RESULTS TO GET A REVIEW?…. When Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced on Saturday that the presidential election results were final, he declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory a “divine assessment.” Today, Khamenei, apparently aware of the questions surrounding the process, cleared the way for an investigation.

Iran’s supreme leader ordered Monday an investigation into allegations of election fraud, marking a stunning turnaround by the country’s most powerful figure and offering hope to opposition forces who have waged street clashes to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

State television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directing a high-level clerical panel, the Guardian Council, to look into charges by pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has said he is the rightful winner of Friday’s presidential election.

The decision comes after Mousavi wrote a letter appealing to the Guardian Council and met Sunday with Khamenei, who holds almost limitless power over Iranian affairs. Such an election probe by the 12-member council is uncharted territory and it not immediately clear how it would proceed or how long it would take.

The credibility and integrity of such a probe remains unclear. If you’re thinking the investigation is just a move to pacify protestors, giving the appearance of genuine concern when the predetermined outcome is already clear, you’re certainly not alone.

Nevertheless, Khamenei’s message about the matter being “followed through legal channels” has been repeated every 15 minutes on state radio.

Also in overnight news out of Iran, clashes between police and protestors have become increasingly brutal, and there were destructive raids at the dormitories of Tehran University. It’s unclear whether Mir Hussein Moussavi is under house arrest, but both he and reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, another presidential candidate, have demanded a new election.

The NYT‘s Bill Keller and Michael Slackman, meanwhile, have an interesting piece, with a counter-intuitive point. While the controversy and ensuing protests would seem to weaken the legitimacy of Iran’s ruling regime, Keller and Slackman argue that Ahmadinejad, at a minimum, has reinforced his ties to Khamenei, and the margin of the official results will be characterized as a “mandate” in the coming years for Ahmadinejad’s agenda.

And speaking of running against the grain, while there’s no shortage of concerns about alleged fraud in Iran’s election, there are some credible voices arguing otherwise. The New America Foundation’s Flynt Leverett made the case yesterday that there’s been excessive “wishful thinking” from the West, while Ken Ballen, president of Terror Free Tomorrow, and Patrick Doherty of the New America Foundation, have a Washington Post op-ed this morning arguing that the official results “may reflect the will of the Iranian people.”

Update: Jon Cohen offers a compelling rebuttal to the Ballen/Doherty piece.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.