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.

Where Is My Vote?

The Editor: In these parlous times it becomes imperative to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate solidarity. The following is based on principle and respect for the Iranian people, and its demand for transparency and accountability is one we share even if our own reading of the elections is different.(Also see Khatami and Moussavi‘s statements on the elections which have been translated by our good friend Naj).

The aim of the following appeal is to declare our support for the Iranian movement in its call for a new election and our opposition to any violent intervention on the protesters. We do so as independent academics and not as representatives of our many respective governments. We do so in the hope that the historical appreciation and respect of higher learning in most of traditional Iran will make our voice of solidarity heard within Iran.

Iranians participate in the democratic process
Iranians participate in the democratic process

June 21, 2009 — A week ago, Friday June 12, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the Iranian presidential election. Immediately after, all other candidates, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and even the conservative Mohsen Rezaei, disputed the official results. So did some people who started several demonstrations to express their anger. More news fueled the suspicion of fraud at an unprecedented scale. On Monday June 15, and to the amazement of the world, millions of people – of all ages, classes, and backgrounds – were in the streets of Tehran demanding another election in what was the biggest demonstration since the revolution in 1979. A week later, despite the threats and beatings issued and ordered by the government, millions of people are still demonstrating, and the movement is growing and spreading to other cities.

Continue reading “Where Is My Vote?”

In Tehran, fantasy and reality make uneasy bedfellows

It appears Robert Fisk — who I have often referred to as the greatest living journalist — is trying to redeem himself for the overly credulous reporting in his last article (for which he was chided here yesterday). “It’s said that the cruel ‘Iranian’ cops aren’t Iranian at all. They’re Hizbollah militia”. These and other equally silly rumors Fisk lays to rest in this return to his usual uncompromising journalism.

Protesters attacked by the Basij
Protesters attacked by the Basij

At around 4.35 last Monday morning, my Beirut mobile phone rang in my Tehran hotel room. “Mr Fisk, I am a computer science student in Lebanon. I have just heard that students are being massacred in their dorms at Tehran University. Do you know about this?” The Fisk notebook is lifted wearily from the bedside table. “And can you tell me why,” he continued, “the BBC and other media are not reporting that the Iranian authorities have closed down SMS calls and local mobile phones and have shut down the internet in Tehran? I am learning what is happening only from Twitters and Facebook.”

Continue reading “In Tehran, fantasy and reality make uneasy bedfellows”

Patrick Doherty on the Iranian Elections

Patrick Doherty
Patrick Doherty

Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio interviews Patrick Doherty of the New America Foundation on the Iranian election.

MP3 here. (17:52)

Patrick Doherty, Deputy Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, discusses the Iranian government crackdown that reinforces the perception of electoral fraud, the popular Iranian discontent with autocracy, the dearth of legitimate polling in Iran that increases uncertainty and how Ahmedinejad’s tough negotiating with the U.S. is seen by some as the Persian equivalent of Nixon going to China.

Rigged or not, vote fractures Iran

Mussavi supporters in the street
Mussavi supporters in the street

Hamid Dabashi is one of our truly valued friends, a man of integrity, courage and extraordinary genius. I consider him the true heir to Edward Said’s indefatigable spirit. Like us, he is clearly inspired by the determination of those protesting in Iran’s streets. However, unlike us, he appears somewhat cavalier in his dismissal of the preferences of the part of the population which voted for Ahmadinejad, even though he concedes that they may indeed be the majority. (See by comparison Seumas Milne’s comments on this subject).

(CNN) — In a recent article published both in the Washington Post and the Guardian, Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty reported that according to their “nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote … Ahmadinejad [was] leading by a more than 2-to-1 margin — greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday’s election.”

That may or may not be the case, but the abiding wisdom of Aesop’s fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” or its Persian version, “The Lying Shepherd,” has now made any such Monday-morning quarterbacking an academic exercise in futility.

The assumption that the government has rigged the election has become a “social fact” that millions of Iranians believe. On the basis of that belief, they have put their lives on the line, with reported casualties of dozens injured and at least one, perhaps up to nine, people killed.

Continue reading “Rigged or not, vote fractures Iran”

The Day of Destiny: ‘Tanks, guns, Basiji, you have no effect now’

Robert Fisk witnesses the courage of one million opposition protesters.

A demonstrator who was shot during a protest in the streets of the capital Tehran today

It was Iran’s day of destiny and day of courage. A million of its people marched from Engelob Square to Azadi Square – from the Square of Revolution to the Square of Freedom – beneath the eyes of Tehran’s brutal riot police. The crowds were singing and shouting and laughing and abusing their “President” as “dust”.Mirhossein Mousavi was among them, riding atop a car amid the exhaust smoke and heat, unsmiling, stunned, unaware that so epic a demonstration could blossom amid the hopelessness of Iran’s post-election bloodshed. He may have officially lost last Friday’s election, but yesterday was his electoral victory parade through the streets of his capital. It ended, inevitably, in gunfire and blood.

Continue reading “The Day of Destiny: ‘Tanks, guns, Basiji, you have no effect now’”

No Liberal Inevitability

Mir Hossein Mousavi
Mir Hossein Mousavi (Credit: Hasan Sarbakhshian)

I imagine that many PULSE readers, like me, hope that Iran is able to preserve the anti-imperialist character of its revolution while ridding itself of the more oppressive aspects, such as dress codes, morality police, and harassment of intellectuals. In these elections, Mousavi certainly seemed the more intelligent and diplomatic of the candidates. The commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s announcement even before votes were counted that a ‘popular revolution’ would not be tolerated seems to suggest that the election results have in fact been rigged. Yet nothing is clear. Mousavi’s campaign was aimed at the merchant class and the liberal bourgeoisie – no more than a third of the population. And Mousavi received about a third of the votes.

