June 25th, 2009
12:03 PM ET
13 years ago

Senators to introduce Iran legislation

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/25/art.mccain.gi.jpg caption=" John McCain and Joe Lieberman are among the senators introducing legislation on Iran."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Three U.S. senators said Thursday they will introduce legislation funding a package of assistance to help get around the Tehran regime's information block.

"The Iranian government recognizes that Internet is a threat to its stranglehold over society and is trying to impose its repressive controls over it," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said. "The legislation would authorize funds to ensure that Iranians have the hardware, software and other tools to evade the censorship and surveillance of the regime online."

McCain joined fellow Sens. Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, at a news conference to announce the legislation, which they said is an effort to support the Iranian people.

CNN Radio: Correspondent Reza Sayah, just back from Iran, has the latest from Tehran

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the results of the June 12 election results which gave incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term in office. Protesters, including many supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, have accused the Tehran regime of vote tampering and are calling for a new vote.

As a result, Iranian forces have brutally cracked down on the protests, restricted international journalists from covering the events, and blocked access to certain Web sites used to share information with the outside world, although many Iranians have been able to get around the blockade.

McCain compared the use of information-sharing Web sites to older technology provided by the United States in the past.

"During the Cold War we provided the Polish people and dissidents with printing presses," McCain said. "Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are the modern-day printing presses. They are the way to spread information and keep the hope of freedom alive amongst the Iranian people."

The bill, which has not been drafted yet, will authorize funding to allow Persian-language broadcaster Radio Farda - funded by Radio Free Europe and Voice of America (VOA) - to "expand its reach across the country," McCain said. It would also provide VOA's other broadcasts more time to broadcast.

Last week, Congress overwhelmingly approved non-binding resolutions to support "all Iranians who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law."

McCain and Lieberman sponsored the resolution that was passed by the Senate.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is still walking a diplomatic tightrope in finding the right response to the crisis. The White House said Wednesday that it was rescinding invitations to Iranian diplomats overseas for U.S. Independence Day celebrations.

The president's position has evolved since his first comments after the Iranian election, in which he said he was "troubled" by the post-election violence and had "deep concerns about the elections." He went to great pains to say he didn't want the United States to be seen as "meddling."

He ruffled more than a few feathers in Iran and around the world last week when he said that when it came to U.S. national interests, there was little difference between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi.

By appearing at first to be neutral, Obama faced criticism from Republicans, like McCain - his challenger in the 2008 presidential campaign - and Graham who last weekend accused the president of being "timid and passive" in speaking out against the growing wave of arrests, violence and deaths of pro-democracy activists.

On Wednesday Obama said "it was that bloodshed" that led him to speak in more forceful terms, saying he was "appalled and outraged" by the violence.

Obama has said Iranians must be free to demonstrate peacefully, and his administration Wednesday withdrew invitations to Iranian diplomats around the world to attend U.S. Embassy 4th of July parties. The extension of invitations last month was seen as a cautious outreach to Iran, which has not had diplomatic relations with Washington for 30 years.

–CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report

Filed under: Iran
soundoff (291 Responses)
  1. Ernestine

    Mich Wrote June 25th, 2009 12:35 pm ET

    Who cares if the Iran goverment calls it meddling Obama and the other need a back bone. Lets stop turning our backs on people who are suffering. Lets get some courage in our heart ,and help people who need help. This holding out just so you can have a conversation with a mad man in crazy. Lets get some courage please.


    You just don't get it! We have people here in the country that are suffering. Iran doesn't want our help and this plea came from the protesters.

    June 25, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  2. Jero

    i have an idea.... lets spend our own money right here at home! Instead of giving free internet :S to the people of iran! If u want to pay internet and etc for people! PAY MINE!

    June 25, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  3. Enlightened Voter

    As long as republicans don't have to spend money on Americans they are all for spending. They had no problem supporting bush in rebuilding Iran but the minute President Obama tries to rebuild this country he's called a socialist and fiscally irresponsible.

    June 25, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  4. S Callahan

    Just tell me why the Senators have a hard time of living by the "Do No Harm" mantra.....this should have never been in the media....this singels out the comptuer estute and puts them in danger.
    I'm glad they are getting assistance but you must use common sense and not blab about this.

    June 25, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. Jen from CA

    @girlymen love the GOP

    Obama seems like a deer in the headlights and he is going to get smacked by reality just like everyone who voted for him. Just like you believe McCain has to look to the clouds to get Obama to listen to him. What in the world is wrong with you people. You are blind to the fact that everything he has done so far has been an utter failure. He should be begging at McCain's feet for at least a drop of wisdom. FACE THE FACTS! Obama does not know what to do! He is LOST!

    June 25, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  6. bonasipark

    Do any of these three have a clue how the Internet works?

    June 25, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  7. tom

    CNN still cropping its replies pro obama i see. Only brainwashed cool aid drinking zombies would complain about trying to help the Iranians -or anyone -get around state controlled sensors .

    Its the foundation of freedom vs censorship. Kinda like deciding which posts to read or discard. Right Cafferty ? .............

