We must speak in unison on Iran
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In the decades since the late-1940s when Sen. Arthur Vandenberg (R-Mich.) delivered his rousing call for America’s leaders to stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge,” the American political landscape has changed considerably. The goodwill that existed during the Cold War—the sense that any disagreements between Democrats and Republicans paled in comparison to the antipathy between the free world and the communist menace—has given way to no-holds-barred rivalry between the parties. Topics that were once naturally open for bipartisan compromise, like the need to shore up the nation’s cybersecurity, have become mired in partisan wrangling.

But even in these most partisan times, certain moments call out for the nation’s leaders to set aside their penchant for bickering. This is such a moment. When our nation’s leaders speak with one voice, our message is heard much more clearly and powerfully around the globe. That was the case for the bulk of the Cold War—and it should be again today with Iran which, like the Soviet Union, represents a threat to our national values and our national security.


Recall the history. When Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE was running against Vice President Richard Nixon in 1960’s presidential campaign, the debate between them was not about whether to stand strong against the Soviets—it was who would stand stronger. When Kennedy was inaugurated, Democrats and Republicans were both roused by his commitment to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” The world got the message: No matter which party was in power, America would stand strong and together in the Cold War.

When Ronald Reagan echoed that sentiment a quarter century later, explicitly calling out the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” those suffering in the gulag heard America’s message, in part because it reflected an unmistakable bipartisan resolve. As Natan Sharansky, then suffering under the tyranny of the Russian regime later explained, “It was one of the most important, freedom-affirming declarations, and we all instantly knew it. For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now.”

Today, America has an opportunity to have the same impact with its rhetoric and action in Iran—but only if we can reclaim the unity that defined our resolve before the Berlin Wall came down. The Iranian regime is a global menace, a force for instability, an instrument of repression, and an eager source of financing for terrorists. No member of either party should doubt that the brave protesters now risking life and limb to challenge the Islamic Republic are a force for liberty, honesty and opportunity. And they need to hear America say with one voice: We support you.

Some may not appreciate the gravity of this moment. Too often, our impulse today is to view each new development, domestic or international, as a cudgel for denouncing those on the other side of our partisan divide. Those who supported the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with the Iranian regime may be tempted to argue that today’s unrest was born from that administration’s decision to engage the Iranian regime. Those, like me, who opposed the deal might argue that the protest on display today might have succeeded in toppling the regime years earlier had America not seemed to want to make the nuclear deal at almost any price—and certainly more than the Iranians did.

Those arguments are effectively irrelevant today. The brave Iranians standing up to the Mullahs deserve better than any desire by some of our leaders to score political points. Our challenge in America isn’t to lead the Iranian protesters—this is their moment and their revolt. Nor should we be worried about the appearance of co-opting their efforts by encouraging the demonstrations.

They need to hear that America unequivocally stands with them in their fight to live free from the oppression and abuse that has, for nearly 40 years, rained down on the Iranian people. And the Iranian regime needs to know that America’s days of standing by while the people of Iran struggle for their freedom are over. As President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE has warned, we are watching them.

The far right and far left may be perpetually spoiling for a fight, but in this case, everyone’s interests align. We can have spirited conversation about the direction of American foreign policy in the weeks and months to come. We inevitably will. But at this moment, our challenge is to speak in unison in favor of freedom in Iran and against the dictatorial regime in Tehran.

Joe Lieberman, a former U.S. senator from Connecticut, is a national co-chairman of No Labels.