EDITORIAL - Iran's unrest: The United States should keep sight of the long haul

Written by Susan Mannella on .

After more than a week of protests in Tehran and other cities against the June 12 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it is worth considering the state of relations between Iran and the United States.

It is highly unlikely that there will be new elections. Although prominent Iranian leaders have lined up in favor of the second finisher, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who controls the military, judiciary and public broadcasting, has taken a firm position in support of Mr. Ahmadinejad and his victory.

Although the outside world dislikes Mr. Ahmadinejad for various positions, including his hostility toward Israel, it will be difficult to pursue allegations of vote fraud. Yesterday the country's senior panel of election monitors said the number of votes cast in 50 cities surpassed the number of voters, but the results aren't likely to be thrown out.

On policy, it is also important to remember that Mr. Ahmadinejad's and Mr. Mousavi's positions on Iran's nuclear program are almost identical, in spite of the latter's stance as a reformer.

Fortunately, President Barack Obama's comments on the matter have been carefully chosen. He realizes that the real casualty could be the prospects for a resumption of dialogue between the United States and Iran, including on its nuclear program.

These were protests, not an uprising. Regime change is not in the cards. Real dialogue will be delayed until Iran settles down, but it must occur. It is the only acceptable course at this point, far preferable to more mutually hostile stasis or another Middle East war, which would put an end to prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement and successful U.S. withdrawal on schedule from Iraq.

What is truly remarkable about the past days' events in Iran is the political vigor they have revealed there, even after 30 years of an Islamic republic. Iran in 2009 follows only after Israel and Lebanon in that regard, and the trend is clear.


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