Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hopefully a wrap up of my thoughts on Iran's election


I say hopeful because, if there are further events to discuss, they will not be good for Iran.

I want to be clear up front that I am in favor of change in Iran and think there are policies of Iran's government that are wrong both morally in respect to its citizens and also in practical terms as in they prevent Iran from being as powerful as I'd like it to be.

I am not a regime supporter on the basis of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

But it seems plausible to me that Ahmadinejad won. The reports of the three million votes came with the explanation that they were the result of people voting away from their home district, which seems plausible in a very-high turnout election. I think it is possible that Ahmadinejad won the debates, despite the effect they had of turning those who oppose Ahmadinejad further against him, and Rafsanjani's letter against him may have made the aftermath of the debates more favorable to him still.

So there are protesters against Ahmadinejad and in favor of Mousavi. Walter Mondale lost a landslide election to Ronald Reagan in the United States in 1984. There was a large number of people who supported Mondale, enough to cripple the country if they organized together to do so. That did not mean they were the majority. I do not believe Mousavi supporters or protesters are the majority of the country.

The reports of Mousavi's claims of irregularities seem unconvincing to me. In his public complaint to the Guardian Council he did not claim that none of the votes were counted or that all local-based counting was suspended and even if he doesn't trust the Guardian Council, that was a place to give his best explanation of what exactly he believes went wrong with the election, why he does not trust it.

I feel that Mousavi is acting very irresponsibly, and that Mondale, in similar circumstances could have acted the same and gotten his supporters, especially his core supporters worked up enough that they would risk their lives, essentially for nothing, but Mondale could claim it is for fundamental change in the government or society or something.

If Mondale did that, I would wonder if he had some organized outside backing, but in Mousavi's case it could well be that his only backing is Rafsanjani and that faction, or it could well be that it is Mousavi's own ego driving this. Or it is possible, I don't claim and don't necessarily believe that it is driven by the US or Western influences. But there are signs that Mousavi's tactics are similar to tactics of previous US-sponsored revolutions. But that could be coincidence. I don't think there is necessarily the connection.

But by design or accident, Mousavi's actions from the day of the vote until today have been exactly what the US would have ordered to get the most possible destabilization of Iran out of the election. There is nothing a party interested in harming Iran could have asked Mousavi to do that Mousavi has not done. There are many things Mousavi could have done, if he was primarily motivated by a genuine concern that there had been electoral fraud that he has not done. In my opinion, Mousavi has joined the Shah and Sadat as great betrayers of the interests of their people. Hopefully, unlike the Shah and Sadat, the damage Mousavi does will be contained.

I thought Mondale's supporters were right, and Reagan was a bad guy. I think Mousavi's supporters have a lot of valid criticisms of Iran's government.

I think Iran's government takes enough input a wide enough swathe of Iranian society that it is capable of change internally, and I do not see indications that Mousavi is more committed to the democratic process than Khomeini was. Khomeini could have transformed Iran into a hereditary dictatorship with no restraints from an elected Assembly of Experts and no input from Iran's people and did not because he felt it would have been religiously wrong to do so. I don't know that I would have trusted Khomeini to do that, but I don't trust Mousavi to do that. I see a Musharraf or Mubarak scenario, of ad-hoc usurpations of power and indefinite suspensions of any limitations on his office as more probable than voluntarily imposing limits on himself under Mousavi if he ever attains power.

To Mondale and Mousavi supporters I say, the vote indicates that you really do not have the popular support to win an election, much less complete a revolution.

Does Iran have a consensus behind a "go west" strategy as opposed to a "go east" strategy? No. If it did, Iran would go west. There is also no national consensus around relaxing religious restrictions, which I think is wrong but Iranians have to be convinced, and I'm sure the pro-Mousavi protests are not the way to convince them.

There is a consensus around reducing corruption, but Ahmadinejad and Mousavi both say they support that. Iran could easily believe Ahmadinejad, the one who carries his lunch from home to work and who very bravely named Rafsanjani by name, saying what a lot of people already knew but wouldn't say in public, is the best candidate to fight corruption.

By my understanding a major motivation behind Rafsanjani's support for a go west strategy is that he would benefit from it personally.

So those are my views on Iran's election and the situation today. I don't see a point in further protests. I expect a general strike to fizzle out, if it is really launched. I mourn all of the deaths. I wish they had not happened and consider them naive sacrifices to either Mousavi's ego or the forces behind Mousavi that I do not consider good, if they are the Western conspiracies or Rafsanjani.

6 comments:

Ziad said...

