The green inferno: debunking Iranian election fraud skeptics

on 75 Comments

Ali Gharib responds to Mohammed of Vancouver’s post Tehran is burning, and who is fueling the fires?:

There’s nothing wrong with publishing dissenting opinions. Much of the progressive blogosphere has erupted into green flames of support for Iranian presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi — much of it under the assumption that the election in Iran was indeed stolen. In the interest of balance, it makes perfect sense for thoughtful organizations and websites to seek out views that contradict that trend and examine them in an effort to both question Mousavi as a favorite candidate and examine the virtues of incumbent Mahmood Ahmadinejad (if you can see them through his blinding flaws), as well as question the very assumption of the stolen election narrative that dominates U.S. news sources.

Mondoweiss, no stranger to dissenting opinions and questioning well-established and politically expedient narratives, did just that in good faith when it ran this post from a contributor named Mohammad from Vancouver, an apparent Iranian-Canadian. (There’s also nothing wrong with publishing under a pseudonym — it can protect oneself and one’s family, which is sometimes a pressing concern for those who travel to and have family in Iran.)

The problem with Mohammad’s piece is not that it’s dissent; it’s that its arguments are tendentious and full of holes.

To begin with, Mohammad leads off with a poll (PDF) released four days before the election by the incredibly poorly named U.S. organization Terror Free Tomorrow (TFT) and the Washington-based think-tank New America Foundation (NAF). Mohammad borrows heavily from an oped regurgitating the results published three days after the vote by TFT chief Ken Ballen and NAF’s Patrick Doherty. While the oped in the Washington Post was clearly a bit hesitant (Opening line, my emphasis: “The election results in Iran may reflect the will of the Iranian people.”), the piece, again poorly named “The Iranian People Speak,” seemed to me like a self-congratulatory ‘I told you so.’

While TFT’s polling is famously reliable , the application of its Iran poll to the events unfolding this week is riddled with problems. (A testament to its reliability in temporal context: my colleagues covered the poll as a curtain-raiser for the elections on the day it was published.) I won’t go into all of them here, but experts way more savvy than I — former National Security Council official Gary Sick and Michigan professor Juan Cole (and a guest post on Cole’s site) — all do a fine job picking apart the polling data as it relates to actual announced returns. But I’ll just offer this tidbit from Sick:

[…D]uring the period of the phone survey, Mousavi was a newly declared candidate. His “green wave,” that inspired so much excitement among Iranian voters had not even been invented.

The Iranian campaign period mercifully lasts less than a month. A poll at the beginning of that period, while no doubt accurate when taken, ignores everything that happened thereafter.

In conclusion to his extensive recap of the poll and the oped, Mohammad then offers this, based on talking with contacts in Iran and checking Facebook: “The idea that ‘the results just don’t make sense’ is absurd.” Now that’s absurd to me because everyone I have spoken to who has a clue, both contacts in Iran as well as any number of the top Iran analysts in the U.S., agree that the election results were just that: Absurd. It’s that absurdity that helped fuel the angry reaction to the announced result of Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory. Everyone, it seems, has their own friends in Iran these days.

After harping on the poll as the exhibit A in Ahmadinejad’s defense, Mohammad moves on to the real target of his post: Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former two-term president and current head of Iran’s Assembly of Experts. Mohammad goes on a tirade about Rafsanjani and his political connections, and his desire to unseat Ahmadinejad. Writes Mohammad:

Rafsanjani challenged Ahmadinejad in the 2005 elections and lost. Ever since then, he has been sabotaging Ahmadinejad’s plans of reforming the political and economic structures in Iran.

Let’s try a little Folger’s switch with this: “Rafsanjani Hardline conservatives challenged Ahmadinejad Khatami in the 2005 1997 elections and lost. Ever since then, he has they have been sabotaging Ahmadinejad’s Khatami’s plans of reforming the political and economic structures in Iran.” Well, that works nice! So what’s the point?

If you look at the situation without a political bias or the conspiratorial mindset that unfortunately pervades Iranian politics, either Mohammad’s situation or mine can be viewed as nothing but regular old factional politics within the Islamic Republic.

Mohammad goes on to cite Rafsanjani and his family’s behind-the-scenes support for the three non-Ahmadinejad candidates — Mousavi, reformer Mehdi Karoubi, and former Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) head Mohsen Rezaie — parenthetically pointing to their “historical ties to Rafsanjani”, which are no surprise because all four men are powerful political elites in Iran. Mohammad suggests that money has (shocker) corrupted the politics of this coalition:

The way this support was distributed among the candidates was very complicated and followed an elaborate pattern. Rezaee was asked to run in order to weaken Ahmadinejad’s support among the Revolutionary Guards, since he was the head of this force during the Iran-Iraq war. The reformist coalition were divided between Karrubi and Moussavi with the former receiving the support of reformist personalities like Karbaschi, Abtahi and Abdi and the latter receiving the support of reformist organizations and political parties (Mosharekat and Mojahedine Enghelab)

Again, this idea is politics as usual and nothing new. In fact, it sounds like pretty sound strategizing to me. Money plays a regrettable role in most nations’ politics — especially big money. Indeed, the leveling of the social order is one of the great unfulfilled promises of the Islamic Revolution, and one that Ahmadinejad has campaigned heavily on. But the incumbent president has not done as much as he claims. While his crude populism — handing out potatoes and cash, and increasing government salaries — has indeed lifted up a relatively small cadre of allies, he has done little to unseat the new political and economic elite that filled the void of the fleeing aristocracy of the Shah’s era. (The clerical set, a center of power and wealth, has been consistently strong both before and after the Revolution, and the Shah-era aristocrats have been replaced by a nouveau elite including groups like the IRGC, which holds sway over massive segments of the economy.) There’s no reason that ideological allies (or even enemy-of-my-political-enemy allies) can’t or shouldn’t band together and organize campaigns. Those actions do not necessarily reflect some nefarious intention, unspecified beyond a desire to take political power.

