WASHINGTON (CNN) - They agreed on wanting regime change in Iran, but leading Republican and Democratic senators disagreed Sunday on what role the United States should play in tying to make that happen.
Appearing on ABC's "This Week" program, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut both said they'd like to see the current Iranian government fall.
"Absolutely," Graham said, while Dodd said he would "love to see a different regime in Iran."
"Who wouldn't?" Dodd continued. "My lord, what's going on there for the last 30 years has been a disaster for the people in Iran."
However, Graham criticized President Barack Obama for failing to take a stronger public stance in favor of demonstrators protesting the announced result of the June 12 election that authorities said re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"The president of the United States is supposed to lead the free world, not follow it," Graham said.
He called Obama's statement Saturday for Iran to halt its violent crackdown on protesters the right step, but complained that the president has been "timid and passive more than I would like."
Dodd responded that Obama was taking the correct tone.
"The worst thing we could do at this moment for … these protesters, these courageous people in Tehran, is allow the government there to claim that this is a U.S.-led opposition, a U.S.-led demonstration," he said.
Graham said the United States had an obligation to support freedom movements everywhere.
"They've killed Americans in Iraq, innocent Iraqi people; now they're killing their own people," he said of Iran. "Stand up with the protesters. That's not meddling. That's doing the right thing."
Dodd endorsed a collective international response to Iran that would support both the aims of the demonstrators and the U.S. goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
"I think doing it alone … may not achieve the desired results," he said, adding that support from the international community was needed "if your true goal is to stop the Iranians from developing the nuclear weapons."
Graham, however, said a failure to properly support the demonstrators could "lose this moment in history." He called regime change, at this moment, "more important than negotiating about nuclear weapons."