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IRAN: U.S. House of Representatives votes to condemn Iran crackdown [Update]

June 19, 2009 | 12:14 pm

[Updated at 12:45 p.m.: Senate condemns Iran's crackdown on demonstrators, following similar vote in House (AP).]

Hours after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned protesters against trying the patience of Iran’s rulers, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 405-1 to condemn Tehran’s crackdown on demonstrators.

The action and the lopsided vote put more pressure on the Obama administration, which has been walking a diplomatic tightrope, being positive about the values expressed by the demonstrators without overly committing to them. At the same time, Obama has made it clear that the elections are an internal matter in Iran while the United States’ concern is with security and nuclear issues.

Today’s House resolution was initiated by Republicans who have been seeking an issue to offset the Democrats' portrayal of the GOP as “the party of no.” It also plays to the party’s conservative wing, which historically has favored support for dissidents against governments it dislikes.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, who co-sponsored the resolution, cited conservative icon Ronald Reagan and his famous cry about tearing down the Berlin Wall.

 “The American cause is freedom,” Pence said on the House floor. “And in this cause, the American people will not be silent, here or abroad. If the president of the United States won’t express the unqualified support of our nation for the dissidents in the streets of Tehran, this Congress must.”

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-sponsor of the resolution, said “it is not for us to decide who should run Iran, much less determine the real winner of the June 12 election.

“But we must reaffirm our strong belief that the Iranian people have a fundamental right to express their views about the future of their country freely and without intimidation,” he said.

A similar measure is pending in the Senate, backed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman, (I-Conn.). McCain, who lost the presidential race to Obama, has been especially vocal in urging support for the demonstrators. (Read Top of the Ticket's Obama and McCain square off on Iran.)

But not all Republicans have objected to Obama’s tone. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, backed the president earlier this week in television interviews.

The House measure supported “all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and rule of law” and affirms “the importance of democratic and fair elections.”

It also condemns “the ongoing violence” by the government and pro-government militias against demonstrators, as well as government “suppression of independent electronic communications through interference with the Internet and cell phones.”

 – Michael Muskal

Full coverage of Iran's presidential election and its aftermath.

Pictures: Upheaval after Iranian election