Tag Archives: Iran

Why Sanctions Do Not Work

Thoughts:

- Sanctions never succeed in fulling cutting off a dictator. For years while the people of N. Korea have starved, the regime there has been eating the finest food.

- Trade and engagement are one solution. By helping the poor in a country forces of reform are strengthened. Cultural engagement shows average citizens that the West cares and wants to offer help. The West must project an image that is different than the portrait authoritarian leaders paint of it.

- Sanctions only hurt the poor people who are already being crushed by the authoritarian regime that rules their country.

- Iran’s regime uses the sanctions for propaganda purposes. The lower class in Iran have been hurt by the regimes terrible economic practices but this can be spun as the “Imperialists” hurting the poor. This also makes Ahmadinejad’s use of food-patronage even more effective.

- Sanctions are another U.N. policy that doesn’t work but placates the consciences of people in Western countries but yields the opposite result as intended.
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As Islamist militants tighten their grip over southern Somalia, the international community is searching in vain for ways to keep the country’s weak, U.N.-backed government from collapsing. The latest plan: sanctions for nearby Eritrea, which has channeled weapons to Somalia’s Shabab and other Islamist militias. At the recent African Union summit in Libya, the continent’s leaders reiterated their call for the U.N. Security Council to take action; condemnation of Eritrea has resonated from every corner of the globe.

There’s no doubt that Eritrea has an awful government (Human Rights Watch recently labeled the country a “giant prison”). As gratifying as it may be to punish bad behavior, however, the question here is different: Would sanctions actually change this tiny dictatorial state or its delinquent behavior? It’s a quandary that has plagued policymakers for decades — from Cuba to North Korea to Burma. And despite sanctions’ status as a go-to foreign-policy gadget, the answer is often no. When used on already-isolated regimes, sanctions may even be counterproductive. The Eritrean example shows us why.

Sanctions are made to cut countries off from vital international exchange. The trouble is, Eritrea already trades less with the outside world than any country in Africa and places 210th out of all 226 countries and islands for global commerce. The country’s president, Isaias Afewerki, isn’t interested in being a globe-trotting statesman. He regularly skips African Union summits and meetings of East African leaders. And anyway, sanctions won’t deter his few, less savory allies in Libya, Sudan, and Iran who provide Eritrea with aid and diplomatic support. Sanctions will only drive the Eritrean government further into the arms of its dubious allies.

Nor will sanctioning Eritrea choke off the flow of arms and money heading toward Somalia’s militants. There has been an arms embargo on Somalia for more than a decade, and it has been about as effective as a chastity belt on Silvio Berlusconi. The country has a 3,000-km coastline that the world has struggled to patrol for pirates — let alone under-the-radar arms shipments. On land, Mogadishu is home to a dizzying array of traditional money-transfer services that keep Somalia’s economy from further collapse — and its Islamists propped up with foreign funds. Besides, as the United Nations has pointed out, both African Union peacekeepers and Ethiopian troops have apparently sold arms and equipment in Mogadishu to their ostensible enemies.

Aside from being ineffective, sanctions on Eritrea could carry a rather debilitating liability for the international community. Sanctioning Eritrea would dangerously border on taking sides in Eritrea’s frozen conflict with Ethiopia, one that has stretched on in one form or another for nearly a decade. Following the two countries’ border 1998-2000 war, Ethiopia refused to give back land that a U.N.-backed border commission awarded to Eritrea. So both sides took their struggle to Somalia, where Eritrea backs Islamist militias and Ethiopia props up a flailing government. Eritrea has behaved badly, true, but both countries have been arming Somali militias in a proxy war for years. The United Nations and the United States would do better to mediate the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict rather than taking sides.

These lessons apply to sanctions on dictators more broadly. How do you punish North Korea with sanctions when its trading partners are already limited to a handful of countries — none of which are likely to pay heed to a harsher set of rules? How do you choke Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe when his strongest rationale for staying in power is to save his country from the hands of countries who would (and do) impose sanctions? Perhaps it’s no wonder that such countries’ leaders not only survive sanctions, but use them to justify bad behavior.

After 18 years of civil war, it’s possible there’s nothing outsiders can do to fix Somalia. Certainly, sanctions on Eritrea are not the answer. Trying to get Ethiopia and Eritrea to stop using the country as a proxy battleground would be worth a shot.

Statement from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff on Iran

Thoughts:

The Canadian Government should order the embassy to stay open for the humanitarian needs of Iranians. Today it was not MPs but actually bloggers and activists pressuring our government to do this. It is great that the Liberal Party is the first Canadian political party to endorse this action. There isn’t a lot that our government can do to help the protesters but we have an embassy there and every little bit can help those injured peacefully marching for democracy.
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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff today condemned the Government of Iran’s use of violence to stifle peaceful dissent by protesters calling for open and transparent democratic elections.

“We mourn each life lost as a result of the Government of Iran’s unjust actions, and share the anguish and outrage of Canadians of Iranian origin at the suppression of peaceful protest and the apparent denial of fully free and fair elections,” said Mr. Ignatieff.

