Iranian Election Update

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Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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24 Responses

  1. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    I hi-jacked your post, Chris. I figure things like this – teamwork makes sense…Report

  2. Avatar Katherine
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    How sure can we be that this is a case of fraud? Barzegar has a point.

    Tehran, which the Western media covering the election has reported almost exclusively on, contains about 20% of the population of Iran including suburban areas. Seeking to predict the Iranian election based on events in the city would be like trying to predict an American election based on the results in Washington DC or New York, or those of a Canadian election based on voter preferences in Toronto.

    There is also the possibility that Ahmedinejad won, but the government still changed the results to make the victory appear stronger than it was.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Katherine
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      says:

      Fair enough, Katherine. I would say that the numbers indicate something very, very fishy. But it could be true that they were inflated and that Ahmadenijad would have won regardless – if less confidently. Then again, why bother with that? Why make it appear even more like fraud?Report

  3. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Chris is right, though – stay tuned to the Dish because Andrew’s got update after update there… Sounds like Moussavi is under house arrest.Report

  4. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    Katherine,

    If you check Juan Cole’s post I think he makes a very strong case as to the fraud charge. Ahmadinejad ‘officially’ has won by large majorities in Tehran and Tabriz. Those are the heartlands of Mousavi’s support. There’s no way Ahmadinejad wins in the cities. Not with the increased woman vote, the urban educated vote. No chance.

    The cover-up at this point looks very ham-fisted to me.Report

  5. Avatar Katherine
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    says:

    Thanks, Chris. That’s a very convincing analysis.

    There’s supposed to be some sort of statistical method for determining if fraud occurred, where apparently certain numbers turn up more often in falsified as opposed to real data. I’d like to see that applied to the Iranian results.Report

  6. Avatar Kyle
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    says:

    Hi Chris,

    With regards to your most recent update (#5), the idea that Iran won’t use nuclear weapons because other similarly bombastic regimes haven’t is pretty weak induction. I’m not Israeli and I wouldn’t bet my life, country, millions of lives on that.

    I think the only area where your analysis falls short is in addressing the fact that the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas link simply has no analogue among nuclear capable states/powers. Remember how nervous the world was about Pakistani involvement in supporting terror attacks in India last fall?

    That we can only presume that Iran wouldn’t be so foolish as to release nuclear weapons or material for a dirty bomb to terror organizations, is what makes intelligence penetration of Iran so key. If the Israelis and Gulf states are as blind as we are, uncertainty of intent makes conflict more likely.

    I think your analysis about Iran’s motivations to not use a bomb make absolute sense. I think we have more to be concerned about regarding actions based on fear of the Iranians than we do regarding the actions of the Iranians themselves.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kyle
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      Doesn’t the asymmetry factor into the thinking here, even just a bit? Is there really a reason we expect Iran to “bet [its] life, country, millions of lives” on Israel’s indefinite forbearance, absent any dterrent? No matter what happens, Israel has a deterrent of its own (backed up at least potentially by that of the global hegemon). Iran’s rhetoric is undeniably bombastic, but is their behavior in fact much short of rational? Do we expect states to act irrationally on our simple request?Report

      • Avatar Chris Dierkes in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        michael,

        some good points. i think Iran’s behavior in the region has been fairly rational–from the standpoint of the maintenance of their regime.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris Dierkes
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          Nukes aren’t what they’ll use to put down the revolution.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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            Meaning, yes the regime wants to sustain itself in power, and for this one that increasingly looks like it involves violent (though obviously conventional) suppression of domestic dissent. But any government can be expected to look to take rational steps to deter or repel violent intervention from without. And when the most likely suspects for intervention are all nuclear powers, well…Report

            • Avatar Kyle in reply to Michael Drew
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              says:

              I agree with the points you’re saying, Michael. In theory, a non-nuclear Iran has nothing to fear from the Israelis, except maybe interdiction efforts to stop the Iranians from resupplying anti-Israeli terrorists. All in all, a fairly low risk, low key exchange.

              However, what happened to Iraq is about as a big a foreign-focused argument there is for why the Iranians want to/should rationally pursue nuclear weapons.

              Domestically, I don’t think we can discount the potential payoffs in terms of pride and nationhood. Becoming a nuclear power is an expression of Iranian technological and intellectual capacity. Which, I also think is why the Iranians chaff at what we view as compromises, a nuclear power program with inspections.

