Barack Obama and his team clearly want to support the Iranian opposition, writes Philip Stephens, and Republicans such as John McCain have hammered the president for not condemning an election viewed as a sham. But for the Financial Times columnist, Obama is striking a shrewd balance between idealism and real-world politics. Obama knows, he writes, that "overt US backing for Mousavi would hand a weapon to Ahmadinejad."
Obama's "carefully calibrated response" has put him at odds with neoconservatives, whose endorsement of "democracy at the point of a gun" has been an abject failure. The best the president can do, as he showed in his Cairo speech, is to establish a relationship based on mutual interests, not saber-rattling. Obama may be playing it safe, Stephens writes, but "the hawks in Washington decrying diplomacy have no credible alternative."