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Gibbs backs off on Iran Gaffe

Posted by Jill Marie Parillo and Laicie Olson on August 5, 2009


August 4, to the shock of Iran experts, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said that President Obama recognized Iran’s contested election of President Ahmadinejad, but then retracted the statement. When asked point blank August 4 if the administration recognized Ahmadinejad as the legitimate President of Iran, Gibbs responded that “He [Ahmadinejad] is the elected leader.” 


When asked if the Administration’s absence at Iran’s presidential swearing-in suggested their reluctance to recognize Ahmadinejad’s election, Gibbs said that this was “a decision and a debate ongoing in Iran by the Iranians [and] that they were going to choose their leadership.”  August 5 Gibbs backed off on his previous comments, stating that the issue of the legitimacy of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s June 12 election was not for him “to pass judgment on.” 


Ahmadinejad’s disputed landslide victory in the June 12 poll led to the greatest unrest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.  The current Iranian regime violently cracked down on protesters of election results, killing over two dozen people, injuring hundreds and jailing thousands. The abuse invoked strong condemnation from the United States and the international community, but Washington has yet to take a stance on the election results.  Russian and Chinese leaders called Ahmadinejad to congratulate him the day after the June 12 election.


Washington maintains its position on direct diplomacy, stating that it seeks to engage Tehran in order to resolve the dispute over its suspected nuclear program, but Washington must recognize Ahmadinejad’s presidency to begin a dialogue.  It may be a good time to take a “strategic pause,” in implementing US-Iran policy rather than recognizing the hardline leader who is abusing his people and the concept of democracy.     



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