Mohammad then goes on to decry a series of “suspicious move(s)” with “no explanation” by Mousavi and his allies and supporters in the immediate run-up to, during, and after the elections. He sums up his article by raising a series of questions regarding these moves.

Mohammad: “1- What is the real material evidence of voter fraud?”

There is some, but it’s admittedly not overwhelming. Juan Cole lays out some of it here, with this comment on the analysis of the statistician Nate Silver at 538, who proved his mettle by basically calling everything in the 2008 U.S. elections. Lots of the allegations of fraud, though not all, are anecdotal.

But the point is that this is not voter fraud we’re talking about here — not vote rigging. Many suspect outright election fraud. They allege that returns were completely fabricated, with insinuations that ballot boxes were never opened. Again, this perception is one of the sources of anger that sparked the ongoing protests. It’s difficult to prove because so very few of us have access to the inside machinations of the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by Ahmadinejad’s government. So I ask Mohammad: Where is the real material evidence of legitimate returns? Why has the Interior Ministry not proffered representative samples of actual ballots from various provinces? Or for that matter released any evidence refuting allegations against the results?

Mohammad: “2- Why did Moussavi and his friends begin to doubt the results a few weeks before the vote? […] What is Moussavi’s pre-election evidence for fraud”

Again, much of the warning of fraud before the vote are admittedly anecdotal and, because of limited access to offices of the Ahmadinejad-controlled government, not heavily substantiated. But some does exist. My colleague at IPS, Omid Memarian, lays out one example here:

On Sunday, a group of employees in the Interior Ministry, which oversees the polls, and top officials from the campaigns of the two reformist candidates, Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, sent a letter to Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, chair of the country’s powerful Guardian Council, citing discrepancies in the run-up to the election.

According to the letter, the actual number of ballots printed for the first round of voting is 59.6 million, but the Interior Ministry officially says the number is 56 million.

Mohammad: “3- Why Did Moussavi change the time of his post-election press conference abruptly?”

It has been widely reported that the early returns and reports from poll observers were pointing to a Mousavi victory. Radio Farda, which I am inherently suspicious of because it is a U.S. government-sponsored Farsi outlet on Iran (propaganda?), reported that before the first returns were announced, the Interior Ministry contacted the Mousavi campaign to inform them of their impending victory.

Mohammad: “4- Why did Rafsanjani and Moussavi’s wives speak out about fraud right after casting their votes?”

See my above response to number 2. What, were those concerns supposed to evaporate as soon as they folded their ballots and dropped them in the box? ‘Oh, I’ve voted now. My vote clearly will be counted fairly, and because I was unimpeded and will be counted, the same must apply to the other 32 million voters. So, ciao!’

Mohammad: “5-Why did the Western media, who are normally against Iran and pro Israel (CNN, Fox, Voice of America, BBC, Huffington Post, Roozonline, Radio Zamaneh and Radio Farda), describe Moussavi the frontrunner as soon as Moussavi’s camp began to cast doubt on the elections, weeks before the vote? What degree of coordination was there between Moussavi’s campaign and the western media about this message?”

This again delves into conspiracy about Western involvement, an understandable and historically-motivated paranoia in Iranian culture. But one can’t argue one point on mere innuendo alone (without even anecdotal evidence), and then demand hard evidence of one’s ideological or political opponents. Pots and kettles and so on.

Mohammad: “6-Why was the Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored survey, done by a credible team of investigators (Terror Free Tomorrow), not highlighted in the coverage of the election in the West?”

Not highlighted? What about a little influential newspaper called the Washington Post? Or any of the numerous blogs that have picked up on the poll, including the blogging giant Huffington Post? The reason it didn’t get wider coverage is, I must assume, because of the points I’ve laid out above, which I believe show it is irrelevant for discussing last Friday’s results.

By countering many of Mohammad’s arguments, I don’t mean to cast doubt on the fact that Ahmadinejad has a large following in Iran. He certainly does. But that doesn’t mean he won these elections or he didn’t. Mousavi also has an undeniably large following, no?

Something appears to be amiss, and I would contend that it’s not just “warm ears” or wishful thinking that leads most independent news sources in the world to at least question the election results. Drawing conclusions without evidence — demanding proof of the contrary view and offering none — is no way to construct an argument otherwise. But more importantly than the Western media or their audience, the people who are owed an honest explanation — yes, with clear evidence — are the people of Iran. No one can doubt that many of them, even if not a majority of citizens, are having a rather large gripe with their government at the moment. That is unless, of course, one wants to simply dismiss them as “dirt and dust.”

75 Responses

  1. Nth Republic
    June 19, 2009, 1:11 am

    I found this piece to be much more reasoned and lucid than the last "response to Mohammad". As intellectually stimulating as this all is, however, I hope we aren't on track to a debunking-the-debunking-the-debunking series of posts… Give the people what they want though, I suppose, right?

  2. PacificGatePost
    June 19, 2009, 1:20 am

    The mullahs may have long feared that change would eventually come in reaction to their abuse of the population. Many have moved the proceeds of their pilfering offshore, “just in case.” Some have built themselves Los Angeles and West Vancouver mansions, in anticipation that the gun might eventually not suppress the crowds in Tehran. The potential for change is directly conditional on the persistence and endurance of the youth filling the streets of Iran. It will be unstoppable if the demonstrations move to the poorer rural regions of the country. ” target=”_blank”>… This genie is out of the bottle. Change may be slow in coming, nevertheless, it will come.

  3. joh domingo
    June 19, 2009, 2:01 am

    It has been almost a week now, and still we have no real indication (evidence) that: 1. There has been a fraud. 2. The socio economic status of the Iranian Commentators (Muhammed et al) 3. That there has been a real violent repression by the Iranian regime except for the isolated murders of the protestors at the university. Most of the violence I have seen involve real riots and provocations and crowd control measures that are pretty routine during riotious protests in our countries in the west. 4. I am still not even sure if there has been any real attempt at shutting down access to the internet and the telephone system. We have anecdotal evidence that this has been the case; but if it is it is not working because obviously these protestors have access to the internet, and people have been able to call into the country throughout this crisis.

