Monday, June 20, 2005

Election Fallout

The Iranian mullahs are rigging an election in plain sight. They are trying to buy time to get nukes by appearing to be a democracy and counting on friends abroad to help this fiction survive long enough for this goal.

Press coverage of the ongoing Iranian elections have been enraging because few questioned that the election going on in Tehran is anything but a farce. People more willing to believe that our 2004 election was tainted convey legitimacy by their language. This article (via Real Clear Politics), while I won't say it is typical, is outrageous in its contention that Iran is not so totalitarian:

Here, in "totalitarian" Tehran, I can sit in a shared taxi and hear five people, all strangers to each other, lambasting the hypocrisy and venality of their rulers. Iran is often described as a "religious dictatorship," but it is nevertheless possible to buy surrealist novels that refer to drug abuse and homosexuality (I am now reading such a book, Sadegh Hedayat's classic, "The Blind Owl").

Most significant of all, Iranians are no surer of who will win the coming election than Americans were in November.

How nice. If you can read about drug abuse and homosexuality, it must be free? That somebody could pretend that in Iran all is well with the political space is mind boggling.

Our President, fortunately, is not confused about what is going on in Iran. He announced:

"Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy," Bush said in a statement.

And the election has not been disappointing to those like the President who expect nothing but thuggery and trickery in the faux election taking place. But Ledeen says that the Iranian mullahs are losing their killer edge in this obvious farce. He used to fear their ruthlessness and their unity in the face of opposition:

The electoral fiasco of June 17 has shaken both of these convictions. They couldn’t even stage a phony election without appearing inept and thuggish, which is certainly not the image they wanted to send to the world. And the spectacle of intense internal conflict among leading figures in the Islamic republic makes me wonder if the revolution is beginning to devour its own fathers and sons.

First, the numbers. The regime had made it clear that the size of the turnout would indicate its legitimacy with the public, so they had to come up with big numbers. After hours of hilarious confusion, during which the "official" numbers oscillated wildly and different vote totals were announced by the interior ministry and the Council of Guardians, the regime finally decided to claim that something like 65 percent of eligible Iranians had voted. But most clear-eyed observers with the freedom to move around the country and actually go to polling places, found very few voters. The Mujahedin Khalq, the longtime allies of Saddam Hussein who have long been a source of information on things Iranian, estimated that the real figure was about 10 percent.

I rather doubt that 2 million Pakistani Shias were bussed into Iran for the election as Ledeen relates one source stated. How could you hide that? And why bother when the Iranians just marked up ballots for their boy?

The mullahs continued the farce by trying to explain how the hardliner they like staged an upset to reach the runoff election:

"I say to Bush: `Thank you,'" quipped Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi. "He motivated people to vote in retaliation."

Bush's comments — blasting the ruling clerics for blocking "basic requirements of democracy" — became a lively sideshow in Iran's closest election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. And they highlighted again the United States' often crossed-wire efforts to isolate Iran.

Bush described the election as an exercise in futility because Iran's real power rests with the non-elected Islamic clerics, who can override the president and parliament. Many agree with that description of a regime that allowed just eight presidential candidates from more than 1,000 hopefuls.

This demonstrates both a sense of humor on the part of the mullahs as well as a good understanding of the loyal opposition in America that the mullahs count on to stay our hand in a crisis. The mullahs know that it is a matter of faith among the President's rabid opponents that anything that Bush is for must by definitition be bad. These American opponents of the administration thoroughly believe that when the President says the Iranian elections are a farce, Iranian people who normally oppose the mullahs will leap up to defend the government and show support. Never mind that Iranians are generally more pro-American than San Francisco or your average university's history department. What a laugh.

And why should we care about this farce? Aside from just wanting people to be free? Well remember this:

Iran has admitted that it conducted small-scale experiments to create plutonium, one of the pathways to building nuclear weapons, for five years beyond the date then it previously insisted it had ended all such work, a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to report Thursday.

One sample processed in 1995. Another in 1998. We'll ignore that defenders of Iran say that Bush provoked Iran to go nuclear by his Axis of Evil speech.

We cannot let Iran go nuclear. And we can't let Iran get away with stealing another election. I just don't know if the Iranian people have it in them to do something about the dictatorship in Tehran. There will be fallout from this election. Will it be political or an actual mushroom cloud?

Regime change in Tehran. Soon. That Strategic Petroleum Reserve will be full in the fall. Let's get on with it. Time may be short.