Graham: Obama ‘Timid and Passive’ on Iran

By Jennifer Parker

Jun 21, 2009 9:58am

In an exclusive interview with me on “This Week” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., slammed President Barack Obama for being “timid and passive” in his response to the Iranian government’s deadly crackdown on election protesters.  

Graham told me Obama is “moving in the right direction” with his remarks Saturday — the president’s strongest condemnation yet of the Iranian government.

“He’s certainly moving in the right direction, but our point is that there’s a monumental event going on in Iran and you know, the president of the United States is supposed to lead the free world not follow it,” Graham told me on “This Week” Sunday.

“Other nations have been more outspoken so I hope that we’ll hear more of this because young men and women taking to the streets in Tehran need our support. The signs are in English. They’re basically asking for us to speak up on their behalf.” Graham told me, “I appreciate what the president said yesterday. But he’s been timid and passive more than I would like and I hope he will continue to speak truth to power.”
Graham added, “Any time America stands up for freedom we’re better off. When we try to prop up dictators or remain silent it comes back to bite us.”

He urged the president to do “the right thing” and “stand up” with the protesters in Iran.

“This [Iranian] regime is corrupt. It has blood on its hands in Iran. They’ve killed Americans in Iraq, innocent Iraqi people, now they’re killing their own people. Stand up with the protesters. That’s not meddling, it’s doing the right thing,” Graham told me.

But in an exclusive “This Week” interview, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., argued the president is walking a “very delicate path” with Iran.

“He’s the president of the United States. He’s not a member of the Senate or a columnist. He’s got a very delicate path to walk here. I think he’s been strong. You don’t want to become, you don’t want to take ownership of this,” Dodd told me. “The worst thing we could do at this moment for these reformers, these protesters, these courageous people in Tehran, is allow the government there to claim that this is a U.S. opposition.”

Dodd added, “This is 1979 all over again. These are remarkable people doing remarkable things…I think it’s clear to them that we stand as a nation behind their efforts.”

House Republican Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, argued this week that the U.S. should move immediately toward tougher sanctions against Iran and stop all gasoline sales to the country. But Dodd, a top member of the Senate Foreign relations Committee, argued any international pressure must focus on curbing the Iranian nuclear threat.

“This government is very fragile in Iran right now and obviously we’re deeply concerned about the security of our country and our allies with the possibility of [Iran] developing and having a nuclear arsenal. That’s a tremendously high priority for us,” Dodd told me.

“You want to put the pressure on, and we have collectively with the international community,” he said, “I suspect after the events of last week you’ll see more of that, additional pressure being put on it to make sure that we not only see that these protesters and demonstrators who are seeking justice in their country will achieve that goal, but also that the near-term issue of dealing with nuclear weapons will also be dealt with. That’s a very delicate path for the president to walk.”

–George Stephanopoulos

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