President Obama provided strong condemnation of the violence in Iran at a recent White House press briefing. As the president spoke, Carnegie hosted leading Iran experts Ambassador Nicholas Burns, Abbas Milani, and Karim Sadjadpour to discuss the aftermath of the election and its implications for U.S. foreign policy in the region. David Ignatius moderated the discussion.
June 12 Elections Were Conducted Under a Cloud of Improprieties
Emerging data overwhelmingly indicates that the presidential elections were fraudulent.
A Divided Regime
Powerful members of the establishment—including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri—have sided with the opposition against the Supreme Leader. Regardless of which camp eventually prevails, divisions among regime leaders have fundamentally changed the nature of the Islamic Republic.
New Phase for the Opposition
Dwindling crowds in the street after a week of violent repression do not necessarily signal the demise of the opposition.
U.S. Should Continue Cautious Response
For now, the United States should let events in Iran unfold. If the administration inserts itself into Iran’s internal drama it risks playing into the regime’s attempt to paint the demonstrations as the product of foreign agents. But the administration should not rush to negotiate before the election fallout is resolved, which would confer undeserved legitimacy on Ahmadinejad.
“President Obama has handled this crisis superbly. He has not received enough credit for how thoughtful, measured, and serious he has been,” Burns concluded. “If we insert ourselves into this crisis we hurt the reformists and help Ahmadinejad.”
The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.
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