Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fresh Iran Thread

. Sunday, June 14, 2009

The previous post was getting unwieldy, but there's a lot of juice there so check it out if you need to play catch-up. I also had a running post yesterday.

{UPDATE> 10:45] Final update for tonight: everything seems to have settled down for now; even the tweets have slowed. The next major event is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. (in Tehran, 7:00 a.m. EST) when Mousavi has planned a large protest march.

I will not post so much on the topic tomorrow, but I will try to hit the high points and provide links to other news aggregators.

Finally, Hitchens has weighed in. His take is predictable: don't call this an "election". It's not.

[UPDATE: 6:20] Via Sullivan, Mousavi's spokesman provides a timeline of election day:

According to Mr. Makhbalbaf, in the early hours after voting had ended, the Interior Ministry had called Mr. Mousavi’s campaign headquarters to inform them that Mr. Mousavi would be the winner and, therefore, Mr. Mousavi must prepare a victory statement. Mr. Mousavi was, however, asked by the Ministry not to boast too much, in order not to upset Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters. Many of the president’s supporters are among the ranks of the Basij militia, and thus armed.

According to Mr. Makhbalbaf, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was also informed of the developments. He also recommended a “good management” of the victory statement, meaning not boasting greatly about the victory, because that would be in Iran’s national interests and stability.

At the same time, the reformist newspapers were also informed that they can prepare their Saturday edition to declare Mr. Mousavi the winner, but were not allowed to use the word pirouzi (victory) in their articles, in order not to upset Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters. One reformist newspaper prepared its front page with the title, “People took back the flag of their country [from Mr. Ahmadinejad].”

But, just a few hours later, a center that had been set up by Mr. Mousavi in Gheytarieh (in northern Tehran) for monitoring the election and vote counting, was attacked by armed security agents. They ransacked the center, destroyed computers, and attacked the staff. Supporters of Mr. Mousavi intervened and arrested 8 security agents. The police was called to take them to prison, but the police released the attackers.

According to Mr. Makhbalbaf, the central headquaters of Mr. Mousavi’s campaign was also surrounded by security forces, as was the Interior Ministry building. Then, new data began to be released by the Ministry, indicating that Mr. Ahmadinejad had won the elections decisively.

[UPDATE: 5:45] Voting irregularities didn't just occur within Iran; members of the diaspora also left polling stations frustrated and confused.

[UPDATE: 5:15] From yesterday, Gordon Robinson frames the possible scenarios nicely (via DeLong):

Broadly speaking, there seem to be three scenarios for what is unfolding in Iran.

Scenario One: Ahmedinejad and his supporters stole the election, plain and simple. The revolutionary old guard felt threatened by the reformists so it rigged the vote to guarantee a conservative victory. As is usual in such cases there are rumors of ballot boxes stuffed, of precincts reporting numbers completely at variance with what poll watchers observed, etc., etc. From this perspective it appears that there was never a real campaign, and the outcome was always foreordained. Robert Dreyfuss’ excellent dispatch today in The Nation includes an interview with former Iranian foreign minister Ibrahim Yazdi in which a number of election irregularities are outlined. It is all standard dictatorship fare. This scenario sees the outcome, in effect, as a reassertion of power by the Supreme Leader and the religious old-guard. There is, however, another way of looking at things…

Scenario Two: There has been a coup. Ahmedinejad and the security services have taken over. The Supreme Leader has been preserved as a figurehead, but the structures of clerical rule have effectively been gutted and are being replaced by a National Security State. Reports that facebook, twitter, text messaging and foreign TV broadcasts have been blocked, that foreign journalists are being expelled and that large concrete roadblocks (the kind that require a crane to move) have appeared in front of the Interior Ministry all feed a sense that what we are now seeing was pre-planned. Underlying this is the theory that Ahmedinejad and the people around him represent a new generation of Iranian leadership. He and his colleagues were young revolutionaries in 1979. Now in their 50s they have built careers inside the Revolutionary Guard and the other security services. They may be committed to the Islamic Republic as a concept, but they are not part of its clerical aristocracy and are now moving to push the clerics into an essentially ceremonial role. This theory in particular seems to be gaining credibility rapidly among professional Iran-watchers outside of the country. Then again…

Scenario Three: Ahmedinejad won. Really. At moments like this it is easy to forget that Tehran is not Iran. Foreign media tend to congregate in capitals and, in any case, the Iranian security services do not make it easy for foreign journalists to travel outside of Tehran. Please note I am not pushing this theory, only saying it merits consideration. This article from Saturday’s Guardian makes especially interesting reading.

