June 21st, 2009
12:05 PM ET
13 years ago

Senators weigh in on Iran

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A bipartisan group of four senators expressed support Sunday for the Iranians protesting in the country’s streets for the last week but differed over how the United States should react to the evolving situation.

California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Iran’s leadership “threw the gauntlet to the people, essentially.”

“When there was a way out for the Supreme Leader,” by voiding the recent election and calling for a new one, Feinstein said, “instead, what you have is a total put-down by the leadership of what began as a legitimate protest which has now turned into much more than that because of the brutality that the regime has shown to its people.”

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley joined a chorus of fellow Republicans who have criticized how President Obama is responding to the political unrest in Iran.

“I believe we could be more forceful than we have,” Grassley said. “If America stands for democracy and all of these demonstrations are going on in Tehran and other cities over there and the people don’t think that we really care, then obviously they’re going to question: do we really believe in our principles?”

Pennsylvania Democrat Sen. Bob Casey, a longtime Obama supporter, disagreed.

“I think [President Obama’s] gotten it just right,” Casey told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “At this moment in the history of Iran, we should not politicize this issue here in the United States. The key thing here is striking the right balance – telling those who are protesting that we share their values but also making sure that we keep our eye on the ball here.”

After saying that Iran’s nuclear program is the biggest threat to American security and security in the Middle East, Casey said he thought the best approach to Iran was “to leave every option on the table,” including tough diplomacy and the possibility of sanctions against the Iranian regime.”

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said notwithstanding the political unrest, the United States should sit down for diplomatic talks with Iran’s leaders if they were interested in high-level talks.

Filed under: Iran • State of the Union
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. w.l. jones

    I believe some of these Senators were around in this country in the 1950 through 1980 and not one came foward for any fraud election as well as beating and abusing civil right proteser, I say SHUUDUP.

    June 21, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. Jaik Willis

    Interesting that these Senators would support a rerun of elections in Iran and are responding to protesters, because when the US elections were more than questionable in 2000 & 2004, these Senators & CNN were silent and ignored protesters. The ultra right wing corporate owned media failed us. The largest protest in human history occured in Feb 2003 in the lead up to attacking Iraq for fictional WMD, these Senators and CNN as well ignored that, but when protests occur in Iran, its front page every day. Hypocrites.

    June 21, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  3. GI Joe

    No wonder our problems don't get fixed.

    THEY are too busy trying to dictate what we should do in other countries – that HAVE ASKED US TO STAY OUT OF THEIR BUSINESS.

    No time for legislation, no time to read bills before a vote - but plenty of time for foreign resolutions and bipartisan bickering in front of all the TV cameras.

    June 21, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. yoyolite

    Iran is not our affair.We have enough problems without adding another war to our growing list.

    June 21, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  5. tochi

    We should support people of Iran who are yearning for freedom and want to free themselves from the clutches of a murderous oppressive regime. This is not a political football to be kicked between Democrats and Republicans.

    June 21, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Yes, and since 2000 we are in such a great position to tell other countries about the legitimacy of their governments. We are the ONLY western power where the guy getting the second most number of popular votes still gets to be president! We regularly disenfranchise millions of voters. Our electronic voting system in 2004 registered thousands of votes before polls even opened! We have primaries where the party elite get to decide who is allowed to run for president! Heck, we only have two parties that are even allowed any power in Washington! We need to clean up our own system before we lecture others about democracy!

    June 21, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  7. Peter E

    The world watches American elections. That includes Iran. They've seen our elections. They know how we practice 'democracy.' They know how 'legitimate' our presidents are. So we can heighten our rhetoric and be more 'forceful' all we want, not even the Iranian opposition will listen to us! If they were to follow us they'd have had electronic voting machines, and therefore NO recount of ANY ballots whatsoever!

    June 21, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  8. Peter E

    Fun fact: despite economic sanctions, and a ban on American businesses doing any business with Iran, Halliburton continued its business in that country for the past decade! Our government has not prosecuted Halliburton throughout that time!

    June 21, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  9. Eugene

    Dear Republicans: Please read a history book. The poor Iranians know our history in overthrowing their leaders in the recent past (1953 Mossadeq) and installing our puppet, the Shah. These Republicans have not an ounce of credibility in much of the world because of our past and current imperialism. What makes you Republicans think that raising more imperialistic threats will help either our image or the outcome in Iran. Obama knows our sad history in Iran and is trying hard not to repeat what past American presidents have done.

    June 21, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  10. renea

    All i have to say let IRAN handle IRAN! Would we really want them to meddle in our election. The republicans are trying to gain some points on this one get it! trying to gain points they say thet want the president to meddle but as soon as he do and he gets a backlash then they will say its his fault see AMERICA he is making the country less safe.

    June 21, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  11. Carl Justus

    Chuck Grassley is becoming more and more like Rush Limbaugh. He must be having a lot gas in his stomach or is afraid of losing his youth and needs to criticize everything the democrats do to show how virle or macho he is.

