The Current Discussion: Are we witnessing a pro-regime coup in Iran? What should the world do in response? How will the election aftermath affect Iran's projection of power into the Middle East?
The best and only serious way to help the protesters is for the United States and Europe to refuse to recognize a new Ahmadinejad-led government in Iran. Read Bret Stephen's column on his interview with Mohsen Kadivar, a prominent Shiite cleric in exile. Kadivar was a university colleague of the opposition candidate Hossein Mousavi. With Mousavi's help, Kadivar was released after 18 months in prison in 1999.
"There are two interpretations of Islam. The aggressive Islam of Ahmadinejad, or the mercy Islam of Mousavi," Kadivar says. Stephens writes that, "Mr. Kadivar praises President Obama's 'no meddling' stance so far, but insists the president not recognize Mr. Ahmadinejad's government once its second term officially begins in August."
Obama should start saying now that the U.S. will not recognize a government that has stolen an election with brute force. This is the approach that was successfully taken by the West in the case of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004. While it is true that the U.S. does not consistently refuse to recognize dictatorships, the question is which precedent to follow: the many cases where the democracies have sided with popular opposition to illegitimate governments (Ukraine, South Africa, Philippines, Nicaragua, etc), or the other times when they have turned a blind eye toward oppressive rulers.