Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson Dead at 50

It's everywhere, so I'm not going to link.

The man lead a troubled life at the very least, but nobody had as much of an impact on 20th century pop music as he did.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Persiankiwi arrested?

From the tweeter

# Allah - you are the creator of all and all must return to you - Allah Akbar - #Iranelection Sea of Green25 minutes ago from web
#
thank you ppls 4 supporting Sea of Green - pls remember always our martyrs - Allah Akbar - Allah Akbar - Allah Akbar #Iranelection28 minutes ago from web
#
we must go - dont know when we can get internet - they take 1 of us, they will torture and get names - now we must move fast - #Iranelection
Devastating if true. Persiankiwi has been absolutely heroic. I hope he/she gets out.

A Simple Question on the Public Option:

"If private health insurance companies can't compete with a robust public option, why have private health insurance companies?"

Massacre in Iranian Baharestan Square?

From the reliable tweeter "persiankiwi":
# Everybody is under arrest & cant move - Mousavi - Karroubi even rumour Khatami is in house guard - #Iranelection -5 minutes ago from web
#
they pull away the dead into trucks - like factory - no human can do this - we beg Allah for save us - #Iranelection10 minutes ago from web
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Lalezar Sq is same as Baharestan - unbelevable - ppls murdered everywhere - #Iranelection14 minutes ago from web
#
they catch ppl with mobile - so many killed today - so many injured - Allah Akbar - they take one of us - #Iranelection15 minutes ago from web
#
in Baharestan we saw militia with axe choping ppl like meat - blood everywhere - like butcher - Allah Akbar - #Iranelection RT RT RT17 minutes ago from web
#
reports of street fighting in Vanak Sq, Tajrish sq, Azadi Sq - now - #Iranelection - Sea of Green - Allah Akbar19 minutes ago from web
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ppl run into alleys and militia standing there waiting - from 2 sides they attack ppl in middle of alleys #Iranelectionabout 2 hours ago from web
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so many ppl arrested - young & old - they take ppl away - #Iranelection - we lose our groupabout 2 hours ago from web
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saw 7/8 militia beating one woman with baton on ground - she had no defense nothing - #Iranelection sure that she is deadabout 2 hours ago from web
#
they were waiting for us - they all have guns and riot uniforms - it was like a mouse trap - ppl being shot like animals #Iranelectionabout 2 hours ago from web
#
I see many ppl with broken arms/legs/heads - blood everywhere - pepper gas like war - #Iranelectionabout 2 hours ago from web
#
just in from Baharestan Sq - situation today is terrible - they beat the ppls like animals - #Iranelection RT RT RTabout 2 hours ago from web
This is entirely unconfirmed. But if true, it speaks to the desperation of the regime. If they're willing to go to this extent post-Neda, the situation must be incredibly, incredibly dire for them. They need control and need it now.

Edit: Here's Sully:
That's the impression from several reports now coming in. Stay tuned. From an interview on CNN:

"I was going towards Baharestan with my friend. This was everyone, not just supporters of one candidate or another. All of my friends, they were going to Baharestan to express our opposition to these killings and demanding freedom. The black-clad police stopped everyone. They emptied the buses that were taking people there and let the private cars go on. We went on until Ferdowsi then all of a sudden some 500 people with clubs came out of [undecipherable] mosque and they started beating everyone. They tried to beat everyone on [undecipherable] bridge and throwing them off of the bridge. And everyone also on the sidewalks. They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband, he fainted. They were beating people like hell. It was a massacre. They were trying to beat people so they would die. they were cursing and saying very bad words to everyone. This was exactly a massacre... I don't know how to describe it."

Intolerable.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Stratfor's Derailment

By the by, anybody else noticed that Stratfor seems to be just completely without a clue on the Iran issue? I just read George Friedman's latest and it features a lot of assertions that don't even pass the laugh test: that there are no protests outside of Tehran, that it's all just wealthy kids, and (most bizarrely) that there was no serious irregularities in the election.

That last one is just ludicrous, for reasons that have been exhaustively repeated: Moussavi somehow lost his home town, Karroubi didn't have as many voters as campaign workers, supra-100% turnout in 50 cities, multiple witnesses corraborating ballot-switching, statistical analysis, etc.

