June 21st, 2009
11:03 AM ET
13 years ago

Senators call for regime change in Iran, but differ on how

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."

Filed under: Chris Dodd • Iran • Lindsey Graham
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Tola Adenle

    I'm appalled by the double standard in America's political stance. I am a naturalized American and I'm baffled by the Republicans' cry that Obama should come out more vocally about the repression of the people's will in Iran. In 2007, Nigeria's elections were massively rigged and even as Nigerians took to the streets, Bush was already congratulating Yar Adua, the rigged in president who acknowledged his "election" was highly flawed. A couple of months ago, a rerun was ordered in a tiny Nigerian State where the ruling party candidate's governorship seat was dismissed, especially in a fraction of the state.
    The whole world watched the travesty that passed for election with deaths, maiming, etcetera from the hands of government forces when the masses took to the streets to protest. Not a whimper was heard from these Republicans to protest Obama's silence in the faceof blatant violence against a people who merely asked that their votes count. Various human rights organizations specifically called on the United States to whom most in that country always hope they can get support.
    President Obama's planned visit to Ghana while shunning Nigeria is good but not the same as specifically condemning the evil of a government that sees killing its citizens just to perpetrate itself in power.
    The Republicans need to pursue speaking out on the good of democratic practices in ALL parts of the world whenever the need arises. I see their cries as mere hypocritical and the lurching the GOP continues to experience since their abysmal 2008 electoral performances.


    June 21, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  2. Louise in NC

    The Republicans must want another war on our hands. STAY OUT OF THIS FIGHT. We have brave men and women fighting two wars that border Iran. Have you thought that the PRESIDENT is speaking in measured tones to protect our troops. The opposition leader's wife in Iran has already stated that she wanted her husband to win so that Iran could be friends with all the countries of the world, that is except for Israel.

    June 21, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  3. S Callahan

    It IS wise for the U.S. reps not to speak out with the situation in Iran, but that does not mean we should be idel...we have power in the country...it's called the power of prayer...we should prayer for those who are standing up to their God given rights of freedom and expression. Our spirits are united for those who stand up against tyranny and God hears our cries for you.

    June 21, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. haren

    Senator Luger is the only sensible senator from republican side.
    if we wanted to keep oil price down than, stay away from meddling in middle east.
    Republican are looking for higher oil price for their oil friends.

    June 21, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. here we go

    Tell me Graham where is it written that the Pres. is suppose to lead the world, not follow. I think this has been the problem for yrs, that it is "our" responsibilty to "lead". I say, say what needs to be said and leave the high handed rectoric to others. If he does what the Republicans want, we will be in more crap..We can't and shouldn't be bombing with words etc to make our point..., see how the "cowboy policies" worked.

    June 21, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  6. gtr6

    LOL. yeah, because a regime change worked out so well the last time we did it. Pathetic.

    June 21, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  7. virginia nielsen

    OUR President is taking the right action ! we aren't suppose to put AGAIN our big red,blue and white nose in any problem that is going one in another nations, only if affect us directly ! Great approach from our leadership !!!

    June 21, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  8. Joan

    After listening this week to John McCain several other Republicans and now Bob Bennett this morning, I am so relieved that McCain did not get into power in November. They all have the same tough rhetoric, wanted dead or alive attitude and "axis of evil" mentality. As well as Iraq and Afghanistan, you would be at war with Iran by now too. Iran would be playing McCain's ""bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" 24/7 as a rally call. What is happening in Iran is absolutely horrible but it is going to be that way no matter what Pres. Obama says. I don't think the Republicans have really listened to his official statements about this matter. He has condemned the violence, called for respect for democracy and free speech and repeatedly told Iran that the whole world is watching how they treat their citizens. However, if he had come out too strong before the election was investigated and before the Supreme leader spoke, he would have made things even worse. He is pragnatic and looks at the big picture. He has two wars going on next door to them and they have the potential for nuclear weapons. They are loose canons and need to be handled differently than most regimes. John McCain seems to often speak before thinking and that is disastrous for a leader. He is again using an important issue to try and score political points.

    June 21, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. Jero

    It's really non of our business. We don't like the government interfering in our lives. Then how would people feel OUTSIDE the US if OUR government is interfering with their lives.

    June 21, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. Ciera

    Sometimes I wonder "Why in the world do we elect the people we do into positions of leadership?" I am not a politician but I'm fairly certain I understand clearly why it is prudent to exercise caution related to the current situation in Iran.

    But then again, an empty can always makes the most noise. A fool can pass as a wise man if he knows when to keep his mouth shut.

