THE BLOG
07/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

GOP Uses Iran Resolution to Slam Obama, Undermine Iranian People

Dave Weigel has a good round-up of the debate that just transpired on the House floor over Iran. No one should be surprised that while the language of the resolution is fairly innocuous, the GOP is going to use it as a wedge against the Administration, and utilize the optics that the House acted on behalf of the Iranian people while Obama remains silent as a calculated strategy to hammer the president's approach towards Iran, which has been supported by Henry Kissinger, Pat Buchanan, Nick Burns, and Dick Lugar, amongst other. Just look at the statements Republicans just made on the floor (from Weigel):

Eric Cantor: "America's moral responsibility to speak out on the protection of human rights wherever they are violated...I urge President Obama to follow the lead of this House."

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher: Silence would be a "betrayal of our fundamental principles" and a show of "weakness," and reminded the House that he had been a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan.

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart: "The president of the United States has been silent and confused."

And Mike Pence's statement introducing the resolution far exceeded the rhetoric in the resolution itself:

"For days hundreds of thousands of dissidents have taken to the streets of Iran in support of freedom and democracy. The American cause is freedom and in that cause the American people will not be silent.

It's clear that on its merits, the resolution itself is not necessarily bad (and indeed the Administration appears to have a hand in its crafting), and is not completely opposed by members of the Iranian human rights community. But that's in a vacuum. This is American politics and the GOP's political calculation is very shrewd and very insidious. This resolution will give the Republican party cover to slam Obama's "inaction" on behalf of the Iranian people, and sets them up for a weekend of messaging along these lines, including on the Sunday shows. And in the end, while from the domestic political angle this might score points for the GOP at a very superficial and visceral level (especially in the media), the biggest impact is it will provide another talking point for Khameini and Ahmadinejad to accuse America of meddling in Iranian affairs. In fact, Khameini already attacked the West today on those lines:

"The enemies [of Iran] are targeting the Islamic establishment's legitimacy by questioning the election and its authenticity before and after [the vote]."

Through this resolution and subsequent Republican statements which far exceed the moderate tone of the resolution's text itself, the GOP provides Khameini, the Iranian state media, and Ahmadinejad with talking points confirming the regime's assertions of American interference as well as providing the appearance of an American government divided. Such political posturing might help the Republican's cause of demonizing the Administration and decrying weakness of its foreign policy. But in the end, the resolution itself is merely a vehicle for subsequent statements, releases and press conferences. This is where the dangerous rhetoric will emanate from which will only add fuel to the fire for those in Iran who seek to suppress the protesters and quell the march of freedom that continues to build in the streets of Tehran and elsewhere.

While they display the veneer of being on the side of the Iranian people, in the end Cantor, Pence, Rohrabacher and others today confirmed themselves as the leading speechwriters and providers of talking points for Iran's oppressive regime. It's too bad they put partisan American politics above actually supporting the people of Iran.

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?