From the outset of the crisis over Iran's presidential elections the sympathies of the West, and the US in particular, were with the reformist camp not so much because of any great love for the opposition candidates Mir-Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi, but due to a burning desire to see the end of President Ahmadinejad. President Obama may have stated that there was no fundamental difference between the candidates and that the US would deal with Iran as a hostile regime regardless of who emerged the victor but the media showed no such restraint. Some went so far as to depict the protests as a mass uprising against the theocratic order established by Ayatollah Khomeini. Seized by the hope that the regime in Tehran was faltering the West lost sight of the fact that the forces of reform and moderation in Iran were too weak to rebel against the conservative religious establishment. The Western media treated the demonstrations as though they were happening in the Ukraine or in a European country, instead of in an eastern state governed by clerics who rest their legitimacy on a notion akin to divine right. They portrayed events in Iran as a "green" revolution, just as Ukraine had had an "orange" one, ignoring the vast differences between the two in terms of the power of the government and the configuration of public opinion. The Western media went on to supply the romantic emblems of this revolution.
President Ahmadinejad and Iran's Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei countered Western attempts to fan the flames with a mix of toughness and flexibility. Khamenei agreed to a partial recount of votes, after which the chairman of the Guardian Council, Ahmed Jannati, declared Ahmadinejad's victory final. Naturally, this pronouncement comes as a disappointment to the opposition candidates and their supporters. Nor will it convince the US and its Western allies that the window for overthrowing the Iranian regime has been closed for the time being and that it will take more than their support of reformist forces to achieve their hoped for end.
One of the grimmer consequences of the West's blind support for the opposition in Iran is the cloud of suspicion that now hovers over reformist forces. Already accusations have been hurled, not least of which is the charge of working with Iran's enemies. Moderates and reformists have been placed in a very weak and defensive position, dampening aspirations for change for some time to come. They are victims of the West's impatience and of its impetuousness, borne of a failure to grasp that popular revolutions, like embryos, have to pass through several phases of development before emerging naturally, fully formed and kicking. One wonders when the West will learn they cannot be brought to life by Caesarean section.