But it's the others that are more surprising. Yes, you could theoretically make this argument the day after the election. But it's been made perfectly clear that it is Ahmadinejad and Khamenei whose positions are weak (not Rafsanjani and the opposition clerics), that the military is divided at best, and that popular outrage over the repression is quickly replacing outrage over the election itself as a motivating factor. No sensible analyst would ignore these things when trying to describe the situation as it stands or likely future scenarios, so why is the guy running the vaunted Stratfor not doing so?

(Hell, isn't Stratfor all about open intel analysis? How is it that they're missing the volumes of Sigint coming out of Iran?)

Well, honestly, that's a rhetorical question. I know the answer. Friedman put his reputation on the line as someone who believes that Ahmadinejad has popular support and is going to retain power, and knows that the only way he can salvage that reputation is if he sticks with his prediction. He's not a pundit, paid for being entertaining: he and his company are contracted based on their track record, and admitting to miscalling something this big could have a serious impact.

So, amusingly, we get the spectacle of Stratfor staying firm- hoping against hope that the "twitterers" get put down.

Does Rafsanjani Have the Votes?

Linked from Huffington Post, there's info that Rafsanjani may be close to pulling together enough Assembly of Experts votes to pressure or remove Khamenei. It's on EurasiaNet, here's a quote:

Now that Ayatollah Khamenei has become inexorably connected to Ahmadinejad’s power grab, many clerics are coming around to the idea that the current system needs to be changed. Among those who are now believed to be arrayed against Ayatollah Khamenei is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shi’a cleric in neighboring Iraq. Rafsanjani is known to have met with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani’s representative in Iran, Javad Shahrestani.

A reformist website, Rooyeh, reported that Rafsanjani already had the support of nearly a majority of the Assembly of Experts, a body that constitutionally has the power to remove Ayatollah Khamenei. The report also indicated that Rafsanjani’s lobbying efforts were continuing to bring more clerics over to his side. Rafsanjani’s aim, the website added, is the establishment of a leadership council, comprising of three or more top religious leaders, to replace the institution of supreme leader. Shortly after it posted the report on Rafsanjani’s efforts to establish a new collective leadership, government officials pulled the plug on Rooyeh.

Bolding is mine. Another source linked by the Post said that he's already pulled together 40 AoE clerics to have the thing annulled.

And here's another shocker:

It says Khamenai has lung cancer and wanted to have his son as Supreme Leader (the position that Rafsanjani wants), and that the attempt to alter the election results was done in an attempt by Khamenei to eventually allow his son Mojtaba to replace him. It says that at the core the argument is not just about Mousavi but the overall system of government, as it's becoming a like Monarchy rather than a republic. So far, it says, most of the clerics have not accepted Ahmadinejad presidency, and quotes Ayatollah Javadi Amoly saying of the attack on Tehran University students, 'no Muslim will destroy another's property, they must be foreigners.'
How, ah, North Korean of him.

The big question up until now has been what's going on in Qom. Although these reports might be right, might be wrong, I think it's probably safe to say that Rafsanjani is getting some serious traction, especially on this "Council" concept. I can see the clerics being uncomfortable with another Supreme Leader but being fine with a Supreme Council, and I think the rest of Iran would probably prefer that state of affairs, too. (Especially with the elected Assembly having proven that they serve as the ultimate check on the Supreme Leaders' authority.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Twitter Fraud?

So, according to Steve Clemons, the embassies might not have been taking in the injured after all?


A high quality map of Tehran-based foreign embassies taking in those who needed help was distributed. I posted the link on my blog here at The Washington Note.

And then a counter campaign also appeared warning those injured to stay away from Embassies because the basij were waiting for them at the embassy entrances.

I now must publicly question the entire exchange over twitter. I did get my link to the embassy roster and map -- not from twitter -- but from a friend who is an Iranian diplomat that has been stationed in an Asian country. I don't think he maliciously sent be bad information, but I do think he may have recycled other material that was being pushed out through the new media.

