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Monday, June 15, 2009

Assessing the Iranian Election

ON POINT: A Concise Analysis

by Daniel Pipes

updated Sun, 14 Jun 2009

Better put, the Iranian "selection," as the exercise yesterday appears to have been window dressing for Spiritual Leader Ali Khamene'i, the real power in Iran, to re-appoint Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. According to the authorities, Ahmadinejad received 63 percent of the vote, Mir-Hossein Mousavi 35 percent, and the remaining two candidates each about 1 percent.

Ahmadinejad proclaimed a "great victory" but Mousavi called the elections a "dangerous charade" and the two other candidates agreed with him. Many analysts see Ahmadinejad having stolen election but I interpret it as Khamene'i stealing the election on Ahmadinejad's behalf.

What to make of this? I think it about the best result possible. I also find it a mystery. First, why it pleases me. Count the ways:

Ahmadinejad remains the lunatic face of Iran to the world, making it difficult to argue that the mullahs' regime is mellowing and its possession of nuclear weapons poses no threat. Had Mousavi won, policy would have remained roughly the same because, as one Iranian insider puts it, "the government of Iran executes foreign policy decisions made by Iran's supreme leader," yet the regime would have appeared much less threatening.

Ahmadinejad symbolizes the rejection of Barack Obama's overtures to Iran and, as such, his selection represents a slap in the face of the American president's pro-Islamist policies.

Ahmadinejad remains in charge of the Iranian economy, which he is progressively wrecking, thereby reducing the country's capabilities to make mischief abroad.

Ahmadinejad also determines the social mores, which he has tightened to the point of rebellion, assuring that his subject population grows more alienated from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Supporters of the opposition candidates have not accepted the results, leading to riots in Tehran. In the description of the Los Angeles Times, "Searing smoke and the smell of burning trash bins and tear gas filled the night sky. Protesters poured into key squares around the capital, burning tires, erecting banners and hurling stones at riot police on motorcycles, who responded with truncheons."

Yesterday's sham election may be a turning point, the moment when the much-suffering population found its collective voice against the regime. It bears noting in this regard that the Iranian population in 1978-79 mounted what was perhaps the largest-scale rebellion ever against a government. It could do so again.

Then the mystery: Why did Khamene'i select Ahmadinejad to "win" the election? Why did he not chose a president-puppet who would present a smile to the world, including Obama, handle the economy competently, not rile the population, and whose selection would not inspire riots that might destabilize the regime? Has Khamene'i fallen under the spell of Ahmadinejad or does he have some clever ploy up his sleeve? Whatever the answer is, it baffles me. Put differently, the West makes plenty of mistakes, so it's a relief to learn that its enemy sometimes does likewise.

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