White House Consciously Shifts Language On Iran

Robert Gibbs, in a gaggle with reporters aboard Air Force One, said he wanted to "correct a little bit of what I said yesterday. I denoted that Mr. Ahmadinejad was the elected leader of Iran. I would say it's not for me to pass judgment on. He's been inaugurated, that's a fact. Whether any election was fair, obviously the Iranian people still have questions about that and we'll let them decide that. But I would simply say he's been inaugurated and we know that is simply a fact."

So does the US recognize Ahmaninejad as Iran's leader?

"It's not for -- it's not for me or for us to denote his legitimacy, except to acknowledge the fact."

Was the election fair?

"That's not for us to pass judgment on. I think that's for the Iranian people to decide, and obviously there are many that still have a lot of questions."

So far as climbdowns go, this is major in one sense and minor in the other. The American government recognized the legitimacy of the former Iranian government -- the one elected before the recent disputed election, which explains why, throughout the election, the White House recognized the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad and called him "President."  We'll know more when/if Ahmadinejad travels to the United Nations later this year. If the USSS gives him a protection detail, they'll be operating under their authority to protect foreign heads of state. If the Depatment of State provides the detail, one would assume that our level of formal recognition is somewhat less.