WASHINGTON, June 18 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama is being pressured from several sides to show more forceful support of Iranians protesting the country's elections, officials said.
Republicans and conservatives said the president should express more than concern over protests and violence in Iran after last Friday's elections in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner over his nearest challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, The New York Times reported Thursday.
"Obama's posture has been very equivocal, without a clear message," said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House minority whip. "I would like to see a strong statement from him that has moral clarity."
Senior members of Obama's administration, including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said they would like a stronger note of support for the protesters, even though they support the president's approach, administration officials said.
Other officials counter that, as president, Obama doesn't have the luxury of singling out one issue or cause -- he must look at the situation in total, the Times said.
Obama opened himself to more criticism when he said in an interview with the Times and CNBC that, from a U.S. national security perspective, Ahmadinejad and Mousavi were not that much different.
"Either way," Obama said, the United States is "going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused some problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons."
"For Barack Obama, this was a serious misstep," Steven Clemons, director of the American strategy program at the New America Foundation, told the Times. "It's right for the administration to be cautious, but it's extremely bad for him to narrow the peephole into an area in which we're looking at what's happening just through the lens of the nuclear program."