    June 25, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  8. carlos

    Doug in New Jersey....what do you call the killing of innocents civilians in Iraq and the more than 3400 brave soldiers who have died in the war for profit war you the repugnant reptiles started?

    answer this: where are the 8 billion dollars that went missing in Iraq that your reptiles said didn't have to accolunt for any funds used in the war?.....WHOSE POCKETS????

    You, TCM and the hissing idiots who blog in this intelligent forum should get more knowledge, intelligence and not be a ditto heads to your leader king kong rush....get a life

    June 25, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  9. American for Truth

    Democrats have been crying election fraud for the last eight years and when they get a genuine "election fraud" in Iraq, they don't have the courage to speak out. I bet if your president were to speak out against it many of the sheep that follow him would too. The blind following the blinder. I want my president to be a leader, not continue to vote "present".

    June 25, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. The Unshrub

    What ever happened to letting the President handle foreigh affairs as the constitution demands. republicans need to keep their mouth shut and follow the rules for once.

    June 25, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. Moe NY

    I suggest that McCain, Liberman, and Graham get back to work for the AMERICAN PEOPLE.....American's are in dire need of HEALTH CARE...why don't they work on the numerous problems facing America? Why can't they get it through their thick skulls that....IRAN IS NONE OF AMERICA'S BUSINESS?

    June 25, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  12. Leah

    The majority of experts agree with President Obama to
    stay out from Iran issue. It will do more harm than good if US see as meddling.
    These busy body doesn't seems to get it.

    June 25, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Insecurity of someone to deface a photo such as that shows how insceure the person is. Can you imagine if the pasted face was that of an African-American? We would have the NAACP and the Rev. Al Sharpton coming out in full force.

    June 25, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Claudia in Houson

    John McCain, with his old self and his side kick, need to retire their you know what to a nursing home. They are so out of touch with todays society until need to be put down.

    June 25, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. Ken in Pisgah Forest

    FIrst, the reaction by the Iranian government to the protesters is wrong. We learned that with the Vietnam protesters, and I hope we never use violence against nonviolent protesters again.

    That said, however, we do not know, and probably will never know for sure, who won the election and by how much. The protesters may be the vocal minority after all. Unless someone can prove vote fraud on the part of the Iranian government, we need to be careful what we say and do. As far as we know, Ahmadinejad really did get 60% of the vote, and we need to learn to live with him as the Iranian leader for now.

    If we didn't learn anything else in Iraq, we should have learned the U.S. needs a new mantra; "No Meddling".

    June 25, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  16. Bruce

    It's funny. There is not mention of the cost of this legislation. We are always willing to give money to other countries, but not when it comes to US programs.

    June 25, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  17. KMAN

    Well, at least the GOP is now pushing to provide technology to help Iran's democratic activists keep information flowing ... that's a far cry from their usual position of sending US troops to invade sovereign nations.

    June 25, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. Charlotte

    This is a terrible, terrible idea.

    June 25, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  19. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    The dumbocratic libs piled on the Palin story so fast in demeaning her I did not even have a chance.

    June 25, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  20. Dave Firtport

    Are the Iranians going to have to pay it back? Why not just use the money from the TARP fund? Heck – the federal government is loaded – just give the mullahs a 500 billion dollar bailout and maybe they will open access again.

    June 25, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  21. ThinkAboutIt

    I think this is very unwise. Private organizations around the world should be encouraged to help out, but for the United States to do this in an official capacity will only be considered meddling. Iran is very volatile right now and the last thing we need to do is fan the fire.

    This move by McCain, Lieberman and Graham is an ill-conceived ploy to be able to claim that while President Obama did "nothing", they stepped up and did "something".

    Obama is taking the correct course regarding Iran; the Republicans (and their lackey, Lieberman) are once again putting party ahead of everything and making wrong-headed decisions.

    June 25, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  22. Daron

    I don't understand what this is suppose to other than adjetate the Iranian government. This is absolute interfering. Also, why would they reference Facebook and Twitter, when they are basically talking about funding radio stations? Lets fund radio stations so that we can get the word out? Last I remember, its been possible to jam radio waves since WWII. Lets spend millions to broadcast, and they can spend thousands to jam it. This is pure genius...

    June 25, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. Mark

    For all of you hiding your head in the sand. Iran's struggle is our business because 1) we have to negotiate with the people who win this struggle. Would you rather deal with Ahmedinejad, who has sworn to wipe Israel off the map, or with more reasonable people? 2) If we support a more open society we will stop Iran's nuclear ambitions and stop the export of terror through Iran's support of Hamas and Hezbollah, which affects our ally Israel and have destroyed Lebanon, as well as other nations 3) help stop the spread of militant Islam throughout the world.

    But more importantly it is our business because we are supposed to be the standard bearer for freedom in the world.

    That's why it is our business.

    June 25, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Don't these idiots realize they are endangering the lives of Iranians by pushing for this legislation? Its not about the United States. Its about the evolution of freedom in Iran.

    June 25, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  25. minan59

    Never mind what is happening in Iran. Lets get down to the business of fixing our country!

    June 25, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
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