The reason that I know this is that I had a note come to me from a senior staff member of the British Embassy to the United States -- who after seeing my blog and a similar reference on Huffington Post that the UK Embassy was taking in injured protesters contacted the Foreign & Commercial Office in London to confirm.

The British Foreign Ministry spoke directly to the British Ambassador in Tehran who said that the reports of the British Embassy taking in injured were incorrect. I would say fraudulent.

So at the very least the Brits weren't taking people in. But were other embassies?

The Anti-Islamic Long Game

I hadn't thought about something in the Moussavi speech, but he gave a big reason why you're seeing so many neo-cons shit on this thing.

I'll reproduce it here and then explain:

If the large volume of cheating and vote rigging, which has set fire to the hays of people’s anger, is expressed as the evidence of fairness, the republican nature of the state will be killed and in practice, the ideology that Islam and Republicanism are incompatible will be proven.

This outcome will make two groups happy: One, those who since the beginning of revolution stood against Imam and called the Islamic state a dictatorship of the elite who want to take people to heaven by force; and the other, those who in defending the human rights, consider religion and Islam against republicanism. Imam’s fantastic art was to neutralize these dichotomies. I had come to focus on Imam’s approach to neutralize the burgeoning magic of these. Now, by confirming the results of election, by limiting the extent of investigation in a manner that the outcome will not be changed, even though in more than 170 branches the number of cast votes was more than 100% of eligible voters of the riding, the heads of the state have accepted the responsibility of what has happened during the election.
Bolding mine. Think about it. If this coup takes place, if the elections are made meaningless, who wins? Not just the anti-democratic forces in Iran, oh no. The neoconservatives who say that Islam is incompatible with democracy win. A BIG part of their argument against Islam and a big weapon in their war against Islam—and, let's make no mistake, a lot of these guys are barely hiding it—is that while a state can be run by Christian or Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist principles, running a state by Islamic principles is impossible. They claim that those states will inevitably slide into dictatorship. By extension, permitting devout Muslims to engage in democracy was a bad idea, especially in western states. To the neocons, Muslims are a threat to democracy itself.

(Mark Steyn has built his career on this assumption.)

Iran's elections, dubious as they were, were the single counter-argument. They were an argument that here was an openly Islamic state that was nonetheless an actual Republic, with all that that entails. It isn't perfect, and isn't even good. But it could improve, without being rescued by the secular west and without being turned into an American client state. The foundations were there.

If the Ahmadinejad/Khamenei/Yazdi faction wins, the perception that Muslims are a danger to democracy will grow like a weed in the rest of the world. The tension between Muslims and non-Muslims will only increase. The "clash of civilizations" really will be in danger of taking place.

That's just what they want.

Roger Cohen on Iran: "Iran has waited long enough to be free."

I'm just going to quote.

The Iranian police commander, in green uniform, walked up Komak Hospital Alley with arms raised and his small unit at his side. “I swear to God,” he shouted at the protesters facing him, “I have children, I have a wife, I don’t want to beat people. Please go home.”

A man at my side threw a rock at him. The commander, unflinching, continued to plead. There were chants of “Join us! Join us!” The unit retreated toward Revolution Street, where vast crowds eddied back and forth confronted by baton-wielding Basij militia and black-clad riot police officers on motorbikes.

Dark smoke billowed over this vast city in the late afternoon. Motorbikes were set on fire, sending bursts of bright flame skyward. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, had used his Friday sermon to declare high noon in Tehran, warning of “bloodshed and chaos” if protests over a disputed election persisted.

He got both on Saturday — and saw the hitherto sacrosanct authority of his office challenged as never before since the 1979 revolution birthed the Islamic Republic and conceived for it a leadership post standing at the very flank of the Prophet. A multitude of Iranians took their fight through a holy breach on Saturday from which there appears to be scant turning back.

Khamenei has taken a radical risk. He has factionalized himself, so losing the arbiter’s lofty garb, by aligning himself with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against both Mir Hussein Moussavi, the opposition leader, and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founding father of the revolution.

