He has made an effort to reach out to Iran. But charges of vote fraud and a crackdown on protesters there this weekend make it harder for the president to maintain that course.
Iran's presidential election, widely suspected of being rife with fraud, presents President Obama and the West with both challenges and opportunities in their efforts to engage and moderate America's longtime enemy.
Senior Obama administration officials have been conspicuously cautious in their criticism of the election results, suggesting that, for the time being, the US remains committed to reaching out to Iran, no matter who is president. But the past few days could complicate matters.
The US will not want to look too eager to essentially endorse a regime that might have significantly tampered with votes, and then sent riot squads onto the streets to cow the protesters who dared question the results. Opposition leaders have been arrested and the opposition's newspaper shuttered – events that reelected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad deemed "not important."
Administration officials registered their concern about the legitimacy of the tally. Noting the way that the regime has suppressed free speech after the results were announced, Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press that there was "some real doubt."
But he spoke in measured words. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did the same Saturday, saying: "The United States has refrained from commenting on the election in Iran. We obviously hope that the outcome reflects the genuine will and desire of the Iranian people."