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Diminishing Ahmadinejad

Remember that entertaining confrontation last May between Joe Klein and John McCain over who truly dictates Iranian foreign policy? McCain insisted it was Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but Klein noted (persuasively) that the really important shots--including those related to grand strategy and the country's nuclear program--are called by Iran's Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Speaking at today's White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs strongly indicated that the Obama administration sides with Klein on this one:

Q    Back to Iran, the President of Iran, President Ahmadinejad's speech yesterday calling for profound changes in U.S. policy, an end to support of murdering Zionists, and an apology for U.S. crimes.
MR. GIBBS:  I think it's best to instead focus not on what the leader of -- one of the leaders of Iran might have said, but instead what the President believes:  that we must use all elements of our national power to protect our interest as it relates to Iran.  That includes -- as the President talked about in the campaign -- diplomacy where possible, and that we have many issues to work through.  An illicit nuclear program by the Iranians, the sponsorship of terrorism, and the threatening of peace in Israel are just a few of the issues that this President believes the Iranian leadership should address.
Q    The dialogue you speak of, can the President have a dialogue with someone who speaks in those terms?
MR. GIBBS:  Well, as the President said back in the campaign, it's unclear who -- exactly who that dialogue would be with in Iran. [emphasis added]

Take that, shorty!

--Michael Crowley