Figuring Out Iran

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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15 Responses

  1. E.D. Kain says:

    Great post, Mark – but:

    we need to calm down a bit and stop jumping to conclusions based on every stray missive or new theory.

    Dude. This is the blogosphere…..Report

  2. mike farmer says:

    Plus, you criticize speculation, then speculate — if we don’t know, we don’t know. Ahmadenijad could have badly beaten in the elections and the revolt could be a rejection of everything he stands for — You’re right, we don’t know.Report

  3. Michael Drew says:

    Very fine points. I’m interested to ear your reasoning on the last statement, though.Report

    • The answer lies in that scientific poll discussed in the WaPo article linked above. I initially agreed with the criticisms of that poll, but in looking at the raw numbers, I’m not so sure anymore. I still think there was plenty of fraud, but some of those criticisms don’t stand up to analysis. Even the criticisms that do stand up to analysis don’t get Ahmadinejad much under 50%. I’m working on a post discussing this in more detail, but it’s going to take a little time.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        It’s very murky; my view has cycled all the way through the possibilities going on twice now. I was initially very skeptical of fraud charges simply because it seemed prudent to be. I wanted a more or less fine-grained account of who did what exactly. But it quickly became clear that was not going to be available. Then the circumstantial evidence appeared to mount convincingly, as laid out by Profs. Cole, Sick, and others.

        A round of commentary this morning — Dickey, the Leveretts, and the article you mention caused me to reassess again

        I didn’t think much of the WaPo Tyakedown of its own op-ed either, but I still think there are major problems. To me the problems with crediting the PFTFT poll as evidence against a stolen election are three:

        1. Most importantly, the interviews occurred weeks before the campaign was fully joined.

        2. High refusal rate + high undecided rate + likelihood of more people being unwilling to state a preference for Mousavi or other challenger due to active or latent intimidation than being unwilling to state a pref. for Ahm.

        3. Likelihood that weighting of results did not accurately take into account very high turnout. (High turnout was expected, but not at the level that came to pass at the time of the surveys.)

        That doesn’t mean the results should be dismissed entirely. But it does I think thoroughly remove it as a hurdle that must be cleared by those who allege outright. It’s just much too plausible that the survey simply didn’t represent the dynamics at play on election day for it to play that important a role in understanding what happened.Report

  4. Michael Drew says:

    Here’s Nate Silver on the Ballen-Doherty poll (the one Mark mentions):

    He doesn’t dismiss it, but raises significant questions.Report

  5. Chris Dierkes says:

    The other thing to keep in mind is that Mousavi only really started campaigning 3 or 4 weeks ago. And it only caught steam and snowballed in the last 8 days or so.

    I could imagine it having been close–or even no candidate getting 50%. But there is simply no way Ahmadinejad won by that large of margin. Especially in the places where they claim he did.

    Ahmadinejad winning Tehran and Tabriz (to name just a few of the major cities) is like if McCain had beat Obama in Chicago and D.C. by 30 points in each.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Chris Dierkes says:

      It does seem curious to concede a considerable amount of centrally-directed fraud while denying that it was motivated by the clear appearance that Ahmjd was going down, doesn’t it? Isn’t it reasonable to suppose the prospect of losing is what motivated the fraud?

      On the other hand, I would concede that it is equally difficult to confirm claims of a landslide for Mousavi as it is to prove that such a result was negated by the regime.

      I suppose it is possible they simply didn’t want to even take the risk of a run-off. That would mean, however, that they either intended from the outset to ensure the result we have seen, or that they were expecting a clear Ahm. win that would alleve the need to engineer anything. Just hard to say.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Last thing I’d add: tipping a close election to a landslide through fraud (even if the actual totals honestly favored the ultimate victor) is stealing an election.Report

  6. mike farmer says:

    If we have to guess, I think I’ll guess fraud. My theory is that there was a surprise upset and it freaked the status quo — if there had been overwhelming support for the little lovable fuzzball, there wouldn’t likely be this type of reaction. But as has been stated, the real interesting story is what happens to the Supreme God-Like Person – the Macdaddy with the control. We should find a way to pump in some good old-fashioned rock’nroll as our official statement.Report

  7. Chris Dierkes says:

    last point on this, then i’ll shut up I promise. The history of Iranian pres elections works like this.

    If low turnout: conservatives (even radicals in the case of Ahmad.) win.

    If turnout is big then the Reformers win. This was the case with both of Khatami’s elections.

    There’s no way Ahmadinejad squeezes in the first time becomes a hugely polarizing and in many quarters unpopular figure, giving rise to a massive electoral outpouring (and huge political rallies for his opponents) only to crush the other side. It just doesn’t add up.

    The election interestingly had very little foreign policy in it. It was (in a sense like McCain v. Obama) just about entirely the economy. Which under Ahmadinejad has been wrecked. When the economy is bad and mass numbers show up, the bums in office are getting thrown out. They are going to get labeled–rightly or wrongly (in Ahmadinejad’s populist case rightly) for being to blame.Report

  8. zerfasm1 says:

    I really enjoyed this. It has been hard not to jump to conclusions about Iran and this helped me take a step back and calm down.Report

  9. @ Chris, Mike Drew, and Mike Farmer: I should say that I don’t doubt for a second that there was fraud on some scale, just that I’m not sure Mousavi would have won without the fraud.

    To be sure, the economy was by far the biggest issue, but that’s actually why I’m so uncertain about the actual results showing a Mousavi victory. The poll shows a very divided public on the issue of the economy, particularly with respect to Ahmadinejad’s policies, with 46% considering those policies to be successful, and 42% thinking them unsuccessful. Those numbers don’t look nearly as bad for Ahmadinejad as we would expect, and I think it likely that almost all of those respondents would be Ahmadinejad supporters or at least lean his way. When you consider that about 10% of Iranians lack access to a phone line and were not surveyed, and that those 10% are likely to be the poorest Iranians, considered Ahmadinejad’s strongest demographic, he starts getting pretty close to that 50% threshold.

    Ultimately, I probably tend to come down to a position pretty close to Nate Silver’s – that the poll may have been accurate but also reflects intimidation and fear such that the election was going to be flawed no matter what. The provincial results, though, suggest that there was also some fraud on top of that intimidation.

    In the other thread on the sidebar, I hypothesized a couple of possible explanations for why there would be fraud if Ahmadinejad was going to pull out a close victory no matter what. Those hypotheses, however, are admittedly pure speculation and as such have absolutely no credibility.Report