Amid reports of death and injury inflicted by the Iranian government upon peaceful protesters, the Liberal Leader also encouraged the Canadian government to do all it can to help the injured at its embassy in Tehran.

“Canada should join other countries in keeping our embassy open for the humanitarian needs of the people of Iran.”

Despite the media blackout put in place by the Iranian government, reports emerging largely through online social media show images of bloodshed among protesters and clashes with government police forces.

“The Iranian government cannot hide the truth from their own citizens or from the rest of the world. By answering the call for open and transparent elections with a violent disregard for the rights of its citizens, the Iranian government has further alienated itself from the international community.”

“The Liberal Party of Canada strongly affirms the rights of Iranians and people everywhere to freely express themselves and associate with others, without threat to their life or liberty. We call on the Iranian government to cease the violence and continue to call for open and transparent elections.”

U.S. Congress Speaks Out on Iran: Exactly What Ahmadinejad Wanted


Thoughts:

- In Ayatollah Khamenei’s sermon today he denounced the demonstrations as being part of an American/Zionist plot. There was no evidence for this assertion, it was just standard Ayatollah fair. Now Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Khamenei can point to this House motion and justify themselves.

- Khamenei’s sermon, combined with the House Resolution may deter a lot of Iranians who were undecided about joining the protest but now fear the Ayatollah’s warning and the possibility that they will be seen as supporting an “Amercia approved” movement. This resolution is stupidly hawkish, distracts from the fact the election was stolen and does nothing but affair Iranian governmental propaganda.

- This resolution coming on the same day as the Ayatollah’s sermon may blunt the momentum of Mousavi’s movement. Momentum is what he needs to gain the slim possibility of a recount, voided election or (even more slim) replacement of the Ayatollah.

- President Obama was doing a great job. He was ensuring that the West was monitoring the sitatuion but Ahmadinejad didn’t get any ammo from him.

This situation is in no way similar to the Soviet Union:
– This wasn’t President Obama calling for Iranian democracy in a speech in Cairo, it was a bunch of nobodies elected by 646,946 people a piece saying they were angry that Iran’s government is not allowing a protest.
– These protests are very fragile. The protesters have been doing an excellent job spreading the news, keeping peaceful and pressuring there government. They already have the army, police, secret police and government against them, they did not need this.
– The wheels were in motion for the Soviet Union falling before Regan made that speech. Regan’s success were when he was subtle and explored detente, not when he was blobiating.
– People in Eastern Europe appreciated American help. No one in Iran cares.

The Vote Tally: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/roll411.xml
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House condemns Tehran crackdown on protesters
WASHINGTON (AP) — In the strongest message yet from the U.S. government, the House voted 405-1 Friday to condemn Tehran’s crackdown on demonstrators and the government’s interference with Internet and cell phone communications.

The resolution was initiated by Republicans as a veiled criticism of President Barack Obama, who has been reluctant to criticize Tehran’s handling of disputed elections that left hard-liner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power.

Rep. Mike Pence, who co-sponsored the resolution, said he disagrees with the administration that it must not meddle in Iran’s affairs.

“When Ronald Reagan went before the Brandenburg Gate, he did not say Mr. (Mikhail) Gorbachev, that wall is none of our business,” said Pence, R-Ind., of President Reagan’s famous exhortation to the Soviet leader to “tear down that wall.”

Democrats, who are quick to voice their support for Israel anytime the Jewish state is seen as under siege, easily agreed to push through the mildly worded resolution.

Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-sponsor of the resolution, said “it is not for us to decide who should run Iran, much less determine the real winner of the June 12 election.

“But we must reaffirm our strong belief that the Iranian people have a fundamental right to express their views about the future of their country freely and without intimidation,” added Berman, D-Calif.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., have proposed a similar measure in the Senate, although a vote was not certain.

The policy statement expresses support for “all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and rule of law” and affirms “the importance of democratic and fair elections.”

It also condemns “the ongoing violence” by the government and pro-government militias against demonstrators, as well as government “suppression of independent electronic communications through interference with the Internet and cell phones.”

Congress – particularly the 435-member House – frequently weighs in on foreign policy matters, when a similar message from the State Department or the White House would be considered confrontational. Such resolutions have no practical effect other than to express the opinion of lawmakers and try to influence the administration in power at the time.

The legislative branch’s say so in foreign affairs has receded over time, the residue of growing executive branch power.

Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas libertarian who often speaks out against what he regards as government meddling, cast the sole opposing vote.

Obama, whose goal is to engage Tehran in the hopes of blunting its perceived ambition of a nuclear weapon, has stayed mostly neutral on the election dispute, talking in parsed, measured terms, about the aspirations of the Iranian people to have their voices heard.

Obama told CNBC this week that “when you’ve got 100,000 people who are out on the streets peacefully protesting and they’re having to be scattered through violence and gun shots, what that tells me is the Iranian people are not convinced of the legitimacy of the election.”

Obama also said that it was “not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling.”

