The United States is trying to reconcile its vision of diplomacy for Iran with the reality it faces after that country's election results revealed a landslide victory for hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
President Obama walked that tightrope in the Oval Office Monday, "It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be... We respect Iranian sovernity and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran... [T]he use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy-- diplomacy with no illusions about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries-- is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interests."
Iran's election results were so strikingly in favor of Ahmadinjad over moderate candidate Mirhossein Mousavi that it raised the suspicions of many as an illegitimate defeat. Eventually, Iran's Guardian Council, itself in question for its support of Ahmadinejad, agreed to investigate the election's legitimacy.
Violence has spewed into the streets as protesters challenging its results have been attacked. In his remarks, the president vehemently backed the protesters' right to speak their mind, saying he's "deeply troubled" by the violence. "I want them to know that we in the United States do not want to make any decisions for the Iranians, but we do believe that the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected," Obama said.
On the one hand for the US, is the reality that they may have to contend with Ahmadinejad for a while longer. Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton told Fox Monday, "The United States deals with the facts. And the fact is we're going to take whatever leadership there is in that country and try to pursue our goals and objectives and that means dealing with the Iran that we've got, and not the Iran that we wish we had."
On the other side, though, is the United States' undoubted desire for a more moderate player across the potential diplomatic table. President Obama has, since the campaign, opened that door to most nations who are inclined to walk through it. Without the election of a moderate Iranian leader, hope for progress on nuclear talks could fade.
But "watching" and "assessing" seem the be the administration's key words. Officials all the way up now to President Obama have urged patience while the final outcome of the election is determined.
Meanwhile, Obama's former campaign rival, Arizona Senator John McCain has been more blunt, "I hope that we can succeed in our relations with Iran, but this is not a good sign, and we should speak out strongly in opposition to what was clearly a corrupt election."
Indeed, Vice President Biden cast a suspicious light on the results Sunday, but still urged a wait-and-see approach.
The State Department Monday continued that sentiment, refusing to hold Iranian security forces accountable for violence against election protesters. Fox News State Department Correspondent James Rosen asked at Monday's State Department briefing, "[Y]ou don't condemn what we're seeing in Iran?" State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly replied, "Well, I haven't used that word, 'condemn'... we still need to see -- we need to see how things unfold."