The Farce in Iran
Thoughts on the "fair and honest" election in Iran, from Amir Taheri of The Wall Street Journal and the editors of National Review.
As Mr. Taheri notes, the scale of electoral deceit in Iran was both breath-taking and preordained:
No one knows exactly how much electoral fraud took place. The entire process was tightly controlled by the Ministry of Interior under Sadeq Mahsouli, a general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and a senior aide to Mr. Ahmadinejad. There was no independent election commission, no secret balloting, no observers to supervise the counting of the votes, and no mechanism for verification. It is impossible to know how many people voted and for whom.
Mr. Ahmadinejad was credited with more votes than anyone in Iran's history. If the results are to be believed, he won in all 30 provinces, and among all social and age categories. His three rivals, all dignitaries of the regime, were humiliated by losing even in their own hometowns. This was an unprecedented result even for the Islamic Republic, where elections have always been carefully scripted charades.
Then something unprecedented happened. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all issues of national life, published a long statement hailing Mr. Ahmadinejad's "historic victory" as "a great celebration." This was the first time since 1989, when he became supreme leader, that Mr. Khamenei commented on the results of a presidential election without waiting for the publication of official results. Some analysts in Tehran tell me that the military-security elite, now controlling the machinery of the Iranian state, persuaded Mr. Khamenei to make the unprecedented move.
Buoyed by his "victory," Ahmadinejad appears to be "itching for a fight," in Mr. Taheri's words. And why not? The Iranian president believes the U.S. is "all but defeated," and views his other great enemy--Israel--as increasingly isolated. Assuming the anti-election fevor in Tehran (and other Iranian cities) doesn't swell into a threat against the regime, Ahmadinejad will likely pursue his radical policies, at home and abroad, with even greater vigor.
As National Review sees it, the electoral farce affirms that Iran is nothing more than a police state, cloaked in clerical robes:
Many Iranians are displaying the courage of despair, in the knowledge that they have been deceived and cheated. They were promised an election for president. The incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a fanatic who has alienated huge sections of the population, and Iranians’ hope was that this election would provide some sort of test of public opinion. Not the independent official that the title seems to describe, the president is responsible for putting into practice the policies of the “supreme leader,” and as such he is hardly more than a public dogsbody. Under the disguise of clerical robes and turbans, the Islamic Republic is a classic example of thugocracy.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has been remarkably silent on the voting outcome in Iran. Apparently, the White House still hopes for talks with the Iranian regime, the same government that rigged the presidential balloting and denied its people the right to choose their leaders.
While some observers believe the post-electoral unrest can gain traction, past events suggest otherwise. Ten years ago next month, Iranian students rose up against the government in a sudden wave of protests that caught the mullahs off guard. Despite a brutal crackdown by security forces, the unrest continued for several weeks. But, without support from the international community, the regime eventually gained the upper hand. Police and soldiers, backed by religious zealots, raided student dormitories and carried off thousands of demonstrators. Some remain in prison to this day; hundreds were executed.
A decade later, Mr. Obama and other western leaders could strike a (minor) blow for democracy by declaring the Iranian election to be a fraud, voicing support for protesters, and providing clandestine support for pro-democratic elements. Unfortunately, the silence from Washington and various European capitals is deafening. No one apparently wants to offend Tehran; the Europeans want to do business with the regime, and Washington still thinks it can talk Tehran out of its nuclear ambitions.
Meanwhile, the real hope for Iran is being beaten, battered and bloodied in the streets.
Labels: Iran; elections