Iran’s Election — A Debate

The only independent nationwide poll in Iran prior to the election was conducted by the New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow. In the light of the developments since division has emerged among the various analysts at NAF. Yesterday NAF organized a forum where the two camps debated their respective positions. I have yet to watch the whole thing, so I’ll watch it with you all and post comments latter. However, I didn’t like the fact that Steve Clemons posted on his Facebook page a rather silly piece by a woman disparaging Flynt Leverett. (You can find stats on the elections here.)

Iran’s recent elections have sparked riots in the streets of Tehran and intense debate in the media and policy communities around the globe. Join us as some of the world’s leading experts share their varied views on how to interpret current events in Iran, and what they mean for US policy toward Iran going forward.

Author: Idrees Ahmad

I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.

5 thoughts on “Iran’s Election — A Debate”

  1. There are 2 valid critiques about the NAF/TFT poll:
    1. It was taken 3 or 4 weeks before election, and Mousavi’s campaign picked up steam during that time
    2. There were a lot of undecideds in the poll, and it i presumed they would support the reformists

    BUT, while #1 is true, it also ignores the fact that the live TV debates took place during the same time, and by ALL, ALL, accounts (of even Mousavi supporters), Ahmedinejad decisively won all of them, exposing the links to corruption (or corrupt people) of each one of the candidates. It hardly needs to be pointed out that many Iranians consider corruption to be a big problem.

    Secondly, the presumption that the undecided voters were mulling between the Reformist candidates is not substantiated. Here too, the effects of the debates have to be considered.

    Coverage of the Iran elections and the process has worked from the biases that its a tinpot dictatorship and they can cook up the results however they want. But as it is becoming apparent to those who are only now taking an interest in Iran, there are many factions/trends (Reformists, Conservatives, Principalists) within the IRI, and they are all wholly represented throughout the government. It is absurd to think that the Ministry of Interior only has employees from one of those factions, and they were able to cook up all of this without any dissent or whistleblowers.

    Lastly, the existence of internal mechanism for redress within Iran have been completely ignored both by the opposition (who may have more legitimate reasons) and the Western media (who dont have legitimate reasons). The election has to be certified by the Guardian Council (GC) within 3 days. Opposition has 3 days to file complaints within those 3 days, and then the GC extends 7-10 days to reviews the contents and validity of complaints. This fact was reiterated the moment Mousavi raised objections, yet they started protesting before taking the first step of filing a petition. When Ay. Khamenei gave approval of the elections it was presumed, that Iran being a dictatorship where anything goes, that HE had over-ridden the whole process. Now, they try to portray that Khamenei only gave approval for investigation after feeling the brunt of protests. There are a lot of underlying presumption at work beneath these perceptions.

    Well, the MOI has released the ballot counts from every single ballot box in the country.

    The Guardian Council has also asked for an extension to further investigate the complaints.

    Lets see how much coverage these two facts get, and whether they too will be twisted by psychoanalyzing what the IRI is trying to do.

  2. Oh, lastly there are two additional “analytical tools” being utilized to judge the results.

    One, there is this notion that since Kerroubi, Mousavi, and Rezai lost in their home provinces, this is an indication of fraud. “However, the double standard applied by Western news agencies is striking. Richard Nixon trounced George McGovern in his native state of South Dakota in the 1972 elections. Had Al Gore won his home state of Tennessee in 2000, no one would have cared about a Florida recount, nor would there have been a Supreme Court case called Bush v. Gore. If Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards had won the states he was born and raised in (South and North Carolina), President John Kerry would now be serving his second term. But somehow, in Western newsrooms Middle Eastern people choose their candidates not on merit, but on the basis of their “tribe.”

    Secondly, the same analysis is applied by comparing previous election results, and trying to project those voting trends onto this election as if there are loyal voting blocs in Iran. For one, the Reformists had an upswing in the 1997 and 2001 elections. But there were multiple reasons for it, not just the desire for social liberalization. At that time, it was the Reformists who presented the new unblemished face in contrast to the corruption within the Conservative camp (a la Rafsanjani). By the end of Khatami’s Presidency, those expectations were pretty strongly lowered. While Ahmedinejad may have gained support for running against Rafsanjani in the second round of 2005 elections, his policies (however faulty) and his emphasis on anti-corruption could easily swing the former “Reformist” votes in his direction.

  3. The first speaker seems to have called the results right 2-1 AN , though it is my understanding that the TV debates solidified AN rather than ushered in a late Mousavi surge.

    The second speaker has a fanciful notion of the part played by the communists in the revolution.If you read Dabashi you will notice he stated that the Tudah party only enjoyed a place in power when directly placed there by the external powers.And one of the parties he quotes actually based themselves in Iraq during the 80-89 Iran-Iraq War.His citing of the Chatam House survey ( especially when the polling done by the organisation represented by the first speaker was the only one conducted), is akin to quoting the neo-cons latest vehicle for regime change.

    Flynt Leverett is a man who seems to have made a sober analysis and a even more sober conclusion.No wonder he is being attacked by less sober analysists.

    The next speaker seems to be fixated by how things will affect his own backyard , Iranian domestic concerns are of little interest to him.

    As far as the Q&A , the Chatam dude equating Hizbullah to thugs gives more nuance to which constituency he is hankering after.

    Leverett also debunks the flawed ( and out of date) details of the Chatam House modern day version of the Yellowcake scandal.

    The 4th speaker seems to see more mileage to the twitter revolution even though Mon and Tues activities suggest otherwise and seem to go with Leveretts analysis.

    The next speaker seems to be desperately looking for a crack to which to hang his external interference cloak onto.

    The Chatam House Kid then states that the Iranian electorate had a false choice , but his assertion falls short in that if this was the case the turnout would have been more like Western elections ( 30-40%) for the recent euro-electionsand not the 85% turnout that actually voted.

    The real lesson of this is that the Iranians will find an Iranian solution to their domestic dynamics and external templates and interference will not have the same success as the 1950s.

  4. Two from economist Djavad Salehi-Isfahani in the NY Times.

    June 16
    June 23

    Also considering how much of a debate there still is I want to know more about Tehran Bureau. They pitched both the coup and the impossibility of a Ahmadinejad victory hard from the beginning.

    Iran’s Rural Vote and Election Fraud

    The Leaders of Iran’s ‘Election Coup’

    The second article was posted and then removed for a day then reposted with an added paragraph pushing the Rafsanjani economic line.

    Under Mr. Ahmadinejad, the IRGC has penetrated important sectors of Iran’s economy, and is rapidly developing a monopoly on a majority of a wide range of government projects as well as the private sector. On the other hand, Mr. Rafsanjani and his associates also have extensive economic activities and interests. They also favor foreign investments in the country, whereas the IRGC opposes it because it cannot compete with modern technology and planning.

    From Asia Times

    In respect of the economy, it was quite evident in January when I was last in Teheran, as the only non-Iranian speaker at a high-level conference, that the “reformist” Western financial approach to privatize everything and fuel the economy with debt, has [post election] taken a big hit. Here,

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