On the eve of Friday’s election in Iran, President Barack Obama told reporters: “We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran. Whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact there has been a robust debate hopefully will advance our ability to engage them in new ways.” But almost immediately after the polls closed, election authorities miraculously claimed to have counted millions of paper ballots and named the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner.

Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, then went on state television Saturday to declare the result a “divine assessment.” Responding to reports that Iranian security forces were keeping main rival Mir Hossain Mousavi in his home, Mr. Ahmadinejad dryly responded: “He ran a red light, and he got a traffic ticket.”

The only real surprise from the weekend’s results was how blatant Iranian authorities acted to preserve the current administration. It was naive to ever pretend that Iran, a theocratic dictatorship, was ever a true democracy. In reality, the ayatollahs hand-picked the four contending candidates from a pool of 475 who initially sought to run for the presidency. The senior clerics on the Guardian Council, which vets the candidates, severely narrowed the choices to less than 1 percent of the original field of challengers. The four who were permitted to run for the presidency share a deep commitment to the extremist Islamist ideology that sparked Iran’s 1979 revolution.

The election results demonstrate again that it is the decisions of Iran’s Supreme Leader, not Iranian voters, which count in determining Tehran’s foreign policy … a foreign policy bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Instead of blindly engaging the Iranian regime, the Obama administration must drive home the point that an Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable. Obama should:

  • Denounce the elections and indicate U.S. support for the demonstrators.
  • Call on other nations to support demonstrators and lead an international coalition to impose the strongest possible targeted economic sanctions against Iran.
  • Strengthen U.S. security in the region and at home by rescinding his budget cuts and fully funding missile defense.

President Obama has shown little interest in continuing President George Bush’s push for democracy in the Middle East. Now we will find out if President Obama will side with demonstrators who are putting their lives on the line for real change in the region, or if he will continue to denigrate the democracy agenda.

Quick Hits:

  • Wharton School professor of healthcare management Scott Harrington explains that “equal competition” between a public plan and private health plans would be impossible, because a public plan would inexorably crowd out private plans, leading to a single-payer system.
  • Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Didden v. Village of Port Chester property rights decision will be a focus of her confirmation hearings.
  • Public officials across the country are voicing concerns about the merit of some stimulus projects.
  • Canadian and American business leaders joined forces Thursday to warn of the growing threat to prosperity in both countries due to the so-called Buy American provisions in President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.
  • The Obama administration’s defense spending focus is unprepared for future security threats.