Congress has become increasingly restive about the Obama Administration’s lack of leadership on supporting opposition forces that seek to advance freedom and human rights in Iran. On Thursday Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) sought to make up for the administration’s lack of initiative by introducing the “Iran Democratic Transition Act of 2010.”

The bill details the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses, cites Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and notes Iran’s troublesome pursuit of nuclear weapons. It states that U.S. policy should be to support the Iranian people in their efforts to oppose and remove the current regime and replace it with a freely elected democratic government in Iran. The bill provides four primary means towards these policy ends:

  • It would authorize support for democratic opposition groups by providing them non-military assistance, as well as humanitarian assistance to victims of the current regime.
  • It would create a Special Envoy for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran with the rank of ambassador to coordinate the U.S. government’s efforts.
  • It proposes that the Obama Administration should explore the concept of a regional framework on human rights, modeled on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Helsinki process.
  • And it would require two reports to Congress from the White House: 1) a clear plan for implementation of this act, and 2) once a transitional government is in place, a comprehensive plan for U.S. support of the Iranian people as they move towards democracy.

Congress has limited latitude in pushing for a specific foreign policy if the White House does not share the same priorities. But there can be no more important a cause than to show unflagging commitment to political and individual freedoms, which will certainly win more hearts and minds in Iran than the Obama Administration’s out stretched hand to Iran’s oppressive rulers.

The long term success of Iran’s “Green Movement” opposition could well depend on the support it is given from aboard. In the case of both Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution, action by the United States and its allies was critical to ensure open elections. Last year the United States again had the opportunity to support a freedom and democracy movement supported by millions of Iranians, but the Obama Administration failed the test.

Congress appears to be increasingly motivated to undertake principled leadership on Iran that the Obama Administration has neglected to provide. Both the Senate and the House have voted to impose new sanctions on Iran’s dictators in the last two months over the objections of the White House.

If Iran’s Green Movement is ever to join the ranks of the successful “color revolutions”, it may have to look to the U.S. Congress, not the White House.

This post was co-authored by James Philips