              The American capacity to demand the unreasonable and irrational from foreign powers never ceases to astound me, that is until I realize that it’s about 90% motivated to assuage domestic and allied constituencies and about 10% actual foreign policy (see: China)Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kyle
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                Straight-up, Kyle. Although I actually don’t really have a problem with us making the requests (hypocrisy is one of our best colors, after all). It’s just when we actually pretend to ourselves that they have a reason to oblige that I start to get a little woozy.Report

  7. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    Kyle,

    Hey. I think you are definitely right that the fear of what we think they are up to–like our paranoid fantasies in the Cold War–could easily lead to some horrible results.

    Also, the Iranian regime’s connection to Hezb., Hamas, etc. is definitely a factor. But Hezbollah has now accepted a parliamentary loss. Javier Solana just met with one of their guys. They stayed out of the Hamas-Israel war.

    But anyway I think the point remains. If there were ever an attack on Israel it doesn’t exactly matter if it were smuggled via Syria into some Islamic Jihad terrorist cell or something. Everybody would know and blame Iran and they would receive the retaliation.

    In which case the question I still think is why mutually assured destruction does not hold? Because undoubtedly the US, post an attack on Israel situation, would let loose a barrage the likes of which humanity has never seen before. It would involve destruction on a level I don’t even want to contemplate.

    If some like Khamenei in the clerical elite have pulled a coup against other clerics, then the conservative element factors in. The more dangerous possibility is that this is a military coup. In that case, I think the region could get very roiled easily, even minus the nuclear question.Report

    • Avatar Kyle in reply to Chris Dierkes
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      says:

      Hmmm…I guess what I’m having a hard time with is figuring out whether MAD is some sort of static strategic point between nuclear powers or just one that lends itself well to describing the tensions between NATO and the Warsaw Pact as well as between Pakistan and India. Which of course may falsely presume that MAD worked in the first place.

      I also have a lot of faith in McNamara’s Lesson #2: Rationality Will Not Save Us.

      “I want to say, and this is very important: at the end we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals: Kennedy was rational; Khrushchev was rational; Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today.”

      -Bob McNamara in Fog of War

      There is a second question – I didn’t mention in my earlier comment but it’s just as important as will Iran or won’t they. That is, what will command and control of any Iranian nukes look like and who will control them. I’d be willing to bet that the Iranians don’t even know the answer to that question.Report

  8. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    Kyle,

    Excellent points.

    1. I wouldn’t trust McNamara that the aforementioned individuals were particularly rational. You can read Arsenals of Folly by Richard Rhodes to see that one. The Cold War was suffused in irrationality, paranoia, and the like. On both sides. So this gets back to your point about the Iranian regime not having a clear sense of what the West is up to and vice versa. And of course India and Pakistan came to the brink as well. So undoubtedly you’re right it could get dicey.

    That is assuming they acquire a nuclear weapon. I still wonder if they would deal for everything but the nuke (but we could get one tomorrow if you threaten us) kinda situation. That would obviate your second point. Nevertheless if they do, then certainly protections/fail safes and all the rest come into play. It could be dealt with–maybe through the Russians or Chinese?Report

  9. Avatar Michael Drew
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    My thoughts on Iran have been swirling all weekend. Broadly, I have been reflecting on the way this spectacle renews the lesson I seem to have to relearn periodically about the importance for us here in ‘the city on the hill’ of managing our expectations for the rest world. Hard realities and so on.

    If it is not clear yet, it suspect it will be clear by noon tomorrow (Monday) that this weekend has dealt a severe blow to the Obama program of engagement with Iran, and potentially even to his broader vision of engagement toward ‘the Muslim world’ outlined last week. Not on the merits but in terms of the swing of conventional and elite opinion on the question. I hope I am proved wrong about that, but I think it is likely that the narrative of a young president displaying hope and optimism only to be presented with a response such as this will be too much for a cynical media to pass up. Should that happen, it will be worth asking oursleves whther it had to be the case.