    June 21, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  12. Neutralizer

    The western world are all eyes on Iran, wishing the people of Iran to succeed, while countries in the Middle East with exception of Israel are praying the people of Iran will fail. IF the Iranian people succeed, their would be a wave of change in the Middle East especially in their leadership. Majority of countries in the Middle East are run by Monarchy; if Iran has ayatollahs, countries such as Morocco, Saudia, Kuwait, UAE has royalties.

    June 21, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  13. D. Tree

    Thank God these armchair warriors in the Republican party don't have their finger on the button anymore!

    The way Obama has handled this has been good for the situation – it might not have even happened if not for his speech in Cairo.

    And now Obama is speaking directly to Pakistan – watch them get even more inspired to kick out the Taliban!

    Thank you Mr. President, finally a leader who doesn't need to prove his manhood by acting tough!

    June 21, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. jersey

    Get real ! people in the United States could care less about people in Iran. They made their bed now lay in it!!!!!!

    June 21, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  15. Neutralizer

    Jim June 21st, 2009 12:50 pm ET

    I think the GOP needs to look at the videos again. Protesters have been throwing rocks and setting things on fire. That's not what the USA believes in as far as "free speech", so blanket endorsements of the protests are inappropriate.

    If we really want Iran to have a government representing the will of the *Iranian* people, then we have the let the *Iranians* figure out what from of government they want and then let them have it. We absolutely can not support only the side the we perceive as pro-USA. If we do then we aren't supporting democracy, we are looking for the next Shah.


    The people don't have any choice, the only weapon they can have are ROCKS/STONES. Iranians don't have any right to arm themselves. While their military are free to shoot them AT WILL, they have NOTHING to defend themselves. Be grateful you live in USA wherein your right to arm yourself is guaranteed under the constitution.


    June 21, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  16. Dan, TX

    Dick Luger is someone I respect and admire. He is a real conservative and real republican. He is the republican Senator I will listen to. The otheres are just noise.

    June 21, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  17. David from WI

    I guess we forgot that whole hostage situation under President Carter? It was in all the papers. The news media at that time didn't let us forget with the 'hostage crises DAY 399' on the news every night (that was before cable news).

    I know many of you think history only extends eight years but it doesn't.

    This is directed at all those that seem to still have anger over a past president. I wonder if this is how those hippies thought of Nixon. (if it wasn't for Nixon's foreign policy we wouldn't have been able to take out all these loans and put our county in the worst debt in history, Bush was an amateur when it came to spending and wasting tax payer dollars compared to Obama, and yeah I know, nothing is Obamas fault its all Bushes fault our great leader is blameless and without sin right?)

    June 21, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. Wolves 4 Palin Charlotte, NC

    Is this the sam G'assley that thought Obama should have been daredr on the Somali pirates and EAGERLY voted us into war with Iraq? What this WORLD don't need is more "G"assley like foreign policy.

    June 21, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  19. No Hillary = No Obama

    If you watched Obama's interview when asked about Iran – he was really at a loss for words – someone who always has words at his finger tips. I thought, here he is, faced with a novel situation that he couldn't manipulate and he looked like a deer who got caught in the headlights. I want to hear what Hillary Clinton has to say about this not Camerafly Obama.

    June 21, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  20. Cheryl

    The Republican party can't expect us to believe that they've suddenly developed compassion for the Iranian people. It's easier to believe they would like an excuse to bomb Iran back to the stone age just as they did with Iraq. What they care about is finding every opportunity no matter how hypocritical to criticize Obama. How are they contributing to this country when they seek to undermine every single thing the president does?

    The Obama administration has expressed support for fair elections, free speech, and free assembly in Iran. To go beyond that would be interfering in the affairs of a sovereign nation.

    June 21, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  21. C Spurgeon

    All people that think we ought go overboard on the Iranians need to go right down and sign their sons,daughters and selves up for the military. They are just wacko and doing it all for politics. The iranioans need to manage their own country. I support them in their efforts and that is as far as it should go. Good for Obama for being a thinking President.

    June 21, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  22. History Repeating Itself

    It's was just over 40 years ago, that America had it's own civil rights issues...(which by the way, some continue today)...I do not recall foreign countries stepping in and intervening to help solve our nations problem. We resolved our own issues...

    I am saddened to see what is happening in Iran today..Seeing the photos of the people being sprayed with water hoses...reminded me America's past history..

    The People's Will..will eventually prevail... In the meantime, I think Our President is doing the right thing by being slow to speak and using wisdom in words..We do not want to been seen as adding fuel to the fire.

    The Republicans who are critical are just playing politics. They have their own personal agenda and do not have the slightest concern for these people.

    June 21, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  23. Ron

    Let's let the Iranians decide what course they wish to persue. If they want a more democratic society, they will force change in Iran. No matter what the US says or doesn't say will not make any difference. We should let people of other nations settle on their futures, and their forms of government. We should worry about democracy here at home, something we've been losing for the last decade.

    June 21, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. mk

    State of the Union should be renamed to State of the GOP Union.

    June 21, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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