Sunday, June 21, 2009

Serious and not-serious ways we know the conflict in Iran is ending

The serious news, and probably the most decisive piece of news about the election since the returns were announced, Iran's elected Assembly of Experts, chaired by Heshemi Rafsanjani, has issued a statement backing the reported results of the election. (Google translation)

Edit: The previous links have gone down. The report also apparently was not signed by Rafsanjani, but by his deputy on the Assembly. It is still presented as a report of the Assembly of Experts, and still renders it implausible that there are reasonable and unexplainable indications of major fraud in the election as in that case the Assembly could and would have taken much stronger action against Ahmadinejad and any other guilty parties. New link here.

In a statement issued on Saturday the Assembly of Experts expressed its “strong support” for the Supreme Leader’s statements on the presidential elections on Friday.

The 86-member assembly stated in the statement that it is hoped that the nation would realize the current condition and by sticking to the Leader’s guidelines preserve their patience and manifest their unity.

That means in every meaningful way of this conflict is over for two reasons. First it is now unreasonable to entertain the idea that the election results were fabricated from whole-cloth by Iran's Ministry of the Interior on orders from either Ahmadinejad (which had always been impossible as Ahmadinejad never had enough authority on his own) or by Khamenei.

There is no precedent in Iranian politics that the politician who personally insults the chair of the Assembly of Experts, saying he and his family are corrupt, must be allowed to concoct a vote count in his own favor. Ahmadinejad's statement during his debate with Mousavi that Mousavi is supported by people who have used government to enrich themselves and their families was a tremendous breach of protocol. One that Khamenei spoke against directly during his Friday speech. A breach of protocol on a scale that it caused Rafsanjani, who until then had not publicly been involved in the campaign, to write a letter of complaint to Khamenei.

Iran's Assembly of Experts, an elected body with the constitutional duty to oversee the performance of Iran's Supreme Leader, up to and including dismissing the Supreme Leader if necessary, has the resources to give all claims of fraud a fair but informed and resourceful hearing.

It is just not plausible that Khamenei or anyone else gave an instruction to make up the results of the entire election in a way that the Assembly of Experts would be unable to detect. And it is not plausible that if the Assembly of Experts had any indication of fraud, if there were any questions that did not have reasonable answers, that the Assembly of Experts would have validated the election of the person who insulted its chair.

Not only did the Assembly have the option of remaining silent, it had the option of replacing the Supreme Leader with one who would call for a revote if necessary. Actively issuing a statement supportive of the results of the election closes the case. I am now comfortable describing the protesters as representative of a minority viewpoint in Iran.

The protesters are still articulate, still passionate and still numerous. But the protesters are not a majority of Iranian society. And Mousavi's supporters did not outvote Ahmadinejad's.

The second reason the conflict is over is that there is no longer institutional support for the protesters. Mousavi can serve as a focal point for protest, though he has toned down his opposition, and as long as he remains within boundaries acceptable to the state, he will not be able to lead a movement against the state.

The protesters need at least some source of established and organized resources to propel their movement and will not get one since Rafsanjani, up to now their best hope and whose children had reportedly attended rallies, is unable to support the theory that Mousavi was the true winner of the election.

The Assembly of Experts report means the protesters are now left to prove things everyone already knows. There are a lot of Mousavi supporters. A lot of people together could take mass action that would disrupt normal life in their society. The government will act with force if necessary to prevent mass action that would disrupt normal life. None of these things requires street demonstrations to prove, but there is nothing more street demonstrations can prove in Iran at this point.

Walter Mondale lost a landslide election to Ronald Reagan in 1984. There were enough Mondale supporters though, to seriously disrupt the day-to-day function of the US government and society if they had wanted to do so and organized to do so. After the election, it would have been tragic for young Mondale supporters to put their lives on the line to protest Reagan's stolen victory. Because they would have accomplished dying. But they would not have gotten a new election held, much less put Mondale into power.

The less serious news is that US President Barack Obama now has decided that he can give the protesters a little support.

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

Obama until now had remained publicly neutral because he understands that a statement in support of the protesters is far more likely to discredit them than to inspire them. As it has become clear that there is nothing left to lose, Obama is now free to speak to his domestic audience that wants the US president to openly take the side of protest against Ahmadinejad's government.


b said...

I agree, it's over.

Ziad said...

Don't know if it's over, but I'm hopeful.

As to Obama tip toeing carefully, it is not to avoid discrediting the protesters, but rather, I think, it is because he needs Iran's help in Afghanistan and backing a protest movement that is likely to lose (most attempts to topple a government fail) would only harden Iran's position.

Assuming it is over now, what is the damage so far? People have a right to protest peacefully...even if they are wrong. Beating heads in is not good for any government.

Arnold Evans said...

My big fear at this point is that the US is looking at this thinking it is possible to impose economic pressure on Iran, stopping gasoline imports and there is an Iranian audience that is willing to part with its leadership under pressure.

If the US thinks gasoline sanctions are more plausible now, that belief will hurt US and Iranian interests and retains the possibility of tensions spiraling up instead of winding down under Obama.

We'll see.

Israel's president speaking publicly in favor of the protesters? We're done.

Anonymous said...

Iran has passed the point of no return in its nuclear program and Obama understands (as did Bush during his last year) that any declaration of war (gasoline embargo) could have hugely disastrous consequences. After all this is in complete control of the Revolutionary Guards who are allied with Khamenei/Ahmadinejad. In any event, for Obama, fixing the Afghanistan situation and getting troops out of there is his number one priority.