  4. joh domingo
    June 19, 2009, 2:02 am

    If there is a government, I am usually against it, but in this case I feel the voices of ordinary Iranians have been silenced by the unprecendented access the elite have to our elite, which however much you slice and dice include Mondoweis and Juan Cole. My gut feeling is that this is a manipulated crisis, and nothing I have seen to date is otherwise convincing. Even Weis is uncertain about whether he is being manipulated or not. I magine how the average student in "Teheran North" must feel. Students form the core of the reform movement, and they have always been wary of outside manipulation of their resistance to the prevailing status quo. It is not hard to understand how they could be manipulated into a premature and half-baked 'revolution'. It is not hard to understand how the "progressive" left in the West could be manipulated into supporting this half-baked revolt as well.

  5. joh domingo
    June 19, 2009, 2:03 am

    I only pray that the regime does not take the bait, but insists on a constitutional resolution to the vote fraud accusations. I is interesting that the 'reformist' have thus far refused and investigation; and refused to avail themselves to these constitutional mechanisms, even though Rafsanjani is in a pivotal executive position in any such investigation. I also read early on that Rafsanjani had resigned his position as the head of the Assembly of Experts, and thought that was curious; but it seems to have been another bit of mis-information spinning around at the time. People forget that even though Irans Democratic sytem is flawed, it is not broken, and that untimately some safegaurds are in place. They forget that three crucial institutions are directly elected: the Assembly of Experts; Parliament, and the President. The Assembly of experts appoints the Supreme leader and can also remove him from office.

  6. joh domingo
    June 19, 2009, 2:03 am

    We may not be experts on Iran, but we also not that stupid to rely on the views of Iranians who may have a direct stake in the events, and who can also have an axe to grind. So please, if you want to provide a service; provide us with the FACTS, BACKGROUND ON THE PLAYERS WITHOUT USING PERGORATIVE LABELS SUCH "EXTREME HARDLINERS" AND "REFORMERS". Then you can also provide OPINION PIECES. Who can possibly t change or reform? Highjacking such keywords is a surefire flag that disinfo is afoot.

  7. joh domingo
    June 19, 2009, 2:04 am

    You have a fairly intelligent online following; stop treating them as if they are ignorant gits. You will lose all credibility in very many other ways. I for one am rapidly coming to the conclusion that you will simply revert to type, that your coversion on the road to damascus regarding the I/P issue is a mile wide and an inch deep. You can never be trusted on thsi important issue and will one day throw the Palestinians under the bus, as many have done, and many will in the future. There were already signs of this since your trip to Gaza, which must have been an epiphany for you when you realized they were simply ordinary people, and not the comic book characters you imagined they were. Did you really believe that Palestinians did not hate?

  8. syvanen
    June 19, 2009, 2:13 am

    It is odd that Ali Ghrab cites the silver post (” target=”_blank”>… in support of his claims. Check it out, there is no statistical evidence supporting voter fraud (nor none supporting an honest result). He quite clearly concludes that the data supports neither claim. The most important point in what is happening today in Iran is that many 100s of thousands of Iranians are willing to go into the streets in opposition the reactionary, ultra right wing theocrats that have dominated Iranian society for the last 40 years. Anyone who considers themselves prgressive should be cheering them on. At this point it is becoming less and less relevant whether or not Ahmedinijad stuffed the ballot boxes. We are witnessing a mass protest to the whole system of rule by Ayatollahs who prescreen acceptable candidates. Let the Iranians sort this out for themselves. No matter how this developes there is no reason for the US to go to war to try to make it right.

  9. Kathy
    June 19, 2009, 2:25 am

    I am of the opinion that the current disturbances in Iran is indeed a coup attempt, but by Rafsanjani not Ahmadinejad'. I posted similar comments on Huff Post, and I have the dubious distinction of now being banned from commenting on that esteemed forum. It is just as well, since I was being viciously attacked for talking off script, and attempting to delve into the true facts. Today, a post on Bloomberg raises the same points that I did. The poll mentioned in the post above did question how the presidential vote may be affected by ethnicity, and discovered that only 15% of people of his own ethnicity supported Mousavi. There were three major in Iran news stories right before the election, that also may have pushed a majority of people to vote for Ahmadinejad. 1, the arrest of a young, beautiful Iranian-American in the act of spying, taking photos of "sensitive documents," for the reason, acording to her, that she was just curious. 2. Two weeks a Mosque and bank were bombed in So East Iran, resulting in the president reminding the Iranian people that America supports Jundullah, (and Bush reportedly 92007) spent $400 million to destabilize Iran) and 3, Press reports about outside interferrence in the elections in Lebanon, where Iran state TV reported hexbolla lost the election. These three events, right before the election, very well may have resulted in a majority of Iranians voting for the president. Therefore, I believe that the coup is "in" and the target is actually Khamenei, the Supreme Leader. "The factional split pits Rafsanjani, 75, a former president who heads the 86-member Assembly of Experts, which has the power to dismiss the supreme leader, against Khamenei, 69." ” target=”_blank”>… Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are the public faces of a power struggle among Iran’s ruling clerics. As the country is swept up in protests not seen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the conflict risks undermining the regime’s existence, said Mohammad-Reza Djalili, an Iran expert at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

  10. syvanen
    June 19, 2009, 3:01 am

    You could be right. But wouldn't it be a good outcome if Rafsanjani succeeded overthrowing the power of the Assembly of Experts? Without any outside intervention of course.

  11. American
    June 19, 2009, 3:47 am

    I think most of the bloggers on this have taken leave of their senses. .including Phil. While Cole is knowledgeable he also let's his herat's desires interfer in some of his opinions. They are all atwitter with being part of the IPod and Tweet revolution without questioning or allowing for any analyzing that might contridict their popular uprising theory. They 've become Elvis fans. As for Rafsanjani, who is in tight with the MEK and whose family owns among other things a string of universities in Iran which are Known as Azad and these have 300 campuses spread all over the country and have large financial resources with an active cadre of student activists numbering around 3 million…..It think it is legtimate to ask….are any of his student in those 3 million protesting in Iran? A protest that large doesn't come together that quick and that organized without some professional help and prior planning.

