Memo to the Iranians

Dudes, if you’re going to steal an election, you gotta at least make it within the realm of possibility. Hell, Bush won Florida by, what, 700 votes in 2000? Now that’s a believable margin of victory. Giving your incumbent a lead of more than 30 points at a time when there’s massive inflation, unemployment and social unrest just ain’t credible. And especially don’t make it out that the opposition lost even in areas where he was considered the strong front runner. It’s like having John Kerry lose Massachusetts — no one’s buying it.

Check out this video I found via Twitter of the scene in Tehran the day after the election:

As you can see, that’s a buttload of people marching in the streets and chanting Mousavi’s name. That doesn’t look like a group of people who just suffered a crushing electoral defeat. They know they was robbed.

At any rate, I’ve been following this “election” pretty carefully because I thought it would be nice to get rid of the neocons’ prime bogeyman. Engaging Iran is a lot easier if its nominal figurehead isn’t running around denying the Holocaust and proclaiming that his country contains precisely zero homosexuals. And it’s especially easier to engage Iran when their nominal figurehead didn’t win his election through an absurd level of fraud.

Where does the B. Hussein Obamee administration go from here? Where should they go? Idears, people?


Massive protests over Iranian election

Riot police charged on protesters Saturday in Tehran as the Iranian government declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected president, sources said.

Both Ahmandinejad and his rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, declared victory with Mousavi urging his supporters to stand firm in the face of a “dangerous charade,” The New York Times reported Saturday.

“I am the absolute winner of the election by a very large margin,” Mousavi said late Friday night.

Police with riot batons charged thousands of Mousavi supporters gathered in central Tehran Saturday, but it was unclear if there were serious injuries.

Again, you don’t normally get these sorts of protests when people lose an election by more than 30 points.

UPDATE II: Juan Cole agrees. This shit was stolden.


Comments: 40


Moar Woar Plz

Xecklothxayyquou Gilchrist

At any rate, I’ve been following this “election” pretty carefully because I thought it would be nice to get rid of the neocons’ prime bogeyman.

Unfortunately, that means you’ve been rooting for his opponent, who is still an Iranian. Therefore you are an America-hating liberal – I say, more in sorrow than anger, but reaching for the stout hickory axe handle nonetheless.


Moar Woar Plz

Besides that.


I too was hoping that a moderate, that is, sane, person might take over the presidency. Everything I’ve read about Iran lately says that Ahmadinejad has been their George Bush, a miserable failure, and they’re fed up. I have no ideas as to what the administration should do. Not much, really.

Wait a minute. How about a new Shah? The last one worked out OK, didn’t it?


The people of Iran should depose Ahmadinejad, then take the Tongan embassy hostage.


There do seem to be some reported evidence of vote-stealing in the Iranian elections, yet it is also possible that reporting that the candidates were close matched could have been sloppy or wrong.

Likewise, how many people realize that in the Lebanese elections just concluded, Hizbullah and their coalition won a very strong majority (about 55%) of the vote, but that this did not affect their parliamentary seating due to the post-civil-war system of delegating seats to different recognized sectarian groups?

You know, everyone reported on how there was a clear loss for Hizbullah, and how it was maybe the Obama effect, and yet they really won but not so strongly that it over-rode the 1989 agreements and instead the election was about the reshuffling of seats within the recognized sectarian directed seats?


In these presidential elections, Iranians have a ‘candidate of change’ (yes, literally the same slogan) in the person of Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Now, this is very interesting, since Mir-Hossein Mousavi, currently a member of the ‘reformist’ camp, was the prime minister (when the post existed) from 1981 to 1989. Back then he was a member of the ‘left wing’ due to his advocacy for a state-run economy. Nowadays, he has changed indeed and supports all manner of privatization (as do all ‘reformers’).

Mousavi’s premiership coincided with the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), during which his economic management carried the country through very rough times. Among other innovations, he introduced the coupon system that made sure everybody received the minimum ration of needed nutrients during those hard times.

He was also deeply involved in the arms-for-hostages deals with the Reagan administrations in the1980s, and was close to Manuchehr Ghorbanifar, one of the central figures in the arms-for-hostages deals.

Mousavi’s premiership also coincided with the bloodiest period of post-revolutionary internal violence against the people in Iran. Not only was the country engulfed in a World War I-type of high-fatality military conflict for eight years (which required active-to-the-point-of-forceful recruiting of people to send to the fronts), the new regime was also going through its consolidation; a period that has historically included eradication of internal opponents. During this period, thousands of dissidents were jailed, tortured and executed in summary executions after phony ‘trials’.

