Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Iran Elections Make Nuclear Talks Harder

President Barack Obama went easy on Iran in his big June 4 speech in Cairo so as not to become an issue in last weekend’s elections.

Some good it did. The ruling powers in Iran — rigidly hostile to the United States and determined to develop nuclear weapons — rigged the vote to restore radical Islamist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

And, Obama’s mild statements of “concern” at violence directed against opposition protesters is not likely to win him any points, either, if and when the Iranian regime decides to accept his offer of “unconditional negotiations.”

Still, Obama’s tactics are understandable. He’s betting that the regime headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will prevail and that he will have to deal with it.

Conceivably, the mass demonstrations being conducted by supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi could cascade into a revolution such as that which ousted the Shah of Iran in 1979.

More likely, Khamenei would use his military, Republican Guards and Islamic militias to re-enact the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in China if the regime appeared threatened.

Khamenei obviously is hoping to mollify the protesters by promising a review of the election results. The outcome is a foregone conclusion, but the regime clearly aims to have the demonstrations fizzle.

So, the likely result is what Obama anticipated in his outreach address to the Islamic world: that he’d be negotiating with a government run by Khamenei regardless of whether Moussavi or Ahmadinejad were elected president.

In that speech, 6,000 words long, Obama devoted just two paragraphs to Iran, in one of which he acknowledged that the United States “played a role” in the 1953 overthrow of the country’s elected government.

He’s obviously conscious of that history — and the anti-American uses the regime constantly makes of it — which is why he went out of his way Tuesday to say “it’s not productive for a United States president to be seen meddling” in Iran’s internal affairs.

I’d hope that if he thought there were a chance of really toppling the regime, he would speak out to support the opposition and that he’s being restrained out of calculation.

In Cairo, he merely observed that Iran “has played a role” in “acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians,” going easy on the activities that led to Iran being designated by the State Department as the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism.”

He also passed up mentioning that, in April, Egyptian authorities arrested 49 Hezbollah terrorists bent on carrying out attacks, along with a handler allegedly trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

And, he went easy on the long record of international findings that Iran has been enriching uranium and evading inspections, surely for the purpose — though the regime denies it — of producing nuclear weapons.

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