Iranians have long blamed the CIA for helping topple the elected government of Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953 and replacing him with the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Mousavi’s Speech: English Translation

Ignore All the Iran Experts

Thoughts:
– When thinking about Iran always remember that 2/3 of the population is under 30.

- Mousavi is a great man. He is very intelligent, a devout Muslim, a genius architect and was an amazing Prime Minister. But he is not charismatic.

- Every analyst has said: ‘The recount is very small scale and will go nowhere.’ The recount is still a recount (a concession from the Ayatollah) that in-and-of itself is important. Also, there is a chance the recount will do the opposite of what the Ayatollah wanted it to: it may just show a discrepancy between the government’s numbers and the real vote count. If it re-affirms the fake numbers then this will anger the protesters more and focus more rage against the Ayatollah himself.

- Don’t underestimate the Mullah vs Khamenei vs Army conflict going on behind the scenes. Rafsanjani is Chairman of the Assembly of Experts, this group of 86 Islamic scholars selects the Ayatollah (and can remove one if they want.) Rafsanjani also doesn’t like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who attacked him during his debate with Mousavi.) The more the protesters remain in the streets the more time Iran’s politicians have to make deals and implement any power plays.

- Just as you should take each tweet with a grain of salt you should take every analyst’s opinion with a bucket of NaCl.
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Troops are out in Iran this week, but in many cases the crowds have grown so large that the security forces are standing back and letting them swarm silently and peacefully through the boulevards — just like in 1978.

Chants of Allah-o-akbar, God is great, reverberate from rooftops at night, expressing popular revulsion against the dictatorial regime — just like 1978. The government has assaulted university campuses and shut down the opposition’s offices, but these and other crackdowns have only sparked further protest — just like 1978.

Are we witnessing a repeat of the Islamic Revolution that brought down the monarchy 30 years ago? If so, it would be wonderful irony. It would mean that the children of the revolution — the large majority of the population that was born and raised under revolutionary institutions, that went to schools purged for Islamic purity and was fed Islamically-correct television and radio — had devoured the system that nurtured them.

The irony of the situation is not lost on the protesters themselves. In their text messages from the streets and their phone calls overseas, the Iranian opposition exhibits tremendous self-awareness. They speculate constantly about whether the Islamic revolution is coming full circle.

They note the parallels between this week’s outburst of protest and the heroic events of 1978, which their revolutionary schoolbooks taught them in great detail. They liken the closing of universities this week to the shah’s closing of universities in November 1978. They speculate whether this week’s marches are equivalent to the massive Tasua and Ashura marches of December 1978. The clash earlier this week between a small group of militants and security forces at a paramilitary base in Tehran may have been an homage to the popular convergence on an air-force base in Tehran that sparked the final overthrow of the monarchy in February 1979.

But the biggest similarity between the current protests and the Islamic revolution is the population’s widespread confusion about what comes next. In a year from now, people will look back on this week and say that what happened was inevitable. Whatever happens, they will predict the outcome retroactively. Already, experts are providing rough drafts for these explanations, such as:

  • A charismatic and enigmatic opposition leader is serving as a rallying point for different sectors of society, who all imagine that he shares their varied political positions; the opposition is too small and divided to pose a serious threat to the regime.
  • The main leaders of the opposition movement — presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi and his ally, former President Mohammad Khatami — are not calling for a revolution, only for a resumption of the Islamic Republic’s previous electoral procedures; during the violence of a revolution, moderation often gives way to more radical demands.
  • In the months prior to the outburst, oil prices boomed and busted, along with the global economic downturn; the government still controlled billions of dollars in reserves that it doled out to supporters through barely disguised giveaways.
  • The Internet, cell phones, and satellite television have added new networking capabilities to the age-old rumor mill; access to these technologies is not universal in Iran, and is being shut down by the government.
  • The ruling elite is too divided to repress the opposition effectively; the ruling elite is pulling together and cannot be toppled.
  • Violent repression will keep people from protesting much longer; violent repression will backfire and produce even more protesters.
  • Concessions will buy time for the regime while tempers cool; concessions will only whet the opposition’s appetite.
  • Outrage and grievance is boiling over; this week’s protests are a safety valve blowing off harmless steam.

In a year’s time, some of these experts will crow that events have confirmed their analyses. Others will quietly remove this week’s remarks from their Web sites.

Yet all of these analyses are wrong, even if events unfold the way they predict. After all, if you make enough predictions, some are bound to look accurate. They are wrong because the outcome of this week’s events is simply unpredictable. Unpredictable means that no matter how well-informed you may be, it is impossible to know what will happen next. Moments of turmoil make a mockery of accumulated knowledge.

Routine behavior, on the other hand, can be predicted. It is likely to occur tomorrow the way it occurred yesterday, with adjustments for shifts over time. But breaks from routine are a different beast altogether. The more that people feel that normal rules of behavior no longer hold, the more they search around for new rules, surveying their neighbors, collecting rumors, checking their text messages in a frantic attempt to figure out what everyone else is planning to do. Very few people are willing to be the only ones out in the street when the security forces start to advance. If people expect millions of their compatriots to demonstrate, many will want to help make history.