The Spectacle of the Iranian Elections


More importantly how many people realize that Hezbollah only makes up less than a third of the opposition coalition. So all this talk about the ‘Hezbollah coalition’ taking over the country was overblown anyway.


Erik — never said the guy’s a saint. He wouldn’t be allowed to run for the presidency if he weren’t deeply embedded into Iran’s aristocracy.

But I look at things are the margins — dealing with Mousavi would be better than dealing with Ahmadinejad. Obama’s policy of engaging Iran would have benefited if Ahmadinejad went down.


Anthony: True. The ever diligent Helena Cobban (via MondeDiplo):

“The prime contest in the election was not, as many western analysts wrote, between Hizbullah and its opponents. Because of Lebanon’s blatantly gerrymandered and discriminatory political system, the Shiite Muslim community that is the largest single religious community in Lebanon, representing around 40% of the population, has only a tiny number of members in the confessionally constituted parliament. Hizbullah could only ever expect to keep the 11 seats in the 128-seat body that it had before yesterday; and it has done that.”

“The main contest, then, was inside the grossly over-represented Christian community. Here, Hizbullah’s allies in the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) apparently lost in a major way to supporters of March 14 who are also members of extremely well-entrenched political ‘families’ and ardent supporters of the present system of Christian political privilege.”

Cobban also reacquaints us with the disgusting Israel psycho-hawks Elliot Abrams and the sleaze-ball Daniel Pipes, who of course support Ahmadinejad, since having the right wing loud-mouth pin-head is both worse for Iran’s economy and better for psycho-hawks to use to justify any insanity in support of their crazy ‘pro’ (anti) Israel policies:

Elliot Abrahms in the New York Times:

“a victory by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s main challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, is more likely to change Western policy toward Iran than to change Iran’s own conduct. If the delusion that a new president would surely mean new opportunities to negotiate away Iran’s nuclear program strikes Western leaders, solidarity might give way to pre-emptive concessions.”

Daniel Pipes:

“I’m sometimes asked who I would vote for if I were enfranchised in this election, and I think that, with due hesitance, I would vote for Ahmadinejad….” {The reason, Pipes went on, is that he would} “prefer to have an enemy who’s forthright and obvious, who wakes people up with his outlandish statements.”

Just hours ago, Pipes went further on his own blog:

When Mohammed Khatami was president, his sweet words lulled many people into complacency, even as the nuclear weapons program developed on his watch. If the patterns remain unchanged, better to have a bellicose, apocalyptic, in-your-face Ahmadinejad who scares the world than a sweet-talking Mousavi who again lulls it to sleep, even as thousands of centrifuges whir away.

And so, despite myself, I am rooting for Ahmadinejad.


Brad, not to rain on your favorite Tehran parade, but most of the country is still rural, and in those districts A. is strongly supported. The official results are entirely believable, whether we like it or not.


El Cid, indeed. The Lebanese elections are without a doubt “stolen”, by the very system under which they are conducted.


If Ahmadinejad was so sure of carrying his overwhelming rural majority, I don’t think he’d have imposed repressive measures on communications and associations, and surely the Iranian urban population is aware of A’s rural base. If the result is “entirely believable” to an outsider, why are so many Iranians acting as if it isn’t? Boredom? Ennui? Outside agitation? Childish petulance? Contrariness? Teh ghey?


They didn’t read the fine print – yesterday there was a special 2 for 1 deal on Ahmadinejad votes.


Clem — I think the argument is that Western media got suckered into thinking Mousavi had a chance because they spent most of their time in Tehran and didn’t go to The Heartland, where Iranian Gary Rupperts knew that the fact was Ahmadinejad would win.

This is entirely plausible but I still think it’s unlikely that Mousavi would have lost by this much given the awful state of the economy.


Clem, please. I didn’t say the result was completely predictable, I said it’s believable. People don’t want to believe their guy lost, how does this prove again they are right? It doesn’t. I am not happy A. won, but it seems he did. Maybe Mousavi’s economic liberalism (<– European usage) and ties to the kleptocratic wing of the regime didn’t help his popularity with the poor (who are the vast majority of Iranians).