Abbas Barzegar believes Ahmedinejad won the election fair and square, and that Iranian and Western commentators indulge in wishful thinking when they find this incredible. “Observers,” he writes, “would do us a favour by taking a deeper look into Iranian society, giving us a more accurate picture of the very organic religious structures of the country, and dispensing with the narrative of liberal inevitability.”

I have been in Iran for exactly one week covering the 2009 Iranian election carnival. Since I arrived, few here doubted that the incumbent firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad would win. My airport cab driver reminded me that the president had visited every province twice in the last four years – “Iran isn’t Tehran,” he said. Even when I asked Mousavi supporters if their man could really carry more than capital, their responses were filled with an Obamasque provisional optimism – “Yes we can”, “I hope so”, “If you vote.” So the question occupying the international media, “How did Mousavi lose?” seems to be less a problem of the Iranian election commission and more a matter of bad perception rooted in the stubborn refusal to understand the role of religion in Iran.

Continue reading “No Liberal Inevitability”

Lebanon’s election results and the Age of Resistance

Franklin Lamb writing from Dahiyeh, Beirut.

Ready?Hundreds of muezzin called believers to Lebanon’s mosques at 3:35 a.m. this morning for the Al Fajr (the Dawn) prayer. The haunting and beautiful strains of Allahu Akbar (God is great) and Ash-‘hadu ana la elaha ella Allah (I bear witness that there is no God by Allah) wafted from minarets and flowed softly, pushed by the morning sea breezes, along Beirut’s sandy, but trash-strewn beaches at Ramlet al Baida. Drifting along the Corniche Mazzra and Raouche, below the American University of Beirut, they swirled around the silent and narrow streets and alleys of Lebanon’s capital and drifted east and up along her mountains. Caressing the mountain tops they embraced the majestic Basilica at Harissa, high above Jounieh, topped by its 15-ton bronze statue of Saydet Libnan or Notre Dame du Liban.

Proclaimed the “Queen of Lebanon” by the Patriarch of Antioch at the beginning of the last century, this Blessed Virgin is a shrine with claimed healing powers for Pilgrims, and the patron saint of Lebanon’s Christians. She is held in the highest esteem by Shia and Sunni Muslims, as well as Druze. The Koran contains 253 references to Mary, two hundred more than in the New Testament.

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Coming Down to the Wire in Lebanon: Parliamentary Immunity, Israeli Spies and Fake IDs

Franklin Lamb writes from Beirut’s Abdel Kadas Kabbani High School Polling Station

95 hours and the Polls will open

lebanon electionsAs election volunteers in Lebanon work this morning to spruce up its hundreds of Polling Places for Sundays’ election, Minister of Education Bahia Hariri, sister of the murdered Rafiq, canceled school for Saturday and Monday as a precaution, and the US Embassy just an hour ago issued an advisory for Americans to avoid public places and “reminds American citizens in Lebanon that even peaceful gatherings and demonstrations can turn violent unexpectedly.” As for the voters, they are preparing to elect 128 Parliamentary Delegates from more than 550 candidates who theoretically will chart this country’s course over the next four years.

Beirut’s airport is jammed with thousands of Lebanese, often given free tickets, arriving to vote from all over the world, but most heavily from the US, Canada, and Europe.

Drop-outs can succeed

More than two dozen candidates have dropped out of the race (and may now be millionaires if they were not already). This electoral phenomenon regularly happens just before the voting in Lebanon. One drop-out candidate confided to a Carter Center STO (short term observer) that he put two kids through college in France with what he earned by abandoning his candidacy.

Continue reading “Coming Down to the Wire in Lebanon: Parliamentary Immunity, Israeli Spies and Fake IDs”

Biden Does Beirut

From friend of PULSE and correspondent in Beirut, Franklin Lamb.

Biden IIIHeeeeeerrrre’s Joe!

It appears that the Biden visit is part of a US bid to supervise the electoral campaign of a Lebanese party, which feels threatened politically, in light of the expected outcome of the legislative vote. We call on all Lebanese, regardless of their political views, to rise up against such meddling that represents a flagrant violation of Lebanese sovereignty. Biden’s visit is part of U.S. efforts to impose its views on the government that will be set up after the elections. They are tracing red lines for the future government but we will rise up to this.
Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah, Friday morning 22 May 2009 as Joe Biden arrived in Beirut.

Let U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hear what Lebanon needs and not listen only to what the U.S. wants
Hezbollah deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem in a message to President Michel Suleiman (22 May 2009)

How not to win votes for the ‘US team’

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Beirut with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman aboard a U.S. military helicopter at 11:50 am this morning. At 12:14 pm Biden arrived at Baabda Palace and went straight to meet President Michel Suleiman ignoring media questions. Biden was greeted at Beirut’s airport by Hezbollah supporter Fawsi Salloukh, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister and one of the key back channels for US-Hezbollah communications. Biden’s Salloukh meeting is likely the extent of any dialogue between Biden and Hezbollah this trip. Biden’s first words, shouted to some journalists outside the Baabda Presidential Palace were, “I am happy to be in Libya…I mean Lebanon…this morning!”

If Biden was having a good morning, many Beirutis were not. Many woke up furious as they learned they will be on “lockdown” from 11 am to 6:30 pm for Vice President Joe Biden’s quick visit. It will be the 14th visit by a US official over the past six months to assure the people of Lebanon that the US will not interfere in the June 7 elections. In fact, US interference has now reached a near fever pitch just sixteen days before the voting.

Continue reading “Biden Does Beirut”

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