He has taunted millions of Iranians by praising their unprecedented participation in an election many now view as a ballot-box putsch. He has ridiculed the notion that an official inquiry into the vote might yield a different result. He has tried pathos and he has tried pounding his lectern. In short, he has lost his aura.

The taboo-breaking response was unequivocal. It’s funny how people’s obsessions come back to bite them. I’ve been hearing about Khamenei’s fear of “velvet revolutions” for months now. There was nothing velvet about Saturday’s clashes. In fact, the initial quest to have Moussavi’s votes properly counted and Ahmadinejad unseated has shifted to a broader confrontation with the regime itself.

Garbage burned. Crowds bayed. Smoke from tear gas swirled. Hurled bricks sent phalanxes of police, some with automatic rifles, into retreat to the accompaniment of cheers. Early afternoon rumors that the rally for Moussavi had been canceled yielded to the reality of violent confrontation.

I don’t know where this uprising is leading. I do know some police units are wavering. That commander talking about his family was not alone. There were other policemen complaining about the unruly Basijis. Some security forces just stood and watched. “All together, all together, don’t be scared,” the crowd shouted.

I also know that Iran’s women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I’ve seen them urging less courageous men on. I’ve seen them get beaten and return to the fray. “Why are you sitting there?” one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. “Get up! Get up!”

Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of “Death to the dictator!” and “We want liberty!” accompanied her.

There were people of all ages. I saw an old man on crutches, middle-aged office workers and bands of teenagers. Unlike the student revolts of 2003 and 1999, this movement is broad.

“Can’t the United Nations help us?” one woman asked me. I said I doubted that very much. “So,” she said, “we are on our own.”

The world is watching, and technology is connecting, and the West is sending what signals it can, but in the end that is true. Iranians have fought this lonely fight for a long time: to be free, to have a measure of democracy.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution, understood that, weaving a little plurality into an authoritarian system. That pluralism has ebbed and flowed since 1979 — mainly the former — but last week it was crushed with blunt brutality. That is why a whole new generation of Iranians, their intelligence insulted, has risen.

I’d say the momentum is with them for now. At moments on Saturday, Khamenei’s authority, which is that of the Islamic Republic itself, seemed fragile. The revolutionary authorities have always mocked the cancer-ridden Shah’s ceding before an uprising, and vowed never to bend in the same way. Their firepower remains formidable, but they are facing a swelling test.

Just off Revolution Street, I walked into a pall of tear gas. I’d lit a cigarette minutes before — not a habit but a need — and a young man collapsed into me shouting, “Blow smoke in my face.” Smoke dispels the effects of the gas to some degree.

I did what I could and he said, “We are with you” in English and with my colleague we tumbled into a dead end — Tehran is full of them — running from the searing gas and police. I gasped and fell through a door into an apartment building where somebody had lit a small fire in a dish to relieve the stinging.

There were about 20 of us gathered there, eyes running, hearts racing. A 19-year-old student was nursing his left leg, struck by a militiaman with an electric-shock-delivering baton. “No way we are turning back,” said a friend of his as he massaged that wounded leg.

Later, we moved north, tentatively, watching the police lash out from time to time, reaching Victory Square where a pitched battle was in progress. Young men were breaking bricks and stones to a size for hurling. Crowds gathered on overpasses, filming and cheering the protesters. A car burst into flames. Back and forth the crowd surged, confronted by less-than-convincing police units.

I looked up through the smoke and saw a poster of the stern visage of Khomeini above the words, “Islam is the religion of freedom.”

Later, as night fell over the tumultuous capital, gunfire could be heard in the distance. And from rooftops across the city, the defiant sound of “Allah-u-Akbar” — “God is Great” — went up yet again, as it has every night since the fraudulent election. But on Saturday it seemed stronger. The same cry was heard in 1979, only for one form of absolutism to yield to another. Iran has waited long enough to be free.

I have nothing to add to this.

Edit: This is off topic, but I just added the "Iran" and "Iranian Election 2009" tags to the past few days of entries. Those can help focus people on the coverage and analysis provided here.

What the Hell is Going on in Qom?

My heart dropped, I'll admit, when I read on the Huffington Post liveblog that the Assembly of Experts declared its "strong support" for Khamenei and its messages. It baffled me as much as disappointed me, since the few bits of information I'd heard suggested that there was more division than that.

