Robert GibbsA major controversy erupted yesterday when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Ahmadinejad is Iran’s “elected leader.” NIAC has been told by a White House official that Gibbs was not recognizing Ahmadinejad as the winner of the most recent election, but was referring to the previous election.
For an administration that has taken pains not to take sides in Iran’s election dispute, this obviously wasn’t one of Gibbs’ best moments. The statement was quickly picked up by Iran’s state media.
In the absence of confirmation by other White House officials, this should be interpreted as a poorly constructed statement — not administration policy. The administration has been walking a tightrope, condemning the human rights abuses in Iran while allowing Iranians to sort out their own election dispute.
President Obama himself has been the main driver behind the American approach to Iran, and he will have the final word.
Update: Gibbs Clarifies Statement
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Gibbs walked back his statement about Ahmadinejad:
“Let me correct a little bit of what I said yesterday. I denoted that Mr. Ahmadinejad was the elected leader of Iran. I would say that’s not for me to pass judgment on,” Gibbs said.
“He’s been inaugurated. That’s a fact. Whether any election was fair, obviously the Iranian people still have questions about that, and we’ll let them decide about that.”

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