Obama's game plan faces setback as Ahmadinejad sweeps Iranian polls

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Washington, June 14 (ANI): With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory in Iran's Presidential poll, US President Barack Obama's hopes of blocking Iran's nuclear programme faced a serious blow.

"The Iran election seriously complicates Obama's game plan in the region. But if Ahmadinejad is sworn in and the situation gets relatively stable, nothing at all has changed in the equation that Obama set out during the campaign: we have to deal with our enemies - we must engage," said Steven Clemons, a member of a Washington think tank.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said America hoped the outcome of the election reflected "the genuine will and desire of Iranian citizens".

Analysts across the political spectrum, including supporters of Obama have pledged to engage Iran in respectful negotiations, but said that a second Ahmadinejad term seemed to dash hopes of a warmer relationship with Tehran and complicate President Obama's hopes of reaching a deal to stop Iran's nuclear program.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a measured statement on Saturday, saying, "Like the rest of the world, we were impressed by the vigorous debate and enthusiasm that this election generated, particularly among young Iranians. We continue to monitor the entire situation closely, including reports of irregularities."

"U.S. policy has not changed, nor have the international community's concerns about Iran's failure to live up to its obligations. We have made it clear that we are prepared to engage Iran in order to address these concerns " Politco quoted an US official, as saying.

There had been high hopes of an "Obama effect" in Iran, similar to the victory for a pro-western coalition in Lebanese elections this month in which Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed "party of God", was defeated.

Obama had said that what had been true in Lebanon could be true in Iran as well - "you're looking at people seeing new possibilities", The Times Online reports.

Whereas, Tehran drew a different lesson from Hezbollah's defeat, according to Lawrence Korb, who was a foreign policy adviser to Obama during his election campaign.

"The mullahs were afraid that if they went 2-0 down, the United States and Europe would have taken a tougher line with them on the nuclear issue," he said.

Korb argued that the regime had rigged the vote in response to Obama's success in reaching out to Muslims on a visit to the Middle East this month.

In a speech in Cairo, Obama signalled that while he supported human rights, he was willing to deal with autocrats.

Richard Perle, a neo-conservative and former Pentagon adviser, said Obama must share the blame for Ahmadinejad's power grab.

If negotiations on the nuclear issue fail, there is no appetite on Obama's part for military action against Iran.

American military chiefs remain adamantly opposed to taking on Iran while Iraq faces growing turmoil and US troops are surging into Afghanistan. (ANI)

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