    First of all a counterfactual: a legitimate Ahmadinejad victory. Would it have backlashed against the engagement initiaive as much as I expect the events that did transpire will? It is true that this is rather moot, as it appears such a victory was utterly out of the question. But had it appeared less clear that Ahmadinejad would lose (or conversely less likely that Mousavi was going to win, or at least force a run-off), would a legit Ahmad. win in fact have been a more desirable outcome for those of us hoping for engagement than what we have seen? On balance I think it would. Of course, we didn’t know what was in store. But in retrospect, it appears to me that the spectacle of the ‘green wave’ served primarily to bring greater Western media and chatteringclass attention to Iran’s elections than had a landslide Ahmadinejad victory been both expected and observed. Western hopes and expectations for major change in Iran were only heightened due that attention, and it seems that we have arrived at the worst of all possible outcomes: maximum international attention to a horrendous, anti-democratic spectacle of tyranny. (The coup language is curious, as a coup is something that happens to a paty in power, not that is done by one. This is an anti-constitutional — depending on Iran’s constitution — act of tyranny.)

    Greater attention would also have magnified the effects in the West of a legitimate Ahmadinejad victory, of course. But I think what we have witnessed instead lends a special kind of (let me be clear: public relations) rebuke to Obama’s approach, an approach which I still unequivocally approach.

    Expectation games are very difficult to win (though the Republicans seem to have little problem winning them consistently). I probably sound preachy: I should make clear I was not on the right side of my own 20/20-hindsight advice here. I was, with E.D., quite (expectantly) hopeful. (The ‘expectant’ part being key; simply having a preference and hoping for it to carry the day is of course part and parcel of any democratic process.) But I can say that as I observed my optimism rising, I made a note of wondering whether my experience was unique (it wasn’t, of course), and what the consequences of my (our) rising expectations, relative to unchanged or diminished ones, might be should the hoped-for outcome not come to pass? The standard fare from the usual suspects, I predicted. I certainly didn’t foresee a coup-in-reverse. But I did note, along with my rising expectations and foreboding about what they might entail, that I had absolutely no idea how much confidence to place in the transparency of any part of Iran’s election system: vote, vote-count, reporting, official deferrence to results, etc. So the question is, tomorrow morning, are we looking at the usual carping from the usual quarters, as we might have had had Ahmad. won outright (even with raised expectations), or are we looking at a changed foreign-policy-opinion landscape? We’ll know in a few hours.

    Either way, given the above, and given the fact that a change in the office of president of Iran is to begin with rather less significant an event than we might think it is or wish it were, it seems clear that this is a case of a learning tough lesson the hard (we know not yet how hard) way.

    Oh well, so it goes.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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      One last thing: I was initially very skeptical about reports of fraud on this scale. Not because I doubted it as unlikely, but merely because therre seemed to be just no way to confirm any facts at all, and absent that there’s nothing to conclude beyond that what is being announced is being announced. So I waited and thougth about what a stolen election might mean if it were true. I finally came to accept that the election was stolen after hearing about Mousavi’s having been informed of his victory before the announcemt to the contrary, which was apparently corroborated by dissident Interior Ministry employees. Fair enough, I thought — and eventually arrived at the above.

      Well, not so fast perhaps? Here are two American pollsters writing in the Washington Post that the results are consistent with their surveys:
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/14/AR2009061401757.html?hpid=opinionsbox1.

      Whatever the true facts, we can certainly count of the usual excuses for continued standoffishness from those bent on war. At this point, I think it is no longer particularly important for U.S. purporses what actually went down (to the Iranians it is life and death, of course). The spectacle is the spectacle, and will have the impact it will have. We shall see.Report

        • Avatar Chris Dierkes in reply to Michael Drew
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          says:

          Michael,

          Events are very fluid at this point. As of this morning the Revolution is starting to gain. If they can pull off the mass strike that Mousavi’s wife called for that could be it.

          There had been talk before all this of what happens after Khamenei–he’s getting up there and is apparently sick. The main theory was that there would be something like the Guardian Council or a Council of Clerics. I could imagine this result coming to pass.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris Dierkes
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            says:

            Chris, thanks. My background doesn’t allow me to quickly interpret what little info we are getting, so I appreciate your providing that. It does seem that my questioning whether we are seeing a coup take place is a decidedly minority viewpoint this morning. I read all your updates, but the notion that this was a movement by the IRGC against Khamenei’s authority somehow didn’t sink in. If that’s happening, that would obviously qualify as a coup d’etat to the extent it fully moves authority from one faction to another.Report

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