Thus concludes a senior administration official on the situation in Iran. And that SAO is right -- as is Spencer -- in observing that the last thing the Iranian opposition needs right now is an aggressive response from the United States. The tone struck by the administration thus far has been the appropriate one: questioning the announced results of the election, condemning human rights abuses, but not prejudging the outcome or explicitly allying themselves with opposition candidate and "real" election winner Mir Hossein Mousavi. For one, as many have observed, a Mousavi victory will not necessarily change the balance of interests in the region, but even if he will put a more pragmatic face on Iranian policy-making, explicit U.S. support will hurt his popular legitimacy and give Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his allies credence in claiming authenticity. This last point will probably strike many as pretty obvious, but it's apparently never occurred to Bill Kristol.
More interesting is this: Throughout the election process, sober-minded types loved to recall that at the end of the day the real power in Iran would continue to be held by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. But the regime's apparent decision to alter the election results has suddenly thrown even Khamenei's position into question, giving rise to the possibility for a truly game-changing shake-up. But until we see how events turn out -- and it does seem the that regime is starting to backtrack a little -- the most that United States policy-makers should do is express solidarity with those demonstrating peacefully and condemn the human rights abuses of the state.
-- Tim Fernholz
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