  12. American
    June 19, 2009, 3:50 am

    I tend to agree.

  13. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:08 am

    "…wouldn't it be a good outcome if Rafsanjani succeeded overthrowing the power of the Assembly of Experts?"–syvanen What do you know about Rafsanjani? Do you know that he is an extremely rich Iranian who heads the assembly of experts and has a reputation in Iran for corruption ? Rafsanjani's gambit backfires ” target=”_blank”>… Khamenei rides a storm in a tea cup ” target=”_blank”>… Series: Simon Tisdall's world briefingPrevious | Next | Index Rafsanjani: shark or kingmaker? ” target=”_blank”>…

  14. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:11 am

    I think you may just possibly be on the right track Kathy and I am not surprised that Huff Post banned you for trying ot get to the truth of the matter…

  15. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:12 am

    I am just hoping that Mondoweiss will not eventually do the same thing…

  16. 888
    June 19, 2009, 4:41 am

    kathy quote "I posted similar comments on Huff Post, and I have the dubious distinction of now being banned from commenting on that esteemed forum." consider yourself lucky! there is nothing esteemed about huff post, in fact quite the opposite….

  17. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:42 am

    The Gucci Revolutionaries' ultimatum to the people of Iran "…What is now at stake goes way beyond Musavi versus Ahmadinejad or even Rafsanjani versus Khamenei. What is taking place now is nothing short of an attempt to achieve "regime change" in the deepest, most fundamental meaning of this word. It is not Ahmadinejad who stole the election, but Rafsanjani and his Guccis who, acting with the full and active support of the USraelian Empire, are trying to overthrow the Constitution and Institutions of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Only the Iranian people can stop them now. If they fail to take a firm stance in defense of their country, Rafsanjani "The Shark" will seize power and take away everything they fought for since the Islamic Revolution>" ” target=”_blank”>… ****

  18. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:46 am

    June 17, 2009 Iran Faces Greater Risks Than It Knows By Paul Craig Roberts Stephen Kinzer’s book, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, tells the story of the overthrow of Iran’s democratically-elected leader, Mohammed Mosaddeq, by the CIA and the British MI6 in 1953. The CIA bribed Iranian government officials, businessmen, and reporters, and paid Iranians to demonstrate in the streets. The 1953 street demonstrations, together with the Cold War claim that the US had to grab Iran before the Soviets did, served as the US government’s justification for overthrowing Iranian democracy. What the Iranian people wanted was not important. Today, the street demonstrations in Tehran show signs of orchestration. The protesters, primarily young people, especially young women opposed to the dress codes, carry signs written in English: "Where is My Vote?" The signs are intended for the western media—not for the Iranian government.

  19. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:48 am

    More evidence of orchestration is provided by the protesters’ chant, "death to the dictator, death to Ahmadinejad." Every Iranian knows that the president of Iran is a public figure with limited powers. His main role is to take the heat from the governing grand Ayatollah. No Iranian, and no informed Westerner, could possibly believe that Ahmadinejad is a dictator. Even Ahmadinejad’s superior, Khamenei, is not a dictator, as he is appointed by a government body that can remove him. The demonstrations, like those in 1953, are intended to discredit the Iranian government and to establish for Western opinion that the government is a repressive regime that does not have the support of the Iranian people. This manipulation of opinion sets up Iran as another Iraq ruled by a dictator who must be overthrown by sanctions or an invasion. On American TV, the protesters who are interviewed speak perfect English. They are either westernized secular Iranians who were allied with the Shah and fled to the West during the 1978 Iranian revolution or they are the young Westernized residents of Tehran.

  20. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:49 am

    Many of the demonstrators may be sincere in their protest, hoping to free themselves from Islamic moral codes. But if reports of the US government’s plans to destabilize Iran are correct, paid troublemakers are in their ranks. Some observers, such as George Friedman, believe that the American destabilization plan will fail. However, many ayatollahs feel animosity toward Ahmadinejad, who assaults the ayatollahs for corruption. Many in the Iranian countryside believe that the ayatollahs have too much wealth and power. Amadinejad’s attack on corruption resonates with the Iranian countryside, but not with the ayatollahs. Amadinejad’s campaign against corruption has brought Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri out against him. Montazeri is a rival to ruling Ayatollah Khamenei. Montazeri sees in the street protests an opportunity to challenge Khamenei for the leadership role.

  21. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:49 am

    So, once again, as so many times in history, the ambitions of one person might seal the fate of the Iranian state. Khamenei knows that the elected president is an underling. If he has to sacrifice Ahmadinejad’s election in order to fend off Montazeri, he might recount the vote and elect Mousavi, thinking that will bring an end to the controversy. Khamenei, solving his personal problem, would play into the hands of the American-Israeli assault on his country. On the surface, the departure of Ahmadeinjad would cost Israel and the US the loss of their useful "anti-Semitic" boggy-man. But in fact it would play into the American-Israeli propaganda. The story would be that the remote, isolated, Iranian ruling Ayatollah was forced by the Iranian people to admit the falsity of the rigged election, calling into question rule by Ayatollahs who do not stand for election.

  22. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:50 am

    Mousavi and Ayatollah Montazeri are putting their besieged country at risk. Possibly they believe that ridding Iran of Ahmadeinjad’s extreme image would gain Iran breathing room. If Mousavi and Montazeri succeed in their ambitions, one likely result would be a loss in Iran’s independence. The new rulers would have to continually defend Iran’s new moderate and reformist image by giving in to American demands. If the government admits to a rigged election, the legitimacy of the Iranian Revolution would be called into question, setting up Iran for more US interference in its internal affairs. For the American neoconservatives, democratic countries are those countries that submit to America’s will, regardless of their form of government. "Democracy" is achieved by America ruling through puppet officials.