That’s what Iranians are trying to figure out this week. “Where are we going?” asked one protestor who had been beaten by the police with a baton.”We don’t know how far this will go,” another demonstrator told a reporter. “Anything is possible,” said another.

Some protesters are giddy about the possibilities. “We have removed the rubbish that was injected into us by the regime, which turned people against one another,” one student e-mailed to friends outside of Iran. “We are entering a new day. Our heads are high and eyes focused far on the horizon. Every single day the scope of this horizon expands, and in every single cell of our bodies we feel that we are ascending and rising up towards greater beauties.”

Others despair that the future looks bleak. “Where are we today?!” a young oppositionist asked in distress on her blog as the protests began. “We don’t know what to do. We don’t know where to take refuge.” Organizers of the protests aim to calm these concerns with the promise of safety in numbers. “Do not fear, do not fear, we are all together,” demonstrators chanted in Tehran.

Opponents of regime change are also confounded by this week’s events. “Why isn’t the security apparatus getting involved?” a pro-regime Web site complained after the first large demonstration. The site then helpfully listed the names of 42 opposition leaders “in hopes that the security and military apparatuses will respond with less leniency and greater severity of action toward this situation.”

Such moments of mass confusion are unsettling and rare. They usually fade back into routine. Occasionally, however, they create their own new routines, even new regimes, as they did in 1978-1979. In later retelling of these episodes, especially by experts, confusion is often downplayed, as though the outcomes might have been known in advance. But that is not how Iranians are experiencing current events. Their experience, and their response to their experience, will determine the outcome.

So this week, while the political future of Iran seems undecided, let us take note of the undecidedness, so that we won’t forget it.

Iran’s 2009 Coup D’etat

Iran’s election held on June 12th was a fraud. President Ahmadinejad used his control of the government to steal the election from Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Facts:
– 85% voter turnout. That’s 25% more than in 2005. When droves of people vote, so many that polling stations stay open an extra 4 hours it is almost always bad for an incumbent.

- The voting patterns announced by the government were identical in all parts of the country this is an impossibility.

- Western News sources need to stop quoting the IRNA’s statements as fact. The IRNA is the government (Ahmadinejad) controlled media in Iran. They are publishing what he wants them to say, not the truth.

- The high margin of victory for Ahmadinejad in the so-called “results” has lead to two views:
1. The margin was so high it proves he cheated. Opinion polls and rallies were hugely in favour of Mousavi and Ahmadinejad knows he would never win in a run-off election. The results are so high in Ahmadinejad’s favour shows how sloppy the cover-up is.

2. The margin was so high it proves he didn’t cheat as he couldn’t rig an election by that much.

- Analysts also think it is not plausible that Mehdi Karoubi would have received less than 1 percent of the total vote.

- Robert Gibbs on behalf of the White House: “Like the rest of the world, we were impressed by the vigorous debate and enthusiasm that this election generated, particularly among young Iranians. We continue to monitor the entire situation closely, including reports of irregularities.”

- Since facebook is the same as reality lets look at their facebook support (I have been messaged a couple of times about this comment. For the 5th and final time, it is a joke. 70% of Iran’s population is under 30, some have called Iran’s election “the facebook election.” ):
Mir Hossein Mousavi: 42,689 fans
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: 8279 fans

- Ahmadinejad has used the media, the military, the secret police and the government’s economic power to campaign in the past. It would be very easy for him to continue using those levers to rig Iran’s election.

- “I don’t think anyone anticipated this level of fraudulence,” Reuters cited the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Karim Sadjadpour on Friday. “This was a selection, not an election. At least authoritarian regimes like Syria and Egypt have no democratic pretences. In retrospect it appears this entire campaign was a show: Ayatollah Khamenei wasn’t ever going to let Ahmadinejad lose.”

- Thousands of Mr. Mousavi’s volunteer supervisors were not issued credentials by the Interior Ministry, which runs the elections, and were barred from polling stations.

- In 2005, when it appeared that no hard line conservative might survive the first round of the presidential election, there were credible reports of ballot manipulation to insure that Mr Ahmadinejad could run (and win) against former president Rafsanjani in the second round. The lesson seemed to be that the authorities might shift the results in a close election but they would not reverse a landslide vote.

- IRNA has been broadcasting pre-recorded messages calling for everyone to unite behind the Ahmadinejad.

- Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, who is influential in the military, issued a fatwa authorizing manipulation of the elections. This cleric was also Ahmadinejad’s teacher when he was younger.

- It is claimed that Ahmadinejad won the city of Tabriz with 57%. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is an Azeri from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital. Mousavi, according to such polls as exist in Iran and widespread anecdotal evidence, did better in cities and is popular in Azerbaijan. Certainly, his rallies there were very well attended. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections, Azeris voted disproportionately for even minor presidential candidates who hailed from that province.

- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the “course of the election in Iran raises many questions” and called for “authorities in Tehran to carefully look into these accusations to in an effort provide a full explanation.”

- Police surrounded the interior ministry in a bid to block any unrest, as officials repeated an announcement that post-election protests would be banned.

- The offices of two reformist candidates, Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi were seized and locked by intelligence and security forces.

- The results were released in a staggered pattern with many sets contradicting previous ones. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner before the results were even released.

- Mousavi’s Twitter account said he had been put under house arrest overnight Sunday: “Dear Iranian People, Mousavi has not left you alone, he has been put under house arrest by Ministry of Intelligence,” it posted at 740pm EST Saturday. A Los Angeles-based Iranian pro-democracy activist, Pooya Dayanim, said the measure was justified as being for Mousavi’s “own safety.”

- Communications Shut-Down: Opposition newspaper has been closed down and BBC websites also appear to have been blocked by the Iranian authorities. Mir Hossein Mousavi’s website has been shut down. Youtube, twitter and facebook are being blocked. Cells phones were also blocked. Every form of communication that Mousavi’s campaign used were shut down.

- The United States of America needs to do nothing right now but observe. If they recognize Mousavi a huge backlash will occur. If they recognize Mahmoud Ahmadinejad it would stifle any hope the reformists have. If they say anything at all it will backfire.

- The Ministry of Interior (election headquarters) was surrounded by concrete barriers and armed men. This was before the results were released.

- 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.

- Several journalists were beaten badly, and one young, female protester was beaten unconscious by uniformed police.

- Mr. Mousavi was expected to have held a press conference Saturday afternoon. But the building the press conference was supposed to be held in, a newspaper headquarters, was surrounded by anti-riot police and security officers in plain clothes early Saturday afternoon. They barred access to the building.

Conclusion:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrested his opponents, shut down all communications and hastily had the results ratified. By doing this he has shown his hand. The results don’t match with pre-polling, exit-polling and anecdotal evidence. Mousavi is under house arrest; you don’t need to arrest the candidate whom seem to have the highest popular support if you didn’t falsify election results. With the help of the military, religious and governmental establishment Mahmoud Ahmadinejad turned an election into a Coup D’etat.

Check out Foreign Policy Magazine’s Website for updates: http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/06/12/iran_elections_update

For Solid on-the-ground updates: http://uskowioniran.blogspot.com/
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Ahmadinejad “Wins” Iran presidential Vote

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been re-elected as president of Iran with a resounding victory, the electoral commission says.
With more than 80% of results in, the commission said he won 63% support in an election marked by high turnout.
Reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi also claimed victory, calling the result a “dangerous charade”, as supporters vowed to appeal for a re-run.

Police have sealed off Mr Mousavi’s campaign HQ, preventing his supporters from holding a news conference.

One opposition newspaper has been closed down and BBC websites also appear to have been blocked by the Iranian authorities.

Mr Mousavi was hoping to prevent Mr Ahmadinejad winning more than 50% of the vote, in order to force a run-off election.

However, the Iranian election commission said Mr Mousavi’s share of the vote was around 34%.

Earlier, the state news agency Irna declared Mr Ahmadinejad the “definite winner”, and his campaign manager was quoted as saying “any doubts cast on this victory will be treated as a joke by the public”.

Danger of ‘tyranny’
Mr Mousavi issued a statement shortly after 1300 local time (0930 GMT) on Saturday, after the scale of the hard-line president’s victory became clear.

The former prime minister dismissed the election result as deeply flawed.

“I personally strongly protest the many obvious violations and I’m warning I will not surrender to this dangerous charade,” the Reuters news agency reported him as saying.

“The result of such performance by some officials will jeopardise the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny.”

Mr Mousavi has already said there was a shortage of ballot papers and alleged that millions of people had been denied the right to vote.

His election monitors were not allowed enough access to polling stations, he added, saying he would deal seriously with any irregularities.

The head of the Committee to Protect the People’s Votes, a group set up by all three opposition candidates, said the group would not accept the result, alleging fraud.

They have asked Iran’s Guardian Council – a powerful body controlled by conservative clerics – to cancel the results and re-run the elections.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in Tehran, says the result has been greeted with surprise and with deep scepticism by many Iranians.

The figures, if they are to be believed, show Mr Ahmadinejad winning strongly even in the heartland of Mr Mousavi, the main opposition contender.

The scale of Mr Ahmadinejad’s win means that many people who voted for a reformist candidate in the previous presidential election four years ago have apparently switched their votes to Mr Ahmadinejad, he adds.

Police presence
Supporters of Mr Ahmadinejad took to the streets on Friday night as their candidate declared his own victory.

By Saturday morning, with the opposition angry at the formal results, police in Tehran moved to prevent protests even though there were few signs of organised dissent.

There was heavy security around Mr Mousavi’s campaign headquarters and reports that at least one rally for Mr Mousavi was broken up by police using truncheons against small groups of people.

The AFP news agency said police dispersed opposition supporters on Saturday morning, quoting a senior police official as saying: “The time of dancing and shouting is over.”

