I think most of us would agree that US senators rarely say much of interest. We don’t hear a lot of Daniel Webster oratory these days, nor much in the way of original or stimulating opinion. Everything seems pre-vetted by focus groups and polls.
Once in a while, Joseph Lieberman is the exception. He spoke out against Clinton’s immoral personal behavior and now, far more importantly ultimately, he is speaking out on Iran in a September 29 address to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The speech begins with a fair amount of unmerited politesse directed toward the Obama administration. (In my view, Obama’s single worst foreign policy moment was ignoring the democracy demonstrators in Iran at the height of their protest, apparently in an absurd attempt to negotiate with Ahmadinejad). But then Lieberman gets down to the heart of the matter:
Our sanctions effort should therefore increasingly aim, I believe, not just to add pressure on the existing regime, but to target the fissures that already seem to exist within the Iranian regime itself and between the regime and Iranian society.
This should include much more robust engagement and support for opposition forces inside Iran, both by the United States and like-minded democratic nations across the world. The Obama administration, I fear, missed an important opportunity in the wake of last year’s election in Iran. But it is certainly not too late to give strong support to the people in Iran who are courageously standing up against their repressive government.
Bravo. Further down…
We have now come to the moment in this long struggle when the Iranian regime must understand that we will not wait indefinitely for sanctions to work. As my colleague in the House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, warned last week, we are talking about months, not years. I therefore hope that President Obama will conduct an assessment at the end of this year – just as he did last year – to determine if the current strategy towards Iran is working. If it has not produced meaningful change in Iran’s nuclear weapons policy by then, we will need to begin a national conversation about what steps should come next.
This inevitably will involve consideration of military options. I agree with President Obama that the use of military force is not the “ideal way” to stop the Iranian nuclear program. But nothing is more corrosive to the prospect of resolving this confrontation peacefully than the suspicion – among our friends and enemies in the Middle East – that in the end, the United States we will acquiesce to Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability. If a nuclear Iran is as unacceptable as we say it is, we must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to prevent the unacceptable.
There you have it. As the saying goes, read the whole thing.