  23. MRW
    June 19, 2009, 4:50 am

    I dont mind the "debunking-the-debunking-the-debunking series of posts" because it's also an informing-the-informing-the-informing series as well. I, like many who visit here, dont speak Farsi. I am not intimately familiar with Iranian politics. And this protest is SIX DAYS OLD. No matter how emphatic I may sound about this or that fact at any point, it remains that I know zip. I haven't seen election returns. And i certainly dont trust MEMRI to translate them for me after their disastrous job translating AN's words in October 2005. So I want other translations. Nick Silver's analyses were great during the 2008 elections, but since I cant read the originals, I have no way of verifying his work on the Iranian elections. The sentence that really jumped out at me above was this: "But more importantly than the Western media or their audience, the people who are owed an honest explanation — yes, with clear evidence — are the people of Iran." And they are smart enough to demand it and smart enough to interpret it for me. I'll wait. In the meantime, I appreciate all the Iranian contributors here. They illustrate the richness of their political diversity. That Iranian/Persian civilization didn't last or prevail for over 3,000 years because the Persians were a bunch of dummies or hayseeds. Persians have a noble and energetic history, and I suspect that nobility, energy, and sophistication will carry them through here. So I can wait.

  24. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:51 am

    The American public might never know whether the Iranian election was legitimate or stolen. The US media serves as a propaganda device, not as a purveyor of truth. Election fraud is certainly a possibility–it happens even in America–and signs of fraud have appeared. Large numbers of votes were swiftly counted, which raises the question whether votes were counted or merely a result was announced. The US media’s response to the election was equally rapid. Having invested heavily in demonizing Ahmadinejad, the media is unwilling to accept election results that vindicate Ahmadinejad and declared fraud in advance of evidence, despite the pre-election poll results published in the June 15 Washington Post, which found Ahmadinejad to be the projected winner. There are many American interest groups that have a vested interest in the charge that the election was rigged. What is important to many Americans is not whether the election was fair, but whether the winner’s rhetoric is allied with their goals.

  25. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:51 am

    For example, those numerous Americans who believe that both presidential and congressional elections were stolen during the Karl Rove Republican years are tempted to use the Iranian election protests to shame Americans for accepting the stolen Bush elections. Feminists take the side of the "reformer" Mousavi. Neoconservatives damn the election for suppressing the "peace candidate" who might acquiescent to Israel’s demands to halt the development of Iranian nuclear energy. Ideological and emotional agendas result in people distancing themselves from factual and analytical information, preferring instead information that fits with their material interests and emotional disposition. The primacy of emotion over fact bids ill for the future. The extraordinary attention given to the Iranian election suggests that many American interests and emotions have a stake in the outcome. ” target=”_blank”> I am sure that the so-called progressives who post here are all drooling in anticipation for regime change…

  26. RichardWitty
    June 19, 2009, 8:09 am

    We won't know the actual count, likely because no one will. We will know that the election was constructed, rather than counted though. I fear the orchestration of agitation more than I fear "corruption" of the dissedents, whether Rafsanjani or Mousavi. I read in reports from the Iranian press of accusations of "discovered" Israeli planted bombs in mosques, which is ludicrous. And, tracing "American CIA money" to Mousavi, which is also nearly certainly more propaganda. The common theme of Mondoweiss on this has been rational skepticism, a rational attempt to cut through the smoke and mirrors. I think the majority of progressives here are drooling for reform.

  27. RichardWitty
    June 19, 2009, 8:15 am

    The articles on the demonstrations, coming from Haaretz, are amazingly hopeful, and describe Iran as a model. The demonstrations in Iran have been predominately peaceful on the part of the demonstrators, "silent marches" of 500,000, the "death to" chants have been reported to be rare. The two Israeli commentators that I've read are Gideon Levy (leftist), urging Israelis to similarly question their leadership, and Bradley Burston (who's been criticized here viciously at moments for his liberal Zionist perspective). Bradley's comments were similar to Levy's, hopeful of the degree of self-inquiry, expression and commitment to the greater good, engendered in non-violent social change movements, and wishing that Israelis had the "right stuff" to do similarly like occurred in late 80's and early 90's, preceding and following the Oslo agreements.

  28. littlehorn
    June 19, 2009, 9:05 am

    This again delves into conspiracy about Western involvement, an understandable and historically-motivated paranoia in Iranian culture. Not only historically, but recently motivated. I mean, the US funds and arms militias to conduct terrorist operations in Iran. Please find a place for news.

  29. littlehorn
    June 19, 2009, 9:07 am

    I mean, what kind of moron would treat western involvement in iran as a conspiracy theory ? Where the fuck have you been in the past few years ? Do you have eyes ? Seriously.

  30. Citizen
    June 19, 2009, 10:30 am

    From Wikipedia: In mid-March of 2008, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against Iran. Bush’s secret directive covers actions in a large geographical area in the middle east and is far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines. The intent is to escalate covert operations against Iran to destabilize the country's religious leadership, gather intelligence about Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program and support the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations, and assassination of targeted officials. The finding was swiftly approved with bipartisan support which included an initial outlay of $300-400 million to finance its implementation.

  31. Laurie
    June 19, 2009, 10:43 am

    Bravo Domingo!

  32. Citizen
    June 19, 2009, 10:45 am

    C-SPAN live via PressTV now @Friday Prayers Tehran Khamenei says any doubt will be handled under the rule of law; people can filed complaints, can get recounts in front of their party leaders; we are at a critical historical juncture in Iran and in the Middle East, and this affected too by the economic crisis in the world. Any extremist move will bring counter extremism. Anyone breaking the law will be held accountable. Prominent diplomats of some countries who have been dealing with us have now revealed their true wolf face, which does not really favor democracy. What is the reason for holding an election? To determine what people want/don't want at the ballot box rather than in the streets.

  33. RichardWitty
    June 19, 2009, 10:50 am

    Names? Or are you just an enabler for now the Supreme Leader's fixation on "foreign influence"?

