The first round of Iranian presidential elections today, with a second round to follow in a week if the first round doesn't present a winner with more than 50 percent of the votes, basically doesn't matter to Americans, nor even much to Iranians.
First of all, the supreme leader of the religious ayatollahs who run the show in Iran, Ali Khamenei, through the Guardian Council, which vets all presidential candidates, eliminated most of the possibles in advance, including all the women candidates and an ex-president. Eight were left. Then two more dropped out. Now Iranian voters will see six candidates on the ballot. There is little more than a dime's worth of policy difference among them.
The Iranian electorate also has the fresh memory of the fate of the Green Movement that followed the 2009 presidential elections. Those who contested its results -- the re-election of the absurd Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- were beaten into insensibility by the ayatollahs' thugs, Iran's security forces.
In the face of this, it appears that the main concern of the Iranian government now is that a respectable turnout of voters occurs. They would apparently settle for 50 percent and, no doubt, if they don't get that, will doctor the figures appropriately. From the point of view of the United States, given that Mr. Khamenei will still be running the show no matter who becomes president, and that all of the six candidates have been saying the same thing about America's stated first goal in Iran, stifling its nuclear program, the elections don't matter either.
However, instead of letting them take their course, the administration of President Barack Obama has continued during the run-up to the elections to pile on new economic sanctions, further damaging the already struggling Iranian economy. The failure to establish decent relations with Iran, which would permit rational discussion of the nuclear and other issues, joins the absence of Middle East peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the continuing disastrous conflict in Syria, now spreading to Lebanon, as part of Mr. Obama's losing foreign policy season.