How the U.S. President responds to Saturday's outcome will probably depend on what happens on Iran's streets in the coming days. A massive and bloody police crackdown will force Washington to condemn Iran's actions much more forcefully. Barring that, it looks likely that the Obama Administration will steer the course on its attempted thawing of relations with Iran. The reason: as outrageous as he is, Ahmadinejad is a known quantity within the broader and more powerful Iranian leadership that wasn't going to alter no matter the election outcome. Whether rigged or not, Ahmadinejad's re-election does little to change Obama's wider effort to restore dialogue and negotiations between Tehran and Washington.
While Mousavi is more moderate than Ahmadinejad, U.S. officials know the former Prime Minister would have had little room to maneuver in the mullah-controlled regime that dictates what Iranian Presidents can and can't do as Iran's earlier reformist President Mohammed Khatami unhappily discovered. As well, and despite his calls for change in social and economic policy, Mousavi's position on Iran's right to develop a civil nuclear power program (which international authorities believe is helping Tehran build a nuclear bomb) is little different from Ahmadinejad's.