  34. Citizen
    June 19, 2009, 11:01 am

    (cont'd) Giving up to illegal demands and pressure is the beginning of dictatorship. In due time the people will get to know those who do this, often behind the scenes. Street protests are a wrong calculation. Re leaders of western media and certain european powers: Before the election you could see their bias; they did not predict a turnout of 40 million voters; after the election they now realize the truth, that there is a new chapter opening as illlustrated by this great popular move. When some candidates started protesting, the western media tone changed, pinned their hope, showing their true wolf face; the US president said he had been waiting to see public rallies and protests in the streets. This encouraged some looting, rioting, etc. These events stem from elements of espionage and mercenaries from the West and the Zionist state. One American Zionist said he spent lots of money to make the Velvet Revolution, others, what happened in Georgia, etc. American officials talk of human rights–who is bringing fighting to Afghanistan, who crushed Iraq, who supported the Zionists? Hillary Clinton and other democrats supported all of this. Such people should feel embarrassed–Iran is the one supporting human rights proponents and activists.

  35. RichardWitty
    June 19, 2009, 11:20 am

    You must be embarrassed posting that last comment, Citizen. "Iran is the one supporting human rights proponents and activists".

  36. LeaNder22
    June 19, 2009, 11:49 am

    When I wrote this note below, I wasn't aware that Silver keeps updating his data: ” target=”_blank”>… Nick Silver's analyses were great during the 2008 elections, but since I cant read the originals, I have no way of verifying his work on the Iranian elections. I only scanned his text, but his argument is really simple. If there are several large waves of votes the resulting graph must be linear. You simply add the amount of new voters. If the argument really was the linear graph and I don't have time to look at it or trace the origins of the argument, it doesn't seem to support rigging. So I think you have to trace the original statements and look at the argument. Look at the graph and then keep in mind each new district simply adds votes of whatever amount. You surely don't get curves or other patterns this way. ” target=”_blank”>” target=”_blank”>…

  37. LeaNder22
    June 19, 2009, 12:13 pm

    The primacy of emotion over fact bids ill for the future. Your 8 mails feel like driven by quite a bit of emotions actually. Why are you so hyper-effected by the events? What exactly is the core emotion? Anger? Obviously everybody has his own position, isn't that natural? We all to some degree mirror it into our reading of events. According to the letter, the actual number of ballots printed for the first round of voting is 59.6 million, but the Interior Ministry officially says the number is 56 million. My neighbor is of Iranian descent. His wife told me that his family complained that there were no ballot available when they wanted to vote. Admittedly I wasn't aware of this. What exactly triggers your huge sympathies and emotional handling of the story?

  38. stevieb
    June 19, 2009, 12:24 pm

    What a load of crap. Isn't it amazing how this site has attracted a number of 'pro-democracy' types who are willing to completely ignore the U.S role in destroying the middle east – and of course, and once again, the fact that the U.S has been ACTIVELY supporting the DESTABILIZATION of Iran before this election. "The CIA will also be allowed to supply communications equipment which would enable opposition groups in Iran to work together and bypass internet censorship by the clerical regime." – a quote from a 2007 article in the Telegraph. I see purple fingers and dying Iraqis and I see the Orange 'revolution' in Lebanon and I see lies lies, and more damned lies..

  39. LeaNder22
    June 19, 2009, 12:25 pm

    I absolutely agree with your last sentence. But the first paragraph feels pretty paradoxical to me.

  40. stevieb
    June 19, 2009, 12:27 pm

    Well said joh domingo…

  41. ThorsProvoni
    June 19, 2009, 12:32 pm
  42. stevieb
    June 19, 2009, 12:52 pm

    "It is interesting that the 'reformist' have thus far refused and investigation; and refused to avail themselves to these constitutional mechanisms, even though Rafsanjani is in a pivotal executive position in any such investigation." Very interesting I'd say.

  43. Mark Julian Smith
    June 19, 2009, 1:10 pm

    History shows how what is writ may be turned to whatever purpose is required. Anyone heard of bias. To believe such a phone poll, scientific or otherwise, in such a Society as Iran is valid is bordering on the ridiculous. The science of probability is one thing. The science of protecting ones skin is quite another. Given: 1. the ferocity of the reaction against dissent in Iran exemplified by the deaths of demonstrators- fellow human beings, 2. the systematic locking up of opposition supporters and, 3. the intimidation and violent tactics of the Iranian Basij volunteer militia controlled by Ayatollah Khamenei’s 200,000 strong revolutionary guards. frankly I would be saying I am for the man who is backed by the man with control of the black motorbike, helmet and club. Even if I truly believed otherwise. Who knows in such a society who is really asking the question on the other end of the line? 2 to 1 – I am surprised there was a 1. Very brave fellows indeed.

  44. LeaNder22
    June 19, 2009, 1:19 pm

    American officials talk of human rights–who is bringing fighting to Afghanistan, who crushed Iraq, who supported the Zionists? This is Obama's partner for a dialog to figure out how to establish relations between the US and Iran again. Look I have the same problem as with Ahmadinejad. I can accept criticism and complaints concerning the West or the US, but I cannot accept the way it is done. It reduces the Iranian people both inside and outside Iran to chess pieces. Mirror? Concerning Western media. We obviously all hoped that another candidate would be open to a dialog with Obama. This doesn't mean a complete surrender to the Israeli position, but he must also realize that Obama hasn't much space to move. The time is over that no matter what candidate will accept pure Israel-style-power-dictates. Given the larger financial scenario another US war with Iran would bring the US crumbling down, and it would surely pull the whole Western world with it. Have you ever looked at Karroubi's platform? Have you seen Ahmadinejad's other than that you find his non-diplomatic ways refreshing? Politics is not pop. He could say the same in a more enlightened way. Then the West had to listen. Could you list Iran's attainments in the field of human rights? ” target=”_blank”>…

  45. fbid
    June 19, 2009, 1:45 pm

    Or perhaps they are the products of an education system that incorporate English? English, you may be interested to know, is among the subjects that Iranian students study for their concurs (university entrance exam). I said it yesterday to another commentator, and I will say it to you – i am horrified at the audacity of those who cheer on tyranny from afar, as if it is only American hegemony that represses. You are no friend to the people of Iran when you spread this vile nonsense. As if the constitution in Iran is actually enforced, as if they have not lived under arbitrary rule for decades.