One opposition supporter who gave her name as Shirin, told the BBC she still had confidence Mr Mousavi would become president.

“But he advised us, the supporters, not to do anything harsh or trying to… clash with Ahmadinejad’s supporters,” she said.

Our correspondent says the reaction of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will be extremely important.

BBC Iranian affairs analyst Sadeq Saba says the result means that hope for peaceful reform in Iran may die for a long time.

Large turnout
There had been a surge of interest in Iran’s presidential election, with unprecedented live television debates between the candidates and rallies attended by thousands.

There were long queues at polling stations, with turnout said to be higher than 80%.

Four candidates contested the election, with Mohsen Razai and Mehdi Karroubi only registering a small percentage of votes.

President Ahmadinejad draws support mainly from the urban poor and rural areas, while his rivals have support among the middle classes and the educated urban population.

Iran is ruled under a system known as Velayat-e Faqih, or “Rule by the Supreme Jurist”, who is currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It was adopted by an overwhelming majority in 1979 following the Islamic revolution which overthrew the autocratic Western-backed Shah.

But the constitution also stipulates that the people are the source of power and the country holds phased presidential and parliamentary elections every four years.

All candidates are vetted by the powerful conservative-controlled Guardian Council, which also has the power to veto legislation it deems inconsistent with revolutionary principles.
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Iran Election Update: Reformist Candidate’s Headquarters Seized and Locked

Partial Vote Count Declaring Ahmadinejad Win Amidst Allegations of Widespread Fraud “Gross violation of the right to a free and fair election”

(13 June 2009) [As of 7 am Tehran time] After a disputed election, the offices of two reformist candidates, Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi were seized and locked by intelligence and security forces. As the Interior Ministry is declaring Ahmadinejad as the victor, the security apparatus loyal to him have taken to the streets in an overwhelming show of force.

According to unconfirmed reports, Mir Hossein Moussavi may have been detained by intelligence agents as he traveled to the Supreme Leader’s residence to meet with him.

By all indications, the government of Ahmadinejad, which is in charge of conducting the elections and counting votes, is using a combination of intimidation and military might to prevent any challenges to announced results of the election.

“It appears that a coup has taken place in Iran overnight to force the results on other parties. These elections cannot be considered fair by any measure under such circumstances,” said Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Moussavi’s official website, http://www.ghalamnews.ir, reported that when his supporters gathered around his headquarters to celebrate what they believed was his victory based on reports of his representatives at polling stations, police forces confronted them using pepper spray and violently dispersed them. Moussavi’s headquarters have been since shut, similar to Karroubi’s headquarters.

At 11 PM Tehran time, Moussavi told a press conference, “I am the absolute winner of the election by a very wide margin. It is our duty to defend people’s votes. There is no turning back.”

However, since then the situation seems to have drastically shifted in favor of Ahmadinejad, with continuous announcements of his wide margin of victory. According to reports from Tehran, heavy armed agents, many in plainclothes, have taken control of major intersections.

As of this writing, crowds of Ahmadinejad’s supporters are reportedly already celebrating his victory in the streets.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran expressed its serious concerns about the vote counting process and the intimidation of candidates to accept results of government counts without any challenge. The Campaign is also seriously concerned about the safety of Moussavi and Karroubi and their top advisors, as well as the possibility of violence against any protestors who may publicly challenge the government.

“The Iranian people, throughout this entire election process, believed that through peaceful and legal means significant change could be achieved and they participated enthusiastically, but their right to a free and fair election has been grossly violated,” Ghaemi said.
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Could voter fraud explain Ahmadinejad’s win?

There certainly are numerous ways that the vote tally could be manipulated, but it’s unlikely that it could be successfully manipulated to the give the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the degree of victory he is said to have achieved.

Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies (and a Shiite theologian trained in Qom, Iran) has studied the intricacies of Iran’s voting and vote-counting system.

He notes that there are at least five ways that voting can be manipulated.

Birth Certificates
In Iran, there is no voter registration. Instead, a person’s voting eligibility is determined by his or her birth certificate, a document that looks like a passport, with pages that can be stamped.

Mr. Khalaji notes that there have been reports in the past that various groups have “rented” birth certificates from the poor, and used them to secure and fill in ballots fraudulently. Such activity, he says, is often perpetrated after regular voting hours, or when polls remain open for many hours after the designated closing time – as was the case Friday.

“In previous elections,” he wrote this week, “reports have surfaced that the Imam Khomeini Committee, a large state charity affiliated with the [supreme] leader, Ali Khamenei, ‘rent’ birth certificates belonging to the poor.”

Eligible voters
Relying on birth certificates complicates the calculation of eligible voters, Mr. Khalaji, says. Different government offices give very different estimates: “While the Interior Ministry puts the total number of eligible Iranian voters at 46 million, Iran’s Center for Statistics claims the number is over 51 million,” he explains.

