U.S. in dilemma over response to Iran unrest

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Washington, June 18 (ANI): The Obama administration is faced with a twin dilemma vis-a-vis the unrest in Iran - To keep quiet to pursue a nuclear deal with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, or heed calls to respond more supportively to the protesters there -- and risk alienating the Shiite cleric.

According to the Washington Post, President Obama and his advisers have struggled to strike the right tone, carefully calibrating positive messages about the protests in an effort to avoid giving the government in Tehran the excuse to portray the demonstrators as pro-American.

Nevertheless, the Iranian Foreign Ministry yesterday summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents American interests in Tehran, to complain of "interventionist" comments by U.S. officials, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

In an apt summation of the administration's position yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters: "We are obviously waiting to see the outcome of the internal Iranian processes, but our intent is to pursue whatever opportunities might exist in the future with Iran."

The administration's stance is practical -- the real power in Iran rests with Khamenei, not with whoever is president -- but pressure for a shift in policy will mount if the protests continue to grow and begin to threaten the government's hold on power.

His Republican presidential rival Sen. John McCain has criticized Obama for abandoning "fundamental principles" of support for human rights.Khamenei, a former president of Iran who became supreme leader 20 years ago after the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, plays a defining behind-the-scenes role in Iran's complex and often opaque political system. His power derives from his support among the armed forces and the clerical establishment that presides over the nation's quasi-theocracy.

Few experts doubt Khamenei would have approved of manipulating election results to ensure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection or could have the influence to order a new vote, though it is unclear whether recent events have threatened his grip on power internally.

If he remains in control, Khamenei's views would be expected to prevail on any key decisions affecting the future of the Islamic republic, especially on the question of whether to deal with the Obama administration. (ANI)

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