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16 June 2009

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J

Colonel,

In pre-election polls, found Ahmadinejad consistently running 20 points ahead of Mousavi. This poll was conducted before the televised debates in which Ahmadinejad was perceived to have done well.

I think the Iranian people have spoken through their vote, irrespective if Mousavi and his supporters (and Western backers) like it or not.

Ahmadinejad won, and I think we the WEST have to 'get over it'.

Jimmy

Col,

I disagree with you on the rhetoric side. Right now, the Iranian military (as opposed to the IRGC) has a chance of siding with the protesters. We need to back off, rhetorically, so that we do not push the Iranian military to come down on the students.

The Iranian military probably views this protest as having American/Israeli conspiracy elements. We cannot feed into that perception with all of that democratic talk right now.

Instead, we should start confidence building measures with the military, and Obama needs to get on the TV and tell them that we respect their constitutional process. We need to start a rapprochement, and tell them that, regardless of who wins the election, we will continue.

I just wrote a post for this:
http://americanmohist.blogspot.com/2009/06/iran-time-for-embassy.html

Matthew

Help them? Or apply "The Shock doctrine"?

Iraq proved the two are mutually exclusive.

J

Colonel,

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23745.html

Ahmadinejad won. Get over it

By FLYNT LEVERETT AND HILLARY MANN LEVERETT | 6/15/09 12:01 PM EDT

Without any evidence, many U.S. politicians and “Iran experts” have dismissed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection Friday, with 62.6 percent of the vote, as fraud.

They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejad’s 62.6 percent of the vote in this year’s election is essentially the same as the 61.69 percent he received in the final count of the 2005 presidential election, when he trounced former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The shock of the “Iran experts” over Friday’s results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking.

Although Iran’s elections are not free by Western standards, the Islamic Republic has a 30-year history of highly contested and competitive elections at the presidential, parliamentary and local levels. Manipulation has always been there, as it is in many other countries.

But upsets occur — as, most notably, with Mohammed Khatami’s surprise victory in the 1997 presidential election. Moreover, “blowouts” also occur — as in Khatami’s reelection in 2001, Ahmadinejad’s first victory in 2005 and, we would argue, this year.

Like much of the Western media, most American “Iran experts” overstated Mir Hossein Mousavi’s “surge” over the campaign’s final weeks. More important, they were oblivious — as in 2005 — to Ahmadinejad’s effectiveness as a populist politician and campaigner. American “Iran experts” missed how Ahmadinejad was perceived by most Iranians as having won the nationally televised debates with his three opponents — especially his debate with Mousavi.

Before the debates, both Mousavi and Ahmadinejad campaign aides indicated privately that they perceived a surge of support for Mousavi; after the debates, the same aides concluded that Ahmadinejad’s provocatively impressive performance and Mousavi’s desultory one had boosted the incumbent’s standing. Ahmadinejad’s charge that Mousavi was supported by Rafsanjani’s sons — widely perceived in Iranian society as corrupt figures — seemed to play well with voters.

Similarly, Ahmadinejad’s criticism that Mousavi’s reformist supporters, including Khatami, had been willing to suspend Iran’s uranium enrichment program and had won nothing from the West for doing so tapped into popular support for the program — and had the added advantage of being true.

More fundamentally, American “Iran experts” consistently underestimated Ahmadinejad’s base of support. Polling in Iran is notoriously difficult; most polls there are less than fully professional and, hence, produce results of questionable validity. But the one poll conducted before Friday’s election by a Western organization that was transparent about its methodology — a telephone poll carried out by the Washington-based Terror-Free Tomorrow from May 11 to 20 — found Ahmadinejad running 20 points ahead of Mousavi. This poll was conducted before the televised debates in which, as noted above, Ahmadinejad was perceived to have done well while Mousavi did poorly.