  46. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 2:37 pm

    The hugely dishonest commentary taking place here…..

  47. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 2:41 pm

    It is appearing more and more to me that a majority of the "progressives" are drooling for reform(or regime change) that favors the West's interests, otherwise they wouldn't consider it to be reform…

  48. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 2:56 pm

    Why do you think that Iran must play the game according to dishonest Western political standards? Why can't they play it the way that they want, which is to be blunt and to the point…? Why does Iran's relations with the U.S. have to evolve around the U.S. relations with Israel?

  49. Colin_Murray
    June 19, 2009, 3:00 pm

    other views: Why U.S. Neocons Want Ahmadinejad to Win ” target=”_blank”>… On Tuesday, Danielle Pletka and Ali Alfoneh of AEI published a New York Times op-ed claiming that the real and unnoticed story of the Iranian elections is that the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have “effected a silent coup d’etat” overthrowing the clerics. AEI Purge Provokes Neocon Smackdown? ” target=”_blank”>…

  50. Colin_Murray
    June 19, 2009, 3:04 pm

    off topic: Israeli army tells Bedouin to fold their tents ” target=”_blank”>…

  51. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 3:06 pm

    Iranian Elections – A die hard Ahmadinejad fan Atiya Sumar The British and American propaganda media are reporting the Iranian elections as stolen. But those who have sufficient analytical reasoning can rip the stories apart to expose the inconsistencies skilfully concealed behind routine catch phrases. The United States has demonstrated time and time again its policy of meddling in the domestic politics of other countries. What says that’s not happening now? I can smell something fishy here. It seems like another attempt at a color revolution, a desperate effort to destabilize the government of Ahmadinejad.

  52. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 3:07 pm

    In the recent past, the United States also refused to accept Hamas’ legitimate victory. When Palestinians voted for Hamas, the United States tried to topple the Hamas government through Palestinian factions and moles. Luckily, Hamas officials became aware of the plot and nipped it in the bud. Hilary Clinton visited Lebanon just before the Lebanon election and so did the US Special Operations Command. Makes you wonder why? These trips were closely followed by Joe Biden’s visit to Lebanon, where he actually threatened the Lebanese that if they did not vote as US-Israel wants them to, then, “Washington will evaluate its assistance to Lebanon based on the policies of the new government to be formed.”

  53. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 3:07 pm

    In his recent speech to the Muslim world, Obama reminded Iranians that the USA had the power to topple any democratically elected government in Iran (Mohammed Mosaddegh) During Bush’s time more than four hundred million dollars were approved by Democratic Congress, including Obama, for “regime change”, escalation of covert operations against Iran and terrorist activities in Iran. Something to make you think…? Mousavi has not been in politics since 1989. After twenty years, all of a sudden he is the major “moderate” contestant and on top of that declares himself the winner without any evidence. Who and what prompted him to join the presidential race after twenty years of absence?

  54. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 3:08 pm

    US news media, along moles are in Iran and all over the Internet sites, blogs and comment sections repeating the US government propaganda that the election results are rigged. The United States and its propaganda media call Mousavi a “moderate.” Notice that whenever the American government supports a political candidate in another country they are called ‘moderate’ and it means “American Puppets’… and the country’s gone gone gone….

  55. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 3:08 pm

    The adage has been never been truer; “Actions speak louder than words.” When it comes to the neo cons and capitalists don’t judge them by their words but look at what they do and have done. The best place to start is doing away with conventional media sources and if you can’t then scrutinize the official version and while you’re at it, do also read ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’ by John Perkins. Use the power of questions; Ask why are the protestors in Iran holding up placards which are in English? Shouldn’t they be in Farsi? Why does the media refer to the Iranian government as “the regime,” even though it is popularly elected and refer to Saudi Arabia’s and Egypt’s dictators as “the government.” Just another indicator of the propaganda we’re being bamboozled with.

  56. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 3:08 pm

    Why is the western media quiet about the thousands of protestors in Georgia who are holding protests everyday for the last month against the American puppet Saakashvili? The double standards are so obvious; one would have to be blind not to see it.

  57. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 3:30 pm

    Obama's Foreign Policy Inbox: A Discussion Council on Foreign Relations ” target=”_blank”>…

  58. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 3:46 pm

    Iran’s Green Revolution Why is Obama dissing Mousavi? ” target=”_blank”>…

  59. Citizen
    June 19, 2009, 4:05 pm

    Hey, I (in my two prior comments on this thread, and as i indicated) was merely paraphrasing The Leader's speech today as I heard it live via PressTV-C-SPAN. Much of what I wrote was verbatim according to the translation as he spoke. Personally, I cannot accept the way the Iran situation and the IP situation are handled by the 4 branches of government in the USA (MSM being the Fourth Estate) because together they reduce the USA people to chess pieces. Mirror? The USA 1st Amendment has been effectively circumvented, and has been for many decades concerning these issues. Omission is commission. Repetitive big lies are just that. Mirror? As to human rights, let's take the two countries who get way more than a fair share of US foreign aid, Israel and Egypt–list their respective attainments in the field of human rights, especially Israel's since it is always characterized by my government as having the same values as the USA. Thanks in advance.

  60. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:09 pm

    Beijing cautions US over Iran By M K Bhadrakumar ” target=”_blank”>…

  61. Citizen
    June 19, 2009, 4:11 pm

    I was paraphrasing The Leader's speech as I indicated; much of what I wrote was verbatim. I just wanted to put out here what he told his own people at Friday Prayer Tehran. Should I be embarrassed about that? However, I do think Hamas and Hezbollah are essentially resistance agencies as classically defined in modern history. And I never agreed we should attack Iran. You should be embarrassed if you don't admit how selective the US is and has been around the world in deciding which people we are going to save from their horrible regime.

  62. Citizen
    June 19, 2009, 4:17 pm

    Actually this is nothing new; the UN vote for Israel was swung/done by threatening to withhold post WW2 reconstruction and or construction financial aid–we bent their elbows behind their backs to overcome the united regional obstruction by the nations in the Middle East neighborhood.