Arnold,

The key difference between Mondale and Musavi is that Musavis's supporters are totally convinced, rightly or wrongly, that he truly won. No supporter of Mondale believed that. If they did, possibly they would have protested.

At this point, it is no longer about who truly won. It is about basic rights. Iranians should be allowed to protest ***EVEN IF THEY ARE WRONG*** as long as the protests are peaceful. And if they are not, the government must distinguish between vandals and legitimate protesters.

Iran's government now must move to gain legitimacy for itself, before the world and, much more importantly amongst its disgruntled populace.

The only way I can see them doing that is through new elections, this time with highly extensive neutral monitoring. That would advance Iran's interests no matter who won.

Steve said...

While it is plausible the Ahmadinejad won, it is also plausible that he lost. If the democratic structures are so screwed up in a country that there is such serous doubt of WIDESPREAD vote and voter problems there can be no confidence in the democracy in that country.

You don't mention the widespread reports of "mobile voting" with zero supervision, not don't mention that opposition candidates voting observers were not permitted in polling places throughout the country, you don't mention the unlikelihood of Ahmadinejad winning every single precincts with nearly identical percentages regardless of the demographic or idea ideological make up and you don't mention the millions of extra unaccounted for ballots stuffing the ballot boxes.

You write: "The reports of Mousavi's claims of irregularities seem unconvincing to me"

Well congratulations, you are the only one still holding that opinion who can speak freely. Middle East Reality? Get real.

Your Mondale analogy makes no sense to me at all. It is not just that the Mousavi supporters don't like Ahmadinejad or think he is corrupt. What is happening is that the Iranians are pissed off because they live in a dictatorship plain and simple. If the populace has no confidence in the democratic process then they live in a dictatorship. The illusion of democracy is gone from the Iranian people. If Ahmadinejad had won fair and square, if there were election observers, if it took more than two hours to actually count these ballots from around the whole country (or if the ballots were actually counted at all) and there weren't reports of MILLIONS of extra ballots and the supports of Mousavi lost, there would be only minor rallies and things would die down. In this case the protesters would not be on the high moral ground that they are on now.

Arnold Evans said...

Ziad:
I agree that Iranians should have a right to protest. That really has to be balanced though by the understanding that the right to protest has been used by US agencies as a catalyst for pro-US regime change in several countries. And it was used against Iran in 1953. A way has to be found that balances the right to be heard with the right to thwart foreign destabilization programs.

Until there are indications beyond rumors and dashed expectations of a Mousavi victory, I can't see how the regime could justify holding a revote.

A losing candidate can work his supporters up into an atmosphere of distrust and anger anywhere in the world. That cannot be the standard for a revote. Mondale easily could have done the same, but he'd likely be imprisoned for it if it.

There really is no tangible evidence of a fraud, and there could be if there was a fraud, there is a major, resourceful opposing power faction to the group that supposedly orchestrated this fraud.

Arnold Evans said...

Steve:
Serious doubt does not have to come from facts. In this case, there is an atmosphere of rumors but there are no tangible indications of fraud.

Unless real evidence emerges of massive vote-changing - and none has arisen over two weeks - Mousavi's supporters are probably a vocal minority of Iranian society. Supporters of the side that loses being angry and disillusioned is part of democracy.

Iran's vetting system is problem for me, but I'm not sure how the issue of preventing outside interference in Iranian elections could be better handled.

Arnold Evans said...

The story, spread by the Tehran Bureau, that ballots were removed from localities and not counted is one I may look into later.

By Saturday evening, the shock and disbelief had given way to anger that slowly turned into palpable moral outrage over what came to be believed as the theft of their election. The proof was right in the village: “Interior Ministry officials came from Shiraz, sealed the ballot boxes, and took then away even before the end of voting at 9 pm,” said Jalal. In all previous elections, a committee comprised of representative from each political faction had counted and certified the results right in the village. The unexpected change in procedures caught village monitors off guard, as it did everywhere else in the country.

It turns out that Mousavi's complaint to the Guardian Council does not mention that at all.

http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=32888

Anonymous said...

Regardless of what anybody thinks about the election stats, people who want their voices heard should not be shot down, beaten, taken to prison and tortured and raped. Lets not take our eyes of the ball, this is the real issue now, not what me or you think were the true figures of the elections.

As a side point, it is completely impossible that Ahmaghinejad won the elections. I can tell you because if you walk the streets of Tehran and ask 100 people who they voted for, maybe 1 or 2 will say ahmadinejad. This was a sham election, by a dictatorship regime, make no mistake about it.