10/17/2005

The Seattle Times: Politics: Bush's barbs on Iran backfire

The Seattle Times: Politics: Bush's barbs on Iran backfire

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's spy chief used just two words to respond to White House ridicule of last week's presidential election: "Thank you."

His sarcasm was barely hidden. The backfire on Washington, D.C., was more evident.

The sharp barbs from President Bush were widely seen in Iran as damaging to pro-reform groups because the comments appeared to have boosted turnout among hard-liners in Friday's election — with the result being that an ultraconservative is in a two-way showdown for the presidency.

"I say to Bush: 'Thank you,' " quipped Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi. "He motivated people to vote in retaliation."

Bush's comments — blasting the ruling clerics for blocking "basic requirements of democracy" — became a lively sideshow in Iran's closest election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. And they highlighted again the United States' often crossed-wire efforts to isolate Iran.

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