  63. LeaNder22
    June 19, 2009, 4:18 pm

    How do you judge dishonesty? Do you think I am and what shows I am?

  64. Citizen
    June 19, 2009, 4:19 pm

    Check out which countries came around to favor a new Israel at the UN after the US threatened no money from the USA. As you know, all the arab states were opposed and remained so.

  65. Marx Bros
    June 19, 2009, 4:30 pm

    As a fairly informed American, I've seen over the years how one gets on or off the US hit list; these days it's labeled "terrorist" shit list. I also recall that at one time jewish groups in the Mandate were labeled terrorist, and the PLO was originally on the terrorist list too. I'm not even mentioning S America or Africa. I agree, the USA has never cared about the masses in any other nation, it's always been about easy access to whatever region's capital, assets, strategic location, etc. I realize simultaneously, all countries have always done this. I woke up a long time ago to realize my country and Israel are no different than the exploiting power states of the past. I don't think it will ever be different. One small example, the Shah was manipulated into power because the Iranians wanted to nationalize their oil assets. So it has been forever. I don't think the masses in any country on earth are in control of their own destiny; of course there is the matter of degree. In the USA, especially considering its developed and hard-won governing principles, which were a light to the world not so long ago, I feel more and more like somebody born into a banana republic.

  66. LeaNder22
    June 19, 2009, 4:44 pm

    Look Marion, what are the dominant interests of the West at the moment. I would assume they are not progressive or liberal or conservative interests. The majority of people doesn't want a war between Iran and the US. That it my "progressive" interest. Apart from that my "progressive" interest would be that Obama and the Supreme Leader manage to communicate their respective ideas how US and Iran relations can be mended. What both sides need to reestablish diplomatic links. Without any dictates or pressure via time lines or other repressive measures in basic mutual respect. Yes, I can easily admit I wished the Iranian people would elect a more moderate president, since I believe this would have made things more easy. And I also believe Obama has only limited space to move. Look at the time line concerning US-Iranian relations. It doesn't look so dissimilar to the Iraq US time line at all to me. A huge danger scenario, not quite the one the neocons paint but obviously also a long established American tradition only peaks in their not quite disinterested perspective. If you prefer further clashes between Iran and America, be prepared that the next war may bring down the US empire. Just look at the Iraq war costs and then imagine Iran is bigger and stronger. Considering the financial crisis we already have this isn't a rosy scenario. I am assuming it will have a big impact on the whole Western World. Japan too. … That is surely my second big interest in the whole story. Last but not least. Take a look at the platform of one of the reform candidates. Who do you think owns Iran's oil now. Do you think the poor get more than crumbs from the gains? ” target=”_blank”>…

  67. Citizen
    June 19, 2009, 4:45 pm

    Marion, thank you for the url reference; it sure does set out the stakes, at least as perceived by those involved (and affected) outside the Western world, as near as I can see. I glean from it that Obama should NOT intervene rhetorically on one side or the other at this juncture–he already made his POV known in Cairo. Let those chips fall without further embellishment for they have, will have resonance around the world. Otherwise, Obamaland will simply replace Shrubland without skipping a real substantive beat.

  68. Citizen
    June 19, 2009, 4:49 pm

    On second thought, Obama said nothing about the attack on Gaza, and if he is equally smart AT THIS TIME, he will say nothing much about Iran's internal politics. If you think he should capitalize on the moment, did you also think he should have spoken out on Gaza early on this year? Twitter me that.

  69. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 4:55 pm

    Have I specifically named anyone? Why are you so concerned if I think you are dishonest? It is obvious to those of us who do not necessarily buy into the typical propaganda of the right or left, who is dishonestly spreading propaganda and who is sincerely searching for ALL of the facts on the ground in order to make an objective and fair decision about what is really going on… You can decide for yourself about yourself….

  70. Marion
    June 19, 2009, 5:06 pm

    Exactly Citizen, when our foreign policy has been so full of contradictions and double standards for decades, Obama has no choice but to tread very very carefully when we consider that he does not have the courage to start a revolution in his own country that will change the corrupted status quo…..

  71. MRW
    June 19, 2009, 7:15 pm

    Thanks for pointing that out. i didn't realize it.

  72. MRW
    June 19, 2009, 7:31 pm

    Why should Citizen be embarrassed? It's no different than live-blogging the Leader's speech.

  73. MRW
    June 19, 2009, 7:44 pm

    Andrew Sullivan take on Daneille Pletka on June 17: ” target=”_blank”>… Danielle Pletka insists she doesn't want the coup to succeed, she's just making "a sad observation about reality." Now? As the revolt reaches a critical phase? Instead of waiting to see what might happen? Here she pronounces the resistance over:

    The uprising is little more than a symbolic protest, crushed by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

    She could write that yesterday? Pletka is a hard-right neocon, very close to the Kagans, and a former aide to Jesse Helms. Her support for Ahmadinejad is the same as Daniel Pipes' and the Mossad's. What we're seeing is how much of the neocon agenda really was about freedom. I have long since stopped believing that, having observed them closely for the past few years. They are about warfare against Israel's perceived enemies, and extending US hegemony to eclipse any rival regional or global power. That is the prism through which you have to watch their every statement. But why is the New York Times giving a platform at this moment to people who got the Iraq war so terribly wrong? Are there no consequences for total neoconservative failure?

  74. Outsider
    June 20, 2009, 8:31 pm

    You cite M K Bhadrakumar’s article in Asia Times who is surely very knowledgeable in the way of politicians and diplomats. But you omit to cite the articles of Pepe Escobar who surely is very knowledgeable in the way of ordinary citizens. Just as a supplement: Divine assessment vs people power ” target=”_blank”>… **** The meaning of the Tehran spring ” target=”_blank”>…

  75. Kathy
    June 22, 2009, 5:49 am

    Is it possible that those who strongly oppose Obama's plan to talk with Iran, first, before using military option, are involved in inciting these demonstrations?

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