Four years ago Ahmedinejad was elected because the rural and urban poor bought into his populism. In the years that followed he showered his rural base with road-building, electrification and water projects. Moreover, is it so hard to believe that the antics which cause educated Iranians to cringe and westerners to recoil in horror might inspire in ordinary Iranians (particularly those who live outside the capital) a feeling of pride at seeing their president stand up for the nation and confront its enemies? If the career of George W. Bush taught us anything it ought to have been that being loathed by foreigners and the local elite can be good for one’s political fortunes at home.

[UPDATE: 4:35] Tehran Live has been "banned in Iran by government". They have posted dozens of iconic images of the protests since the election, including this one:

[UPDATE: 4:18] Alex Hoder tweets that the Iranian military has informed the Revolutionary Guard that they (the military) will not commit violence against Iranians. This could turn into RG + Hezbollah against civilians and/or military. That... would not be good.

Remember earlier today when Ahmadinejad said that Iran was the most stable country on earth?

[UPDATE: 4:15] NIAC has more discussion of the leaked "real" election results discussed in the thread below this one (update 3:13 at NIAC, 2:30 on my post):

We’ve been very hesitant to publicize any of the so-called “true” election results that have surfaced, since it’s the easiest thing in the world to make up numbers and plug them into a graph and present it as fact. But this comes from, where “an informed source” inside the Ministry of Interior’s Election HQ says

All 9 communiques of the MOI were written and planned in advance; numbers were faked via a software program which distributed vote counts among polling stations in such a way to make everything look plausible.

Supposedly, the initial results that the MOI announced were based only on the first 500,000 ballots received, and that set the rest of Friday’s events in motion. According to this site, the real results were:

Mousavi – 21.3 million (57.2%)
Ahmadinejad – 10.5 million (28%)
Rezai – 2.7 million (7.2%)
Karroubi – 2.2 million (6%)
Obviously, this should be taken with a huge grain of salt. But Mowj is the unofficial website for the Mousavi campaign, so we wanted to present it here for you to interpret yourself.

My take? There's no way those numbers are legit. And please note that those numbers are different than the ones originally posted at DailyKos & BigSoccer, and reproduced by Sullivan & Ackerman. Perhaps a bit of gamesmanship by Mousavi, perhaps not, but another reminder that we really don't have any clear idea of what's going on there.

[UPDATE: 4:07] Another account of "imported" Hezbollah cops, via Sullivan.

[UPDATE: 4:05] Zakaria's roundtable from GPS today:

[UPDATE: 4:00] Updates from Farsi television, including a brutal clash between the 300 Revolutionary Guard and 700 students that resulted in 100 hospitalizations.

[UPDATE: 3:50] Up to now, the foreign press in Iran had mostly been treated with respect even as the local media was heavily censored. That appears to be changing (3:22 update). The NBC and ABC offices have been raided, equipment and videotapes confiscated. The BBC was told to leave the country, and their broadcast signals into Iran are being heavily jammed. Al-Arabiya's offices were closed this morning, as were some German media outlets.

This is especially concerning given the planned protests tomorrow. If the government is planning violence, then obviously they would want to boot out the foreign media first. Cell phones and many internet sites (including Facebook) remain offline, further hampering communication with those in the country. Twitter still works, but it's hard to verify the truthfulness of tweets.

Foreign governments may not wish to comment on the election itself until more information is available, but they can certainly protest the expulsion of the international press. Without the media, further information may not be forthcoming.

Sullivan links to this anonymous letter from Tehran posted at Salon:

The Guardian Council has to accept the election results. All eyes are now on Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has apparently just resigned as chairman of the Expediency Council. He was the sole member of the original "yaran" of Khomeini, or Khomeini's original team, with power and influence. Hossein Mousavi is under house arrest. ...

It is, however, a mistake to think that any restoration of the election results will occur. The battle is elsewhere now and while the obvious theft of the election has enraged and disappointed millions, the action now is to demonstrate that folks aren't just going to take it. This was clearly a bad strategy on the part of the leadership as they could have easily given another 10 to 20 years of energy to the system by sacrificing the current president. Legitimacy, much debated by social scientists, actually turns out to matter. It's not just force that rules, though that appears to be the case right now in Iran. Short-term calculations (get rid of the old generation of leadership for a new breed of revolutionary) will prove to be disastrous.


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Fresh Iran Thread
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