Obama Says 'World Is Watching' Iran's Crackdown

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sends ominous warning to protesters.

ByABC News
June 19, 2009, 7:08 AM

June 19, 2009 — -- President Obama warned Iran today that the "world is watching" after the country's supreme leader told anti-government protesters that they were inviting violence if their massive protests over the presidential election continued.

And Congress voted overwhelmingly today to condemn the Iran's crackdown on the protesters who claim the Iranian presidential election was rigged.

Some Republicans used the vote to complain that Obama has not been forceful enough in dealing with Iran.

The statements and votes in Washington were among a flurry of reactions from Western capitals condemning the Iranian regime for trying to shut down electronic communication among dissidents, arresting protesters and banning foreign reporters from covering the masssive rallies in support of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The statements poured out after Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a defiant speech to say the reelection of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been free of fraud, the widespread protests were illegal and ominously warning that any further demonstrations were inviting violence.

Khamenei also blamed much of the unrest on foreign media as well as the U.S., Britain and Israel.

The House voted 405-1 to denounce Iran's actions and they were quickly followed by a Senate resolution that also condemned the Iranian crackdown.

Republicans in the House criticized Obama for what they considered a tepid response to Iran's tough measures, with one congressman comparing Obama's reaction to President Ronald Reagan's speech near the Berlin Wall.

"When Ronald Reagan went before the Brandenburg Gate, he did not say Mr. (Mikhail) Gorbachev, that wall is none of our business," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.

Obama told CBS News today that he is very concerned by the "tenor and tone" of comments by Khamenei, who warned of a crackdown if protesters continue massive street rallies.

The president said that Iran's government should "recognize that the world is watching," and "how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard" will signal "what Iran is and is not."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the GOP comments that Obama hasn't done enough are wrong.

"I will say, as the president has said, we're not going to be used as political foils and political footballs in a debate that is happening in Iran. There are many people in the [Iranian] leadership that would love us to get involved and would love to trot out the same old foils they've used for years," Gibbs said.

Other Western leaders echoed the congressional statements.

Britain called in Iran's ambassador today to complain about comments Khamenei made criticizing the United Kingdom as well as "evil British radio," referring to BBC's Persian service, which has a wide audience in Tehran.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said European Union nations jointly condemned violence against opposition protesters in Iran saying, "The whole of the world is speaking out."

German chancellor Angela Merkel called Khamenei's speech "disappointing" and French President Nicholas Sarkozy said the world is "preoccupied by the violence of the Iranian election reaction and the courage of the Iranian people."

China and Russia, however, have been quiet about the recent events.