American “Iran experts” assumed that “disastrous” economic conditions in Iran would undermine Ahmadinejad’s reelection prospects. But the International Monetary Fund projects that Iran’s economy will actually grow modestly this year (when the economies of most Gulf Arab states are in recession). A significant number of Iranians — including the religiously pious, lower-income groups, civil servants and pensioners — appear to believe that Ahmadinejad’s policies have benefited them.

And, while many Iranians complain about inflation, the TFT poll found that most Iranian voters do not hold Ahmadinejad responsible. The “Iran experts” further argue that the high turnout on June 12 — 82 percent of the electorate — had to favor Mousavi. But this line of analysis reflects nothing more than assumptions.

Some “Iran experts” argue that Mousavi’s Azeri background and “Azeri accent” mean that he was guaranteed to win Iran’s Azeri-majority provinces; since Ahmadinejad did better than Mousavi in these areas, fraud is the only possible explanation.

But Ahmadinejad himself speaks Azeri quite fluently as a consequence of his eight years serving as a popular and successful official in two Azeri-majority provinces; during the campaign, he artfully quoted Azeri and Turkish poetry — in the original — in messages designed to appeal to Iran’s Azeri community. (And we should not forget that the supreme leader is Azeri.) The notion that Mousavi was somehow assured of victory in Azeri-majority provinces is simply not grounded in reality.

With regard to electoral irregularities, the specific criticisms made by Mousavi — such as running out of ballot paper in some precincts and not keeping polls open long enough (even though polls stayed open for at least three hours after the announced closing time) — could not, in themselves, have tipped the outcome so clearly in Ahmadinejad’s favor.

Moreover, these irregularities do not, in themselves, amount to electoral fraud even by American legal standards. And, compared with the U.S. presidential election in Florida in 2000, the flaws in Iran’s electoral process seem less significant.

In the wake of Friday’s election, some “Iran experts” — perhaps feeling burned by their misreading of contemporary political dynamics in the Islamic Republic — argue that we are witnessing a “conservative coup d’état,” aimed at a complete takeover of the Iranian state.

But one could more plausibly suggest that if a “coup” is being attempted, it has been mounted by the losers in Friday’s election. It was Mousavi, after all, who declared victory on Friday even before Iran’s polls closed. And three days before the election, Mousavi supporter Rafsanjani published a letter criticizing the leader’s failure to rein in Ahmadinejad’s resort to “such ugly and sin-infected phenomena as insults, lies and false allegations.” Many Iranians took this letter as an indication that the Mousavi camp was concerned their candidate had fallen behind in the campaign’s closing days.

In light of these developments, many politicians and “Iran experts” argue that the Obama administration cannot now engage the “illegitimate” Ahmadinejad regime. Certainly, the administration should not appear to be trying to “play” in the current controversy in Iran about the election. In this regard, President Barack Obama’s comments on Friday, a few hours before the polls closed in Iran, that “just as has been true in Lebanon, what can be true in Iran as well is that you’re seeing people looking at new possibilities” was extremely maladroit.

From Tehran’s perspective, this observation undercut the credibility of Obama’s acknowledgement, in his Cairo speech earlier this month, of U.S. complicity in overthrowing a democratically elected Iranian government and restoring the shah in 1953.

The Obama administration should vigorously rebut any argument against engaging Tehran following Friday’s vote. More broadly, Ahmadinejad’s victory may force Obama and his senior advisers to come to terms with the deficiencies and internal contradictions in their approach to Iran. Before the Iranian election, the Obama administration had fallen for the same illusion as many of its predecessors — the illusion that Iranian politics is primarily about personalities and finding the right personality to deal with. That is not how Iranian politics works.

The Islamic Republic is a system with multiple power centers; within that system, there is a strong and enduring consensus about core issues of national security and foreign policy, including Iran’s nuclear program and relations with the United States. Any of the four candidates in Friday’s election would have continued the nuclear program as Iran’s president; none would agree to its suspension.

