Tag Archives: Iran

George Packer’s take

Fantastic commentary from George Packer on the U.S. Foreign Policy response to the Iranian election crisis:

Just when Obama seemed to have fallen a step behind events, he emerged from his silence to do what no politician in our time could have managed: emphasize American respect for Iranian sovereignty and yet, in measured terms, make it clear that the U.S. cannot be indifferent to the tragedy unfolding in Iran. He spoke with calm eloquence to the millions of people who have filled the streets at great risk—spoke to their hopes and their courage. He proved that an American President can lend his voice to “universal values” without sounding like a self-righteous fool. And he showed the emptiness of the eternal argument between realism and idealism. When foreign policy is articulated by a thoughtful politician in the middle of an intense and unfolding drama, the abstractions melt away. It’s actually possible to be pragmatic without being indecent. Why shouldn’t it be?

Full text from the New Yorker


Dabashi on Mousavi

Excerpts from Columbia professor and Iranian exile Hamid Dabashi on Mousavi and the state of the election dispute.

On who is leading and Mousavi’s potential:

Mousavi is not all that this movement wants, nor is Mousavi totally in control of the movement. There is a dialectic between the two, facing the thuggish brutalities of the regime as they go along. To me the only way that this movement can come to a meaningful fruition (not just in securing a recount or even a re-election but in fact addressing the wider range of civil liberties) is if it aspires to a non-violent collective act of civil disobedience that from Gandhi to MLK has always needed a visionary leadership. I am not sure if Mousavi or Khatami are those figures. But I do believe that Mousavi in particular has the public demeanor and disposition of becoming one, the “make up” of such a leadership.

On Mousavi’s credentials:

What we are witnessing today may indeed be the commencement of a full-fledged civil disobedience, led by an aging revolutionary, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, battle-tested, literally, during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), a war hero to his followers, and then gone into seclusion for almost 20 years (reading, writing, teaching, and painting), and has now come back with a vengeance against the opportunist populism of Ahmadinejad.

Full text here.

Yesterday’s timeline

From Gary Slick:

On the basis of what we know so far, here is the sequence of events starting on the afternoon of election day, Friday, June 12.

* Near closing time of the polls, mobile text messaging was turned off nationwide

* Security forces poured out into the streets in large numbers

* The Ministry of Interior (election headquarters) was surrounded by concrete barriers and armed men

* National television began broadcasting pre-recorded messages calling for everyone to unite behind the winner

* The Mousavi campaign was informed officially that they had won the election, which perhaps served to temporarily lull them into complacency

* But then the Ministry of Interior announced a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad

* Unlike previous elections, there was no breakdown of the vote by province, which would have provided a way of judging its credibility

* The voting patterns announced by the government were identical in all parts of the country, an impossibility (also see the comments of Juan Cole at the title link)

* Less than 24 hours later, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene`i publicly announced his congratulations to the winner, apparently confirming that the process was complete and irrevocable, contrary to constitutional requirements

* Shortly thereafter, all mobile phones, Facebook, and other social networks were blocked, as well as major foreign news sources.


Iran Update

The AP reports that cell phone service has been cut in Tehran but is functioning in others parts of the country. On election day text messages were blocked throughout the country. The Mousavi campaign has used SMS extensively to rally its supporters. Pro-Mousavi websites are now blocked.

Several people have been injured in protests in the capital and one young man is reported killed. Police are suppressing what they say are unapproved mass gatherings. Reuters picked up this snippet of conversation:

“We are going to stay here. We are going to die here,” demonstrators shouted as one woman was struck on her back by policeman’s baton, while others were kicked.

“The time of dancing and shouting is over. They are going to break your leg if you stand here,” a senior policeman was heard telling one man.

Two things could radically shift the direction of events right now:

1. Election fraud: revelations of ballot box stuffing, Mousavi supporters being turned away from polling stations, or ballot miscounts.

2. Police brutality on the streets. Thirty years ago, the Islamic Revolution was fueled by tales of martyrs who died in street clashes with the SAVAK forces (the Shah’s brutal police service).

Themes of protest and individual sacrifice for common ideals run deep in Persian culture. An able propagandist might be able harness the immense dissatisfaction that Tehran residents are feeling right now and direct it toward a movement that could seriously unhinge the current regime. Such a movement would be fueled by the youth generation, who are too young to remember the repression that followed the Revolution and are unaffected by the horrors of the Iran-Iraq War. Their parents brought down the Shah without social networking sites and SMS, let’s see what they can do now.

Ahmadinejad v. Mousavi

Some interesting news coming out of Iran since Ahmadinejad’s surprising win yesterday.

The Grey Lady casts a lot of suspicion on the election results, describing voting anomalies and taking very seriously Mousavi’s claims of fraud.


And this description sounds just like Bush-Kerry 2004:

The emotional campaign was widely seen as a referendum on Mr. Ahmadinejad’s divisive policies. It pitted Mr. Moussavi, a former prime minister who has pledged to move Iran away from confrontation with the West, combat economic stagnation and expand women’s rights, against Mr. Ahmadinejad’s economic populism, social conservatism, and hard-line foreign policy. Many women, young people, intellectuals and members of the moderate clerical establishment backed Mr. Moussavi. Mr. Ahmadinejad drew passionate support from poor rural Iranians as well as conservatives.

Khameini made a point of not endorsing either candidate during the race, although he seemed more sympathetic to Ahmadinejad, and he has now given his blessing to the election results and discouraged protests. Nontheless, Mousavi is talking heavy:

“I personally strongly protest the many obvious violations and I’m warning I will not surrender to this dangerous charade. The result of such performance by some officials will jeopardise the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny.”

Al-Jazeera has this to say on Mousavi’s situation:

“He has been told by the country’s supreme leader that this is essentially the end of this election, and if he chooses to negate that command, he is laying down a challenge the like of which the Islamic Republic has reallly never seen before.”


Post-revolution Iran has certain scared cows, among them popular demonstrations and faith in its unique democratic system, and if Mousavi’s complaints continue to hold water or something improper is exposed in the election procedures, the popular outrage might be too much for Khameini’s words or Ahmadinejad’s storm troopers.

Related, 538.com published a piece on the maturation of Iranian democracy. Presidential races have tightened through the nineties, leading up to 2005’s run-off vote. This election seems to buck the trend, with the Ahmadinejad winning over 60% of the vote.