It is generally a problem of the way Western media report on places both far away and near that they rely far too much on the small segment of the population that are most like them – educated professionals who speak English, mostly – and mistake them for “the people”. This is how they can believe that a coup in the Philippines was the result of “people power”, or that most Americans love NAFTA, or that Hugo Chavez is deeply unpopular. Or that the Iranian elections ought to be much closer than they really are.


christian h. — true dat. Though you have to admit, a world where the latte-sipping “let’s sit down and talk” types won elections more often than not would be a better world.


Actually, I just saw this comment from Anbinder’s blog that’s pretty much right on:

Conservative incumbent stokes paranoia, inflames populist national pride with incendiary rhetoric, lambastes opponent as “unpatriotic”. And wins reelection. Oh dear, Iran. Couldn’t you find a better example than America 2004? Iranian opposition now looking for young, charismatic “anti-fear” candidate for 2014, middle name preference, “Bush”.–what_does_it_mean.php


Brad, the awful state of the economy alone isn’t as important as the effect this had on different segments of the population. According to the BBC, A. “bribed” the poor to vote for him with welfare programs. (Have you ever heard a journalist say that someone “bribed” the rich to vote for them with tax cuts?). I don’t know myself whether the poor actually did profit from this in large numbers, but it’s a bit dangerous anyway to simply look at headline numbers (like GDP or inflation) and draw broad conclusions from that. I wouldn’t agree, for example, that there was an amazing economic boom in the US during most of the Bush presidency, but if you only look at these few indicators, you could have come to that conclusion.


This is entirely plausible but I still think it’s unlikely that Mousavi would have lost by this much given the awful state of the economy.

My knowledge here, and so far as I can see any available reliable information, is extremely limited. I think it’s plausible that Mousavi won and the election was stolen and it’s plausible that instead the electoral outlook was based on unreliable and elite-friendly data.

Part of why I keep the plausibility of a misread election in mind is based on events like several recent Venezuelan elections. Among segments of the comparative and actual elites, it was held as absolutely established that the population had had enough of Hugo Chavez and his ways, while a variety of polls competed for belief. And yet the results came in as reliable, measurable, strong wins for Chavez (except for one), yet each time this was denounced as impossible and contrary to all expectations by the tiny sliver of the population currently comprising the opposition.

(An opposition which, like the Republicans here, could really have been doing far, far better, and maybe even have won, had they not been a tribe of self-centered, no policy assholes entirely content to consort among no one but their better off base.)


“Clem, please?” Take your pipe out of your ass.


Cid — yeah I thought of that. At the same time, though, I always understood that Chavez was pretty well revered by the country’s poor. With Ahmadinejad, there seemed to be much more popular discontent.


stout hickory axe handle

Veiled PENIS reference!


By the way, we maybe will have a perfect contrast here with the establishmentarian U.S. media reaction to Mousavi’s refusal to stop claiming victory and the much more peaceful and organizing-focused claims of the man who I think actually did win the Mexican Presidential elections, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

AMLO didn’t stop, either. Whether it’s done much or not, he turned his post-electoral protests into a series of nation-wide organizing campaigns based on his asserting the Presidency of the “Legitimate Government” of Mexico but without actual state-threatening claiming of an exile government. He has used his post-election position to go around the country to try to highlight grassroots concerns while still trying to play his political cards against his rivals in his own party.

With AMLO it was ‘SHUT UP LOOSER HA HA!’ even when he was going to court to challenge ballot counting activities.

Let’s see how the elite U.S. media commentariat react to Mousavi’s refusal to cede to this opponent.


Cid — yeah I thought of that. At the same time, though, I always understood that Chavez was pretty well revered by the country’s poor. With Ahmadinejad, there seemed to be much more popular discontent.

It’s not a perfect parallel, I was mainly focusing on the example of an elite-sustained bubble which collapsed upon results.


Anyone here read “The Ayatollah Begs to Differ” by Hooman Majd? As a farsi-speaking Iranian (with a US passport) he dug into the various social classes and their political leanings in a really enlightening way; all those neocon idiots should be forced to read that book and then perhaps they’d see that how they’ve responded to Iran has done more to KEEP Ahmadninawhatever popular and in power than he could have ever achieved on his own.

Yes, he is loved by the rural poor (hence his sartorial choices) and yes, the elites are positive he has no real support and everyone wants him gone. The majority of Iranians are too young to have seen pre-revolutionary Iran, and are quite proficient with the intertubes; these 2 points are rapidly growing in political importance, and while Mr A may or may not have won this election, the younger population is ready to leave his world behind. They don’t want any help from our neocon crazies in the process though; an attack on Iran will bring to fore the extremely strong nationalist and patriotic pride of a people who are much stronger about that stuff than we are, so Pipes and Krystal’s fantasies will just return the situation to Death to America days. Again.