Any of the four candidates would be interested in a diplomatic opening with the United States, but that opening would need to be comprehensive, respectful of Iran’s legitimate national security interests and regional importance, accepting of Iran’s right to develop and benefit from the full range of civil nuclear technology — including pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle — and aimed at genuine rapprochement.

Such an approach would also, in our judgment, be manifestly in the interests of the United States and its allies throughout the Middle East. It is time for the Obama administration to get serious about pursuing this approach — with an Iranian administration headed by the reelected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Flynt Leverett directs The New America Foundation’s Iran Project and teaches international affairs at Pennsylvania State university. Hillary Mann Leverett is CEO of STRATEGA, a political risk consultancy. Both worked for many years on Middle East issues for the U.S. government, including as members of the National Security Council staff.

Clifford Kiracofe

McCain as the mouthpiece of the Neocons and Israel...

Senators Kerry and Lugar of the Foreign Relations Committee so far have remained level headed. I presume they are better briefed. They are certainly more well informed on international affairs than the hothead from Arizona who calls himself a "Scoop Jackson Republican."

For Senator Lugar today,

http://niacblog.wordpress.com/2008/10/15/
senator-lugar-r-in-urges-diplomacy-with-iran/

Patrick Lang

All

Are elections more important than war?

Jimmy

Why do you think that I want to step up the rhetoric right now? pl

Abu Sinan

Why would we step in on the side of a minority movement? They would be completely unable to form a government that could stand any election. Any government formed from the current opposition would certainly have to be a dictatorship as popular opinion would not support it.

More to the point, US support for such a minority movement would actually SHRINK their electoral support.

People who mistake the so called liberal elite for American stooges or supporters of Western policy in the region dont have a clue.

Like Obama was quoted on CNBC today, he said there is very little real policy difference between the opposing camps in Iran.

There does need to be a change in US policy towards Iran, but certainly NOT in this direction.

Realistically Israel and the world needs to be told that as long as Israel has a nuclear weapon countries in the region will seek the same. The only realistic way of keeping a bomb from a country like Iran is to remove nuclear weapons from Israel and we all know what the chances of that are.

I think we, as a nation, need to accept the reality of an Iranian bomb. Either that or do what we can to force the Israelis to give up their program.

Nothing short of a full scale invasion of Iran will keep them from getting it. I really hope our government is drafting policy behind the scenes to deal with a nuclear Iran.

Jimmy

Col,

My mistake. I thought your Hungarian cite means you're supporting a more active rhetoric now.

I agree we need to provide more support when it gets to the street battle phase.

PirateLaddie

It seems to me that we're being put into a box. Ahmadinejad has been a useful demon in this drama, the hope that he'd be removed "democratically" runs deep, like in the US in 2004. If, as likely, he remains in office, he's damaged goods, both domestically and abroad -- that will play out as more hardline at home and an even more attractive target for those pimping the next phase in the war on Islam. Le jeu continue.

Babak Makkinejad

All:

My caution you strongly against taking sides in the internal political strifes in foreign countires - specially in Iran given the sordid history of the interaction of the United States and Iran over the last 50 years.

Donald Johnson

What sort of support are you (Jimmy and maybe the Colonel, but I can't tell) advocating?

Bill Wade, NH, USA

Maybe there will be two winners here, the US and Iran, just a while ago we were talking about the topic: "Ahmadinajad wins and so does Bibi."

Jose

Does the United States stand by for weeks or months while the Bassij and the police stamp out resistance?

Why did we stand by at the time of Tienanmen Square?

Does anybody know if the protest a only occurring in the capital?

If so it would suggest, that maybe Mousavi's support is not as strong as we imagine or outside forces are trying to influence a desirable outcome.

Simon

Colonel, I am surprised by your response to this situation in Iran.

It is Venezuela all over again. This idea that these upper class twitter people can overthrow the Iranian government is delusional. The rallies in the street and attempted coup were tried unsuccessfully in Venezuela by the U.S.'s allies. The NY Times, the Washington Post, CNN, etc. all portrayed the coup plotters as the majority leading a revolution against Chavez and his supporters. Only to discover that you cannot force the majority to stand aside during a coup attempt or to support a revolution against the government they elected, especially when the military is on their side.