Without an accurate estimate of eligible voters, it’s impossible to determine if “ghost” votes have been cast.The National Organization for Civil Registration says that the number of existing birth certificates greatly exceeds the number of Iranians. This can be caused by the loss or theft of certificates, which are then replaced.

Also, says Mr. Khalaji, some Iranians do not invalidate their relatives’ birth certificates after they die.

“In the last presidential election, reformist sources announced that more than two million fraudulent birth certificates may have been used … to obtain ballots.”

Illiteracy
A lot of Iranians, about 20 per cent, are illiterate, yet the ballot each person casts requires the voter to write out the name of his or her choice – an X is not allowed.

This makes it possible for polling station “volunteers” to write in the name of the candidate they favour, without the voter knowing any better.

Mobile polling stations

In the name of greater voter participation, an estimated 14,000 mobile ballot boxes were to be used in Friday’s vote. These were intended to reach those who could not reach any of the 47,000 regular voting stations (because of disability, members of the military, etc).

However, notes Mr. Khalaji, adequate supervision of the mobile boxes is extremely difficult, creating a situation where no one watches who casts the ballots or is present during the tally.”

Counting process
Counting the ballots is the area with the greatest potential for abuse.

The Guardian Council has the duty of supervising the process at each polling station and has uses observation committees with more than 130,000 members. Importantly, notes Mr. Khalaji, “each candidate has the right to send an observer to each fixed polling station to observe both the voting process and the ballot count.”

However, after the vote is counted at each station the results are recorded on a form, but not released to the press or public. This form is then sent to the Interior Ministry where all the forms are tallied and published. There is no guarantee that the first form’s figures are used in later forms, and no outside or candidates’ observers are allowed to oversee this compilation.

“In other words,” says Mr. Khalaji, “it is possible for agents from the Guardian Council or the Interior Ministry to change the vote totals before announcing them.”

Official validation
Once tallied, the results must be validated in a two-stage process.

The first stage is validation by the Guardian Council. Candidates have three days in which to appeal to this body if fraud or manipulation is suspected. But such an appeal is a double-edged sword.

In the past, says Mr. Khalaji, “the Guardian Council has canceled the voting in some districts where voting problems allegedly occurred and, not surprisingly, these are often districts where reformers do well.”

The second stage of validation is by Supreme Leader Khamenei, who has the constitutional authority to overrule the voters if he so chooses. Ayatollah Khamenei’s official statement issued Saturday embracing the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, puts an end to and chance of him overturned the results.

In an open letter published last Sunday, a group of Interior Ministry employees expressed concern about the ministry’s plans to manipulate the vote. They cited a fatwa issued by an ayatollah in Qom – allegedly Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, who was Mr. Ahmadinejad’s teacher — that justifies such manipulation.

All in all, concludes Mr. Khajali, “it is abundantly clear that Iran’s election procedures leave ample opportunity for massive voter fraud.”
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The Real Votes: Mousavi at 52%
A reliable source at Iran’s Ministry of Interior today has told Uskowi on Iran that the real final vote count for Mousavi and Ahmadinejad was as follows:

Mousavi: 19,075,623 = 52%
Ahmadinejad: 13,387,104 = 37%

Uskowi on Iran is also advised that the ministry officials called Mousavi’s campaign HQ in Tehran after the final tally and informed them of Mousavi’s win and telling them that the results would be officially released within the hour by the director of the ministry’s electoral commission.

Half an hour after the phone call from the Ministry to Mousavi’s campaign HQ, however, IRNA, the official Iran’s news agency, announced that Ahmadinejad was leading the pack by 69% of 5,150,188 votes counted by then. IRNA’s official release also said the votes counted by then constituted 19.43% of the total votes cast.

According to IRNA’s own calculations, the total vote cast was 26,520,021 or a 57% turnout of the 46.2 million eligible voters. But at day’s end, the turnout was changed to 80%, with Ahmadinejad receiving nearly 24 million votes!

It is clear now that in the period between the phone call to Mousavi’s office and IRNA‘s first announcement, the officials changed the vote counts to steal Mousavi’s victory and to prevent a devastating defeat for Ahmadinjad in the very first round of the election. We have referred to this move as a coup. A designation that fits the crime.

The real looser of the election is the Islamic Republic. Unlike shah’s government, or those of the neighboring Arab world, the Islamic Republic claims moral high ground for maintaining a democratic process in choosing its president. This year, Islamic Republic’s own watchdog body qualified four candidates out of nearly 500 who applied, and many qualified persons who did not run fearing the certain disqualification by the government. Then the Islamic Republic told the Iranian people that they were free to choose between the four candidates. The youths came out in droves to vote for change. But the government steals the election from a “trustworthy” former premier, one of the four who was deemed loyal enough.

These are sad days for Iran, but the real looser is the Islamic Republic; loosing its legitimacy and its moral claim to an Islamic democracy.

