U.S. Condolences Mark Support for Iran Dissidents
Wall Street Journal / Jay Solomon

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration publicly mourned the passing of Iran's Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, in an unusual move U.S. officials said was designed to align the White House with Iran's democratic movement.

But U.S. officials also stressed Sunday that Mr. Montazeri's death and the continuing political protests inside Iran are unlikely to significantly alter President Barack Obama's overall strategy of seeking to engage Tehran in the near term.

Few inside the U.S. administration see any imminent threat to the Iranian regime's hold on power, forcing Washington to remain open to negotiations with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government over Tehran's nuclear program.

Many U.S. diplomats and strategists also continue to believe that any aggressive and overt American support for Iran's democrats at this stage could hasten a broader political crackdown by Tehran's security forces.

"It's unlikely that anything in the short term of any significance is going to change toward Iran," a senior U.S. official briefed on Iran policy said Sunday. "With Montazeri's voice gone, what happens to the movement? That remains to be seen."

The more moderate Mr. Montazeri emerged in recent months as an unlikely channel of messages from Iran's opposition parties, known as the Green Movement, to the White House, U.S. officials and Iranian opposition leaders said.

Mr. Montazeri, one of the leading clerical... >>>

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