When all is said and done, the majority of Iran won't forget how America's wealthy and urban stooges tried to steal this election. Tensions with Iran will be even greater. Obama and his minions have got to stop making trouble because trouble with Iran never ends well.

different clue

This little video on Young Turks TV (on You Tube)
is reporting a claim that Grand Ayatollah al Montazeri
states the election to have been in his opinion fixed, and that the Grand Ayatollah
is calling upon the army, police forces, etc.; to treat the demonstrators "with respect".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvv57DVBmrc

confusedponderer

When Ahmedinejad won, and the opposition lost, that would mean that their challenging the result constitutes sedition. That would, from the point of view of the Iranian government, motivate and justify the crackdown. That is no endorsement on my part.

Imagine Ahmedinejad would have lost and Mousavi had won. Everything would have went peacefully. Would a president Mousavi solve the Iran problem? Iran would still be an Islamic state. Is this about democracy or regime change?

Mark Stuart

War is definitely more important!
And i say let's go at it with Twitter if we want to win.
ms.

rick

Yes!

Let us please help the Iranians get the government that we think they REALLY want.

It worked so well the last time.

Patrick Lang

pirateladdie

Did you call me a pimp?

All

A lot of you people are not good at dealing with forced choices among unpleasant alternatives. If, as I think, the real choice is between eventul war with Iran and a government in
Teheran that will enter into serious negotiations, then the moral choice is clear. pl

arbogast

Wars cost money.

Discretionary wars can destroy the countries and civilizations that wage them.

We just don't have the resources to fight on three fronts.

Oh, and what about China? Don't we have a beef with them? I say if we're going to wage discretionary wars, we start with China. After all, many would say that a reaction to mercantilism caused the Civil War, and that, apparently, was worth 600,000 American lives.

Dave of Maryland

the real choice is between eventual war with Iran

You have evidence that Iran is planning an attack?

Or are Washington & Jerusalem? If not with Iran, then with North Korea? Along with continuing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia & elsewhere?

Rather than a coup in Tehran, wouldn't coups in Jerusalem & Washington be better outcomes?

If attitudes towards Iran are anything like attitudes towards the Palestinians, there is no Iranian government acceptable to Washington/Jerusalem. Just as there was no native Iraqi government.

Short of a formal treaty, ratified by legislatures in all three countries, why should Iran waste time appeasing us? We cannot, will not, be appeased. I thought that obvious.

Matthew

Col: Controlling the "Tiger" is not a problem limited to dictatorships. (That is my understanding of your recent posts.)


"When tyrants ride the tiger's back
Their tigers must be fed,
On what and where they little care
If but the meat be red;
Nor ever do they dare dismount,
Or stop to count the dead."

See http://www.felixdennis.com/poem.php?C=35&T=35&B=2

Larry Kart

Colonel -- Many thanks for your "A lot of you people are not good at dealing with forced choices among unpleasant alternatives." That cuts to the heart of it. Also, having just read T.R. Fehrenbach's history of the Korean War, it seems clear that people with military training and experience, all other things being equal, often can function better, think more clearly, in "forced choices" etc. situations than most American civilians can.

Again, the value to all of us of your independence, savvy, and heart is no small thing.

J

Babak,

My take -- It is sooo sad that my fellow Americans know little to nada/squat regarding Iran and the Iranian nation and its interaction throughout mankind's history. It sad that my fellow Americans have no idea who invented the game of Chess that some so avidly play.

And it's sad that sooo many know nothing of the fine Persian cuisine.

We Americans have much in common with the Iranians, much more than we have in common with the spiteful Israelis, and it's a pity that few even know it.

eakens

for what it's worth...

http://www.payvand.com/news/09/jun/1150.html

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