And then, well, this:

Earlier today, the Tehran Times posted an article claiming that the powerful clerical group, the Assembly of Experts, had on Saturday "expressed its 'strong support' for the Supreme Leader's statements on the presidential elections on Friday." It would have been a major blow to reformists' efforts to win the support of many senior clerics.

But as it turns out, it's not true. Reader Ali writes in:

I just wanted to point out that the letter of support written by assembly of experts in support of Khamenei's sermon is only signed by the deputy leader of the assembly, who is a former head of the judiciary and a staunch supporter of ahmadinejad, as well as a rival of Rafsanjani for the assembly's leadership election. He is the only one signing the letter and the government sponsored news media are reporting it as a letter from the full assembly.

And reader Majid provides more details:

Once again thanks for the great job in reporting the events. Just a comment about your 7:33pm item about the Assembly of Experts. The statement is not by the Assembly of Experts, but by Mohammad Yazdi, the head of the "Dabirkhane" of the Assembly of Experts. His statement doesn't carry much weight and definitely not a blow to the freedom movement. After all, there are certainly many Khamene'i loyalists in the Assembly of Experts and such comments could be expected from these cowards.
it makes sense that Yazdi would try this. He's the guy who believes there is no place in Islam for democracy, and that a Rafsanjani-elevated compromise candidate like Khamenei was somehow divinely ordained. But why on earth did they think they could get away with it? Are things so bad that Khamenei's allies are just desperate to try to buttress his authority? Or are they confident they have control?

And why didn't someone else, like Montazeri, respond with some variation on "you don't speak for me"?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Canadian Embassy Not Accepting Protesters?

That's the rumor I'm seeing on Twitter. While every european embassy is helping people getting shot and gassed, the Canadians turn them away?

You've got to be fucking kidding me.

Bombing, Violence in Iran

...and the predicted vicious crackdown's started as a "response".

Mousavi's been quoted by a twitterer as "ready for death."

This is terrible.

(Or, alternately, its' been blamed on MEK, the neocon's pet terrorist group, to try to help associate the protesters with the West. It might even have been them, but I find that unlikely. This smells of a set-up.)

Edit: The Huffington Post says that it was quite possible that the state-run media announced that the bombing had happened before it took place.

These events, horrible as they are, do say something: the regime is weak, and the various factions within the iranian clergy might not be moving in Khamenei's favor. This is not the behavior of someone who is secure in his power. These are all desperation moves.

On the clergy's power here, , see Jonathan Lyon at Juan Cole's site.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Apply the Fear of God"?

I don't know exactly what I was expecting from Khamenei's speech...

...but I definitely wasn't expecting him to basically tell the basiji to go to town because the election was perfectly fair and the protesters are the tools of the British and, um, "dirty Jews".

I had thought he might try to wriggle out of this, and there were rumors going around that the Assembly of Experts had advised him to play it down. Either those rumors aren't true, or he couldn't give a damn.

What the Hell? Froomkin's Out?

You've gotta be kidding me. Dan Froomkin was probably the best writer the Post had, certainly better than almost anybody regularly on their Op-Ed page. Sully detailed a bunch of responses that all added up to "the Post is going hard Neo-Con", and I can't say I disagree. But I am quite confused, since who the hell is going to listen to a neocon THESE days?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Is This Really About Khamenei

Here's a Followup to the earlier post about Rafsanjani and the Assembly of Experts.

Tehran Bureau suggests that this conflict is really about succession after Khamenei. It's a struggle between those who believe that the Supreme Leader is chosen by God—with the job of the AE is to figure out who that choice is—and that elections are irrelevant foolishness...

...and, well, everybody else.

The "no election" camp includes one fellow in the AE, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who believes that people are "sheep" and issued a fatwa saying that cheating was allowable in this election. He talks repeatedly about the "Islamic Government of Iran", instead of the "Islamic Republic of Iran". You know who else uses that term "Islamic Government"?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yep, he and his followers are all part of this group, too.