I Cried My Heart Out For Want Of My Love

It doesn’t make any damn difference. The President, whoever he is, is not in charge of the country, the Ayatollahs are.


…all those neocon idiots should be forced to read that book and then perhaps they’d see that how they’ve responded to Iran has done more to KEEP Ahmadninawhatever popular and in power than he could have ever achieved on his own.

I think if you’ll re-read the quotes from Elliot Abrams and Daniel ‘Crack’ Pipes above, they know this and they like this. They want Ahmadinejad in power.

I never thought for one moment that the Bush Jr. regime didn’t know exactly what it was doing when if flew the big middle fingers to Khamenei.

Which is not to forget the above points, that the President is not the determiner of policy in Iran.


Come on now. Would these people support a candidate who was anything but on the up-and-up?


It doesn’t make any damn difference. The President, whoever he is, is not in charge of the country, the Ayatollahs are.

Yes, but symbols do matter.

If Mousavi had won the election, Obama would have gotten a boost in his efforts to engage with Iran. Now I’m not sure he’ll be able to do so — after all, the administration was unable to combat domestic disapproval of its Gitmo plans — what makes you think they’ll have anymore success with Mahmoud back in power?


what makes you think they’ll have anymore success with Mahmoud back in power?

I have to suspect that the objective realities will (in the medium-to-long run) be more important than the short-term election. The U.S. is still a global power, but tends to overestimate its global influence; Iran is a regional power, and quite likely to overestimate its regional influence once (if) the U.S. finally gives up on its impossible dreams on either side of — not to mention within — Iran. And so the merry dance goes on.

Meanwhile, the oppressed have their role to play. It’s a non-speaking part, but vital.


wait –

I thought Iran was a Islamofascist dictatorship where disagreeing with the Glorious Leader in the slightest brought swift death!

And now you tell me there’s protests there? Huh.

It’s like the Muslophobe wingnuts were lying to me


You guys are way ahead of schedule. This was their Bush v. Kerry election, where everybody with half a brain knows the incumbent sucks, and in the cities they think the challenger has a chance to win but the “rural”, “low information” voters push the incompetent incumbent over the edge by a surprising margin.


This shit was stolden.

As an English teacher, I need to point out that the correct form here would be, “This shit was done stoled.”


Unfortunately, Cole’s extreme enmity towards the Islamic revolution (justified or not) deeply colors his views on Iran (and, for that matter, Lebanon). The election may have been manipulated, or it may not have been. I have not seen much evidence so far that it has been aside from “everyone I/my friends in Tehran/that guy on the internets know has voted against A.”, a standard that would – if applied by me – see Ralph Nader become president in 2000.

Cole’s evidence is equally flimsy. As in, he doesn’t present any. How does he know A. isn’t popular in poor neighborhoods of Tehran? How does he know Azeris would prefer Mousawhi?

Critical Montages has results of a (Western) poll some time before the elections that are instructive, including on the issue of votes by Azeris and other ethnic minorities.


I don’t really believe in stolen elections anymore, or don’t really think it matters. When a good proportion of the electorate prefers to be manipulated, in fact, begs to be, it’s no longer a matter of elections but an issue of widespread failure of democracy. Slapping on another layer of regulations or technology to try and fix electoral processes won’t help, when democracy is no longer understood, nor appreciated.


It is beginning to look like the whole thing was rigged in advance, with heavy protest barricades ready to go, communications cut off, and Khamenei declaring a winner before being given the certified results, as required by law

The President of the Committee of Election Monitoring: The Election is Invalid

Hojjat-ol-Eslam Yali Akbar Mohteshami Pour officially requested that the Guardian Council to cancel this election and schedule a new election balanced and moderated democratically with the widespread and national presence of the people.

Also see: for video and updates


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Bork Bork Bork!


No-one seems to have linked this yet: Juan Cole refutes the North Tehran fallacy. Simply put, Ahmadinejad allegedly won consistently well everywhere, including the big cities, and including big cities in Moussavi’s heartland. This is not plausible.


As an English teacher, I need to point out that the correct form here would be, “This shit was done stoled.”

I think “This shit done been stoled” would also be acceptable.


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