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What’s Going On In Iran? June 15, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts.

News reports from Iran depict a chaotic, violent scene in Tehran in the aftermath of Friday’s election. Reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters are claiming the election was stolen by the incumbent President Ahmadinejad. Others claim that Western media reports of a groundswell of support for Mousavi were misleadingly focused on only upper-middle class voters in Tehran and missed the solid support in the countryside and among the poor for Ahmadinejad.

I, of course, have no idea whether the election was stolen or not.

But here is some expert opinion from Juan Cole (here and here):

So observers who want to lay a guilt trip on us about falling for Mousavi’s smooth upper middle class schtick are simply ignoring the last 12 years of Iranian history. It was about culture wars, not class. It is simply not true that the typical Iranian voter votes conservative and religious when he or she gets the chance. In fact, Mousavi is substantially more conservative than the typical winning politician in 2000. Given the enormous turnout of some 80 percent, and given the growth of Iran’s urban sector, the spread of literacy, and the obvious yearning for ways around the puritanism of the hard liners, Mousavi should have won in the ongoing culture war.

Most of the evidence of fraud involves vote totals that deviated sharply from current expectations as well as from historical patterns.

As for American policy toward these developments, Spencer Ackerman has a run down:

…the Obama administration insisted that it would not interfere with the struggle for power between regime-backed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the thousands of demonstrators who contend the election was stolen. Administration officials, on and off the record, said that President Obama would offer support for human rights in Iran generally and would not back away from his diplomatic outreach to the longtime U.S. adversary, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the election.

Republicans of course want to stir up trouble:

That position began to come under criticism on Sunday. The post-election violence “certainly makes such a dialogue much more difficult,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on CNN, “but frankly I’ve always been skeptical of any kind of dialogue with the hardline leaders of Iran.” Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), issued a statement urging Obama and others to “speak out, loudly and clearly, about what is happening in Iran right now and unambiguously express their solidarity with the brave Iranians who went to the polls in the hope of change and who are now looking to the outside world for strength and support.

But hopefully cooler heads will prevail:

While the Obama administration ought to express support for the Iranian opposition’s safety and for human rights in Iran as the regime clamps down on dissent, any expression of political support for the protesters would only “instigate the cry that the reformers are somehow driven and directed by the United States, whether under [former President George W. Bush] or under Obama, and there’s no reason to give that unfounded allegation” any chance to spread.

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1. cyrus - June 15, 2009

hi professor, thanks for blogging about this. i woke up wondering if anyone had posted about this here – would love to see the other faculty chime in on it as well.

first i want to point everyone to this gallery:

it features hi-resolution photos of the last three days’ riots, including tremendous post-ban activity today. pay particular attention to photos 29. amazing photo from a moral standpoint. would american youth have had the capacity for such, had obama lost?

now in regards to whether it was rigged or not:
– how did moussavi lose his hometown election in tabriz? they have historically supported their local candidate, yet apparently ahmadinejad swept 2:1 of the vote. as a video blogger noted, “it’s the equivalent of john mccain winning chicago”.

– 2005 election: ahmadinejad, more supported, less crazy, and without opposition from any popular candidates (most were barred from running), still wasn’t able to avoid a runoff. how, in this massive turnout, could he dominate, when all pre-election polls suggested he could only win if the turnout was particularly low?

– how did the administration tally such a massive turnout so quickly – then apparently inform moussavi that he had won, while televising that ahmadinejad had in fact taken the majority? with the shooting of its own citizens in protest, the raiding of every dormatory in the major universities, smashing of computers, shut-down of internet access – how can you trust that?

finally, i would like to draw attention to the iran election coverage on twitter.com of all places. protesters with occassional internet and telephone access are relaying incredible candid first-hand accounts:


here are some that caught my eye in the last few hours:

“6 students who were beaten last night in the dorm died today. they were from my university. we wore black today”

“Dr’s reporting ‘several’ dead from Azadi sq today. seeking names”

“People are shouting “This Blood in my veins will stop the coup””

“as long as I was there I saw no aggression, now i hear some deaths”

“If Iran sleeps tonight, it will sleep forever”

what is the american position in observing something this alien, this overwhelming?

2. Dwight Furrow - June 15, 2009


Thanks for the links and the information. You are right that there is much that is implausible about the official election results thus far. I just hope this does not end in tragedy for the brave people who ignored the ban on demonstrations and marched today.

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