That's why Rafsanjani is such a big target. All the first-generation revolutionaries are:

The first goal is to purge first-generation revolutionary leaders (with the exception of Ayatollah Khamenei). The main target here is former president Rafsanjani, a powerful politician who heads two important Constitutional bodies, the Assembly of Experts (AE), and the Expediency Council that arbitrates the differences between the Majles (parliament) and the Guardian Council. Also included in this group are Mr. Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, a mid-ranking cleric, former Speaker of the Majles, and a strong critic of Mr. Ahmadinejad; Mr. Mahdi Karroubi, the second reformist candidate in the election and a disciple of Ayatollah Khomeini; and Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main reformist candidate, and Iran’s Prime Minister in the 1980s.

Why do they want them out of the scene? For two reasons. One is that the coup leaders consider themselves — and rightly so — as the saviors of Iran. They are the ones who fought Iraq for eight years. Secondly, at least part of the IRGC high command wishes Iran to be in a perpetual revolutionary state, but believes that the first-generation of revolutionaries have sold out the ideals of the 1979 Revolution.

In his “victory” speech on Sunday, Mr. Ahmadinejad never once mentioned Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic, or even Ayatollah Khamenei, his main supporter. The significance of the intentional omissions should not be missed. Just as Joseph Stalin and Deng Xiaoping kept Vladimir Lenin’s and Mao Zedong’s pictures everywhere, they always acted in the opposite way of what they appeared to be advocating; Iran’s second-generation revolutionaries will keep Ayatollah Khomeini’s pictures everywhere, but will act against his teachings, including his most famous saying,

The scale [for people’s acceptance of a politician] is people’s vote.

The second goal of second-generation revolutionaries is moving the country closer to an “Islamic Government,” and further away from an “Islamic Republic.” This is done by making elections a meaningless process by resortign to any means available, including rigging and manipulation. This move has marginalized reformist and democratic groups in Iran.

The third goal is to start preparations for the eventual successor to Ayatollah Khamenei. He is known to be ill. By accusing Mr. Rafsanjani of corruption, the second-generation revolutionaries wish to eliminate him — the head of the Assembly of Experts appoints the Supreme Leader — as the natural successor of Ayatollah Khamenei, hence paving the way for Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi who is a member of the AE. Everything appeared to have been planned well in advance, but the coup leaders did not expect the people to stand up to them.

This is a pivotal moment in Iran’s history. If the reformists and the Iranian people cannot reverse the outcome of Iran’s rigged elections, Iran will enter a dark period of dictatorship, with no light at the end of the tunnel. The country will be controlled completely by the military/security forces, with an unelected Supreme Leader as its titular head, and no elections (or extremely meaningless ones). This would be a terrible development for the rest of the world as well.

From what I understand, it may well be Montazeri, not Rafsanjani, that is the natural successor to Khamenei. But aside from that, this seems a cogent analysis of the struggle. There is always a struggle between those of a religion who believe in democracy, and thsoe who believe that since God is omnipotent and omniscient, any leader of a religious government must be the right one.

This was always the danger in Iran. Now it appears to be coming to pass.

Edit: Khamenei apparently called the protests "vandalism." He either has no idea he's in trouble, or is desperately trying to discredit them using his authority.

He really shouldn't try. His authority won't survive the attempt.

The Damning Letter?

There's been a lot of rumors swirling around about how Ahmadinejad actually came in third. No source has been given, at least not until now.

On iReport, there is a picture of a letter that was supposedly sent by the Interior Ministry to the President, saying both how the results were concocted and what the numbers really were. They match the ones from the rumor.

Of course, the letter could be fake. I don't really believe that Ahmadinejad came in third after Karroubi. But this is definitely more than just some twitter meme.

Edit: By the by, the man who supposedly leaked this died in an incredibly suspicious "car accident." Draw your own conclusions.

Never Mind The Fact That Mousavi Lost His Hometown

...or that Karroubi somehow managed to get less votes than he has campaign workers. No, according to these two jokers, Ahmadinejad legitimately won because they found one poll to cherry-pick that supports their position. And because he speaks Azeri well, he surely beat their native son, despite that not having any resemblence to previous results in the region.