Iran Becoming Less Theorcratic Through A Quiet Revolution


Thoughts:

- Some have suggested that Iranians should boycott the election on June 12th. This is a foolish and counter-productive recommendation. Not voting in the election because it “isn’t democratic enough” will lead to Iran becoming even more tyrannic. Mir Hossein Mousavi wants a free press, open universities, freedom of expression and a free market economy in Iran. This combined with the gradual loss of power from Iran’s clerics will lead Iran towards democracy. Those who demand democracy in Iran this-very-second have the same narrow minded view George W. Bush had towards the Middle-East OR they are asking Iran to engage in a bloody civil war that would costs many Iranians their lives Iran will become a democracy, but it will take time.

- The majority of Western News sources have already called Friday’s election for Ahmadinejad. Foreign Policy Magazine agree with Me that the conditions are right in Iran for Mousavi to win this election. If the 2008 Presidential election in America has taught us anything (and one shouldn’t draw too many parallels) is that use of technology, a message of change, combined with the harnessing of the energy of young voters (an energy much more potent in Iran) can give a candidate a huge advantage.

- After this election Iran will be easier to engage and will democratize much faster.
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A Silent Revolution in Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran was established by the nation’s Shia clergy. Although the formation of the revolutionary government was facilitated and paid for by the lives and sacrifices of thousands of people, a majority of which were non-clerical students and activists, nevertheless, the majority of the leadership – headed of course by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – were senior religious figures. This continued well into the revolution, as senior religious figures such as Mohammad Beheshti were placed in charge of the judiciary, and Mohammad Reyshahri took over as Iran’s first intelligence minister. Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, also known as the “hanging judge,” was the chief justice of the courts, while Khamenei set up the Revolutionary Guards and would later become president. The same was true for future presidents such as Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. By 1997, at least half if not more of all presidential candidates belonged to the clergy.

Fast forward 30 years after the revolution, and only one of Iran’s four presidential candidates standing for the 2009 elections is a cleric. This new phenomenon is the symptom of a quiet revolution which has been taking place in Iran since 2001, in which both political and economic power is gradually being taken away from the clergy, and transferred to non-clerical revolutionary figures. And the man who is behind this new revolution is none other than Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

There are several reasons why Khamenei has undertaken such an initiative. A cleric himself, Khamenei always had strong relations however with the non-clerical revolutionaries. As one of the first people in charge of the Revolutionary Guards, he saw that unlike many of the Ayatollahs who sat in mosques and spoke from the pulpits, the people who were willing to risk and do more to protect the revolution were religious urban and countryside youth.

Part of the problem was experience and know-how. At the beginning of the revolution, clerical figures were running parts of the country about which they knew very little. Educated in religious seminaries, they had little idea about issues such as defense and the economy. The history of the war against Iraq is littered with suicidal operations inspired by Ayatollahs who stayed at the back and instead sent soldiers to missions that achieved very little. One popular war tale which was repeated often was that of an Iranian fighter pilot who was placed under the command of a cleric. In one day, he was ordered to go on two long missions. According to military aviation regulations, it is recommended that fighter pilots only fly a limited number of hours per day, due to the gravity pressures which their bodies suffer during combat missions. Upon the pilot’s return from his second mission, the cleric in charge ordered him to go on another mission. The pilot tried to explain that his body could not take it, and that simply going on this mission could place his life in unnecessary danger. Instead of sympathizing, the cleric chastised him for not believing in God, whom he said would protect him. Angered by the cleric’s ignorance and lack of concern for his life, the pilot took off in his expensive F-4 phantom, and defected to Iraq.

There is also the matter of continuation. Many of the clerics who were part of the revolution are now getting old. For example, Rafsanjani is 75 years old and is considered too old by Iranian law to run for the presidency again. It’s believed that the new generation of clerics also lacks the appropriate skills and dedication, because they did not have to fight for the revolution or in the Iran-Iraq war. However, the same is not true about the non-clergy revolutionaries. Many of them were in their twenties when they took part in the revolution, and later on in the war against Iraq. Carrying the same values and dedication, many of them, like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mohsen Rezai and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Ghalibaf are in their fifties and have many years ahead of them. Therefore, for Khamenei, it makes more strategic sense to invest in them.

Last but not least, there is also the question of rivalry. Since becoming Supreme Leader in 1989, Khamenei has viewed the clergy as some of his biggest rivals. People like Rafsanjani and Khatami have posed bigger challenges to him than any of the non-clerical politicians in the country.

Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karroubi, the only cleric to run in the upcoming elections carries a heavy burden on his shoulders. Many of the country’s clerics who are concerned about the dilution of their power and status are hoping that he will restore their status. The chances of his election are not good, due to lack of popular support, compared to Mousavi, and the fact that he has had difficult relations with the Khamenei family over the years. Should the current trend continue, the era of the clerical presidency may soon be over in Iran. Although the clergy will continue to occupy other posts such as the Assembly of Experts and The Expediency Council, nevertheless, the evolving nature of the revolution and its needs may mean that in the next decade, their power and prestige may also become diluted.
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Recent Presidential Polling Numbers (Click to Enlarge):

The more scientific/accurate the poll, the better Mir Hossein Mousavi does!