    June 21, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  11. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    Does the right wing make any sense at all any more? Obama went and addressed the Middle Eastern/Muslim community in Egypt and the right wing criticized him for speaking with them. Then the elections in Iran happened and they claimed that Ahmadinejad's 're-election' was a rejection of Obama's entreaties. Now that Iran is in rebellion they claim he isn't doing enough to support them. Do you think if Obama had given an 'axis of evil' type of speech in Egypt that anyone would be disputing the election results in Iran? And where were all these Republicans during Nigeria's farcical elections? Or during the Tienanmen Square massacre? Oh that's right they were extending most favored nation trade status to the Communists in China.

    June 21, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  12. Gabe

    No more WARS please! This country is already broke as is! Let's not get dragged into another costly war.

    June 21, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. Emma

    Senator Graham made a grade school type comment and is delusional about the role of America as the Empire of power to the world. It has become evident that power has its limits. A well-written analysis of this is
    Andrew Bacevich's book, THE LIMITS OF POWER. A look at the GOP also is evidence of the limits of power.

    June 21, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  14. DL

    I'm surprised one of these idiots haven't given the "We will be greeted as Liberators" line yet :o)

    June 21, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. joy

    Wow!!! The hypocracy of the Republican party is unbeliveable. Can u believe McCain, this is the guy who was saying last year bomb, bomb Iran and now he care about the Iranians on the street. Unbeliveable. Wonders shall never end. U know what I am very happy that President Obama is my President. Just imagine if McCain was our President today, we will be in a third war already.thank God President Obama won!!!!!.

    June 21, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. GI Joe

    Gag me – he and McWarmonger don't have half a brain between them.

    Thank God in Heaven McSongbird LOST. Otherwise we would be in 4 wars now instead of just 2.

    June 21, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  17. Keeth in California

    Sen. Lindsey Graham is a dangerous fool. The hardliners and the clerics in Iran want us to inject ourselves into their internal affairs so that they can use us as a scapegoat to further consolidate their power. Graham doesn't see that we'd be playing right into their propaganda. If he were commander in chief, he'd be walking us right into their trap.

    The leader of the free world needs to have the wisdom to know when and where to march into other countries, and when to stay out, perhaps at least for a time. The leader of the free world should consider each and every situation carefully, and not simply march arrogantly into any country as he wishes. George W. Bush did that and now look at the mess we're in.

    Oh, and Mr. Graham... Iranians wouldn't be killing Americans in Iraq if we hadn't followed your dangerous and arrogant Bush-style of foreign policy.

    June 21, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  18. Pragmatic

    What a long string of intelligent, thoughtful comments!

    Then someone adds "Don't blame them (republicans) for anything now. " When a republican gets on national TV, shares his or her opinion – most sensible Americans can disagree without being disagreeable.

    There isn't any "blame" – people are just saying – hey, GOP – we disagree with you and your ideas!

    June 21, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  19. Limbaugh is a liberal

    We are the only democracy in the world where the guy getting only the second most number of popular votes for president still gets to win. (Bush, 2000) We are in no position to lecture others about the legitimacy of their government!

    June 21, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  20. Peter E

    Have these people considered the alternative? This isn't about a hard-liner candidate versus a liberal one! It's about an ultra-harliner versus an extreme hardliner! There is no difference! They both hate America and want nuclear weapons! They only differ on their internal economic stances. It will make absolutely no difference for us who gets to be president there! So stop pretending this has anything to do with real democracy! Both candidates were still just selected by the Supreme Leader of Iran, denying candidacy to actual reformers. Neither of them is all that much more legitimate!

    June 21, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  21. John

    We (The US & UK) tried and succeeded with regime change in IRAN in the 1950s, and that directly led to the Islamic republic IRAN has today.

    We need to butt out of IRAN's internal elections, and work on getting our current "Regime Changes" completed in IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN.

    Our plate is full ladies and gentlemen.

    June 21, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  22. jersey

    Senators should be focussing on people in the United States and quit trying to be something they are not. Most are self serving corrupt individuals. They should be more concerned about the revolt that is coming here..............

    June 21, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  23. D. Tree

    Oh, poor whiny Lindsey Graham wants a more manly, cowboy-like president, poor boy!

    Well guess what, this is not an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie little man – this is serious world affairs and no place for cowboys or actors!

    June 21, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  24. Brian

    Don't read too much into the Republican comments. Take it for what it is, partisan attacks on an area Obama is seen to be weakest in, foreign affairs and national security.

    No way a republican president would be acting very differently if the situation were reversed. They know Obama isn't going to do anything stupid, but they can sure grouse up a few partisan choice words to help swing those poll numbers a bit.

    June 21, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
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