrat posters here, who were so quick to bash the two Republican co-sponsors of the resolution, note that it was also co-sponsored by Democrat Howard Berman? Did you note Rep. Berman's chairmanship? Anyone?

    That said this resolution is merely a statement of support. Whether the Iranian theocracy in power is willing or able to spin it remains to be seen. It remains up to the Iranian people to determine what happens next. I beleive that our leaders on both sides of Congress are aware of this fact.

    June 19, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  4. Anonymous


    Are you kidding? You finaly have a president
    who is working night and day, not only for you
    but to make things better around the world.
    Are you blind. This man is a gift of heaven and
    he will stay for two terms and America will be
    respectred again in the whole world instead of
    bringing fear all over the place.

    June 19, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  5. maggano diaw

    wow. talk about an incredible waste of time.

    June 19, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  6. Tatianna

    To Carole, I thought the dems and Obama are the party of peace and humanity? Why sit idly by and not speak out against violence upon innocent Iranian civilian protesters? Those who remain quiet have blood on their hands. Obama sure didnt mind traveling the world and scolding Americans. Remember his speech in Berlin, calling himself a citizen of the world. We have a president who fears to stand up to tin-pot tyrannts. If politics isnt the explantory factor, then Obama and dems doesnt understand the govt of Iran is a tyranny that oppresses the Iranian people. Obama and dems intends to confer legitimacy on the illegitimate child, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Make no mistake, the mullahs love the weakness and stupidity that Obama transmits at ear-shattering levels

    June 19, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. Gay

    President Obama is right not to become involved in Iran's political turmoil. We need to focus on the real threat that is North Korea and let Iran solve it's own political problems. The Iranians have not asked us to become involved and we should respect that.

    June 19, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. Who Holds The Keys

    Words spoken by the president of the United States carries the weight of the entire nation behind them. One word by the president can upset international relations for a long time thoughout the world.

    Remember how Pres George W. Bush's three words "axis of evil' disbanned and destroyed every semblence of compassion we had from the Arab world in 2002. Iran was one of the few countries that showed empathy towards us after 9/11. Those three words blew all that asunder. We became the "Great Satan" of the West.

    Pres Barack Obama is slowly calming relations in the Middle East. I believe his Cairo speech contained "words" that has tamped-down some of the Arab worid venum towards us. His "words" may have led those gallant Iranians to step forward in droves to fight for their freedom against their oppressive government.

    June 19, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. Gary Jaussaud

    Gary's comment is:

    I think everyone wants the people of Iran that value Freedom, human
    rights, & Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, to be able to have just that.

    This election may not be by the people and for the peope, but it is in
    fact their election, and the people of Iran will need to work it out them
    selves. They do not need the U.S. getting in the middle of their business and running the country, if we did that, we would not win.

    We must however remain informed and support Freedom when and
    where we can.

    June 19, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |

    Gift from heaven, good Lord, talk about hero worship.

    June 19, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |

    It's about time someone in washington had some nads to stand up instead of bowing.

    June 19, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. Bridgette

    Yea he had 200+ Present votes, but, what' always left off of that is the fact that he had over 5000 votes that were not marked as present. Always leave off that little bit of info. Let Iran work out and Iran and we can be in the back ground. You have no idea if the President is working on this or not. Sometimes the quietest whisper gets the biggest result.

    June 19, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. Rose

    I have waited my entire life–I am 56 years old–for a president like Obama. I am so saddened by the opposition he is receiving trying to further his agenda. He is right not to meddle in the internal affairs of Iran and I cannot understand why others do not see this.

    June 19, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  14. john ...... marlton, nj

    Was the resolution in the best interest of the United States or Israel? Will Howard Berman, Mike Pence and Eric Cantor publicly pledge their allegiance to the United States and renounce any allegiance to foreign powers...YES or NO ?

    June 19, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. MH

    What a foolish act for this moment! This is exactly what the Iranian Regine wants to see, so they can defer the tension towards them to the US and crash the demonstration with perfect excuses! The Republican has destroyed many things for your own country and the world. They continue to do so and never learn. What a self-righteous stupid party!
    MH from Canada

    June 19, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  16. dk

    This is beyond ridiculous! Why can't congress just get it through their heads that the best thing we, as a country, can do right now for the Iranian people who are fighting for their freedom IS JUST KEEP OUT OF IT! I know it's a difficult concept for some to grasp, but they don't want us to interfere. This can do much harm and will not do any good.

    And for those who are constantly yammering about how our president isn't doing the right thing . . . . get some knowledge about Iranian history, politics, religion and culture before you open your mouths and just let the words fall out, will you please!

    June 19, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  17. David

    It's good to be tough, it's better to be smart. President Obama has the right long-term strategy. This resolution simply throws fuel on the Iranian hard-liner's fire. Why give them something they can use to increase their own domestic support?

    June 19, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  18. Mario, mtl, ca.

    By the congress actions they risk the life of innocent already in danger with those nuts,, You the US congress are the most stupid gang of nuts the world have ever seen

    June 19, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. justice counts

    Congress sux

    June 19, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  20. AK, CA

    Many people are still sleeping in this world. All people are equal and certainly Americans are not more equal. Iranians can govern themselves.
    We made the same mistake when we got involved in Iran in 1953, then we went to Afghanistan to support Osama Bin Laden to bring ‘democracy’, and then to Iraq to help Saddam spread democracy there too. Then we sold the Kurds and watched Saddam Hussein slaughtered innocent women and children. Few years later we invaded Iraq and today we are paying the price. Let go to Iran, North Korean, etc.

    June 19, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  21. Right Leaning Independent

    Mind your own business and stay out of it! Let them handle their own probllems...

    June 19, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  22. POTUS BHO Alone: Has Power To Pardon Until Jan 20, 2017

    One word from Pres Obama has more power than the collective words of the entire 435 + 100 members of Congress put together.

    Obama said "we have no eyes on the ground in Iran." He told CNN's Ed Henry during one of the night time news conferences that he needed all of the facts before he can speak.

    We elected Obama POTUS – let's wait for him to get the facts first. He has garnered a lot of goodwill from his two trips overseas as president. He does not want to make the mistakes of the past.

    June 19, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  23. JP

    If this is meddling, what was the idea of the great speech in Cairo? Wasn’t it meddling with the Middle East?

    June 19, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  24. Mike

    Really? I mean really? of all the problems in this country we have to pass a "resolution that supports all Iranians who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law" Really? This is the government wasting time and tax payer money at its finest.

    June 19, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  25. RAG

    Hey Rob. He should and it is.

    June 19, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
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