Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Underreported US Senate Resolution on Iran reveals a lack of conviction

Last Friday, the day after millions of Iraqi's voted in an historic election, the US Senate passed a resolution condemning the recent alarming statements by Iran's President. Surprisingly, the mainstream media ignored the resolution while the international press has been avidly covering similar resolutions adopted by countries around the world. Unfortunately, the story behind the resolution revealed a disturbing lack of conviction by some in the US Senate.

The resolution, authored by US Rick Santorum, was in his words "a mild condemnation" version of the resolution that he had also authored and which had obtained bi-partisan support hours earlier-— which was then objected to by Senate Democrats.

The original resolution co-sponsored by:

Republicans: Rick Santorum, Mr. Brownback, Mr. Chambliss, Mr. Coleman, Mr. Bond, Mrs. Dole, Mr. Smith, Mr. DeWine, Mr. Vitter, Mr. Isakson, Mr. Talent, Mr. Stevens, Mr. Martinez, and Mr. Voinovich,

Democrats: Ms. Mikulski, Ms. Stabenow, Mr. Nelson of Florida, Mr. Coleman, Mr. Bond, Mr. Lautenberg, Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Nelson of Nebraska, Mr. Rockefeller, and Mrs. Feinstein.

contained language in support for the people of Iran: It
  • supported the people of Iran's desire to exercise self determination over the form of government of their country and
  • supported a call for a national referendum in Iran with oversight by international observers and monitors to certify the integrity and fairness of the referendum.
But after the resolution containing these clauses was objected to by Senate Democrats. Senator Santorum was forced to REMOVE the two clauses which addressed desire for free elections in Iran. So he then submitted the resolution without those clauses.

That version SENATE RESOLUTION 336-- passed. So the resolution reads:

To Condemn the harmful, destructive, and anti-Semitic statements of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, and to demand an apology for those statements of hate and animosity towards all Jewish people of the world. Senate - December 16, 2005). After citing numerous examples of such statement by Ahmadinejad and other key leaders of the current regime in Iran,

the resolution concluded:
Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) condemns recent statements by President Ahmadinejad that denied the occurrence of the Holocaust and supported moving the State of Israel to Europe;

(2) demands an official apology for these damaging, anti-Semitic statements that ignore history, human suffering, and the loss of life during the Holocaust;

(6) reaffirms the need for Iran to--

(A) end its support for international terrorism; and

(B) join other Middle Eastern countries in seeking a successful outcome of the Middle East peace process.
A good resolution but a substantially weaker one. So what happened?

Since Senator Santorum is in a tough battle for his reelection, his opponent in the campaign, Mr. Bob Casey hurriedly published his own condemnation of Iran on their website. More here.

Then at the last moment, US Senate Democrats demanded that Senator Santorum remove US support for a referendum. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said: "Mr. President, while I personally am vehemently opposed to the statements that have been made by the President of Iran, I have been asked by the Members on this side of the aisle to object, and I do so object."

When it was clear that he could only pass the milder version Senator Santorum reminded the Senate:
"If you look at people who study the country of Iran... you hear that the Iranian street is one that is largely sympathetic to the United States and to the cause of freedom and democracy. They are oppressed people. Oppressed people generally do want and seek freedom. So we have, I believe, an opportunity, as we have had opportunities in the past, when we lent our ideas and our encouragement to help develop either exile movements or freedom movements within the countries that are a threat to the region and a threat to our country...

So we could not adopt tonight in the Senate the Senate saying to the people of Iran that we support efforts of self-determination and a national referendum that was free and fair. That is, in my mind, a rather unfortunate occurrence. But I found, from my perspective, that it was so important to condemn these actions that we agreed to strike those two sentences from the resolved clauses. I don't necessarily understand why anyone would oppose either of those sentences, those resolved clauses. They state that we are for freedom and democracy for all people, including the people of Iran. Maybe it is because we are pursuing that and it becomes such an issue of partisan controversy in the country of Iraq--or saying we support that same thing in Iran would somehow taint their criticism of the current mission in Iraq. I don't know. I am still groping for answers as to why those two clauses were not acceptable.

What was not acceptable were the comments and the actions of developing nuclear weapons by the terrorist regime in Iran."
Remember, this was the session in which the Senate democrats filibustered the Patriot Act.

But more surprising is that Senator Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee had not cosponsored either resolution.

It has been reported that a Majority staffer with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee objected to condemning the entire government of Iran and the call for a referendum with international observers. He reportedly said that we should be condemning President Ahmadinejad (vs. the entire government) and that "Iran just had elections and they chose the current leader." Such statements show a complete lack of understanding of the Iranian government. Sadly it looks like Chairman Lugar is the problem. READ MORE

Since February, we have long supported Senator Santorum's other Iran legislation, The Iran Freedom and Support Act S. 333. The bill is designed to hold the current regime in Iran accountable for its threatening behavior and to support a transition to democracy in Iran.

Despite the ever increasing threat of the Iranian regime not only to Israel, Iraqi democracy, but even to the United States Chairman Lugar has yet to hold a single hearing on the bill. While the Europeans act the US Senate is paralyzed.

Since the Iranian regime has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism and our government is convinced that it is developing nuclear weapons, the US has few options. Some leading democrats want the US to offer a "grand bargain" to Iran to change its ways. But repeatedly the Iranian leadership has made it clear that they are not motivated by economic concerns, but rather their ideology. In the past few weeks, it appears the Europeans have come to this conclusion.

A military solution? Nothing short of a complete occupation of Iran will work. We learned in Iraq that a country can withstand an aerial attack and yet remain in power. Such an attack will not solve the problem, but likely leave thousands of innocent Iranians dead, since many of these targets are buried underneath civilian housing tracts. Killing these innocent people will turn the Middle East's greatest supporters into enemies overnight.

Therefore, the only option left is an internal regime change. While such a referendum is unlikely to take place, Senator Santorum's proposal is one way to signal to the Iranian people that they are not alone. Internal regime changes almost never occur without significant international support.

The Senate had an opportunity to send a signal to those inside of Iran that the US is finally willing to take their struggle seriously. We failed to send the signal. Nevertheless, we have an opportunity to correct the situation by demanding that the US Senate hold hearings on the Iran Freedom and Support Act.

Time is running out. Iran is about to restart its uranium processing which according to IAEA Chairman El Baradei can result in an Iranian nuclear bomb in just months.

Failure of the US Senate to even hold hearings on the bill emboldens the regime that thinks we are incapable of action - which unfortunately appears to be true. As long as the mainstream media and even the blogosphere fail to demand action, none will be forthcoming.

It is time for the blogosphere to write Senator Lugar and demand hearings now, before it's too late.

Please also contact your Senator's office demanding hearings now!
Blogosphere Alert! We need to act now. Please post this report on your blog and ask your readers to call or write Senator Lugar's office and demand hearings on The Iran Freedom and Support Act S. 333.