According to the most recent Iranian figures—which are probably doctored to forestall critics—Karoubi still only won 5% of the vote in his province. Um, no.

Anyway, I'm sure Juan Cole will have a response up. Nico Pitney at Huffpo also doesn't find it particularly compelling. Me, I'm just not sure why these guys would write something like this, not now. "Get over it?" When Basij are gunning people down in the street? How deluded are you?

Edit: It was always possible that Ahmadinejad won. That's what's both bizarre and horrific about this mess—that they didn't need to do what they did. What I suspect is that the fix was in to the point that it didn't matter what had really happened. They were never going to bother counting those votes in the first place.

Re-Edit: Ah. If what I've read between the lines in this blog posting is true, This is about the anti-Rafsanjani faction leveraging its western allies. That's why the cherry-picked poll from "Terror-Free Tomorrow" is popping up in multiple places without cross-crediting. I imagine there's some intense email lobbying going on right now. Not that Phillip Weiss is one of those allies, he's just relaying a comment, but the comment being relayed speaks volumes.

Assembly of Experts Emergency Meeting

What I had expected has come to pass: Rafsanjani has convinced the Assembly of Experts to have an emergency meeting.

As I've said innumerable times, this is the primary battlefront. Eighty-six clerics will probably decide the fate of this. The Assembly's only job is to evaluate, instruct, hire and (if necessary) remove the Supreme Leader. If they're meeting, that's what this is about.

If they indicate to Khamenei that he is in danger of losing their confidence (the most likely scenario), he will have to either leave Ahmadinejad twisting in the wind by calling for re-election or at least force him to call off the Basij...which amounts to roughly the same thing. If they just sack him, then Montazeri will probably be the next Supreme Leader, the reformists become ascendant, and the world will quite literally change overnight.

If they give him a pass, then that will be the tipoff to both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad that they enjoy clerical support, and the protesters will have a much more difficult struggle ahead of them.

But Rafsanjani leads the body, and if there weren't a problem, they wouldn't be having this meeting. So that latter option is unlikely.

Personally, from what I understand of Iran and Khamenei, it may be that the country would be better off with another leader. Removing Khamenei would be a signal that the Supreme Leader is not omnipotent, and lead to more careful, discerning head clerics in the future, ones who recognize that they are not the Republic.

But, as always, this is Iran's story. This is their choice.

Ignorance or Fear?

No, I'm not talking about Ahmadinejad. I'm talking about the neocons, who--as the earlier Ledeen piece and this bizarre NYT opinion piece reveals--who are writing things that are demonstrably not true, based on poor reasoning. To claim that the protests are merely "symbolic", for example, is just so bizarre as to beggar belief; it's as if they wrote the piece right after the election, and had to edit in a short dismissal of the millions-strong protests in order to save their article.

But then again, they may just be scared. After all, the U.S. had nothing to do with this. THEY had nothing to do with this. Their pet terrorists (excuse me, "freedom-fighters") had nothing to do with this. Their beloved, ineffective exiles had nothing to do with this. This came from the people who actually have to live and work and interact with others in Iran, not from some cozy sinecue at AEI where you can play the warrior to distract you from your rapidly expanding gut, and make you feel like you haven't wasted your life.

They had a good thing going. I can see why they'd be scared to lose it. But the rest of us should be scared if they don't.

(H/T Sully, who kinda also fit in this category but has come around nicely.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Montazeri Weighs In

Grand Ayatollah Husein Ali Montazeri isn't a household name to most westerners, but in Iran he's very important; he very nearly became Supreme Leader (until Khomeini weighed in against him), is a key reformist, and still commands a lot of respect in the country. Most imporantly, his name came up in relation to the protesters: a demands letter passed around among the protesters had as one of its conditions his appointment as Supreme Leader.

So, perhaps, his support of the peaceful protests and criticism of the crackdowns makes a lot of sense. But it's still a big deal:
In the name of God

People of Iran

These last days, we have witnessed the lively efforts of you brothers and sisters, old and young alike, from any social category, for the 10th presidential elections.

Our youth, hoping to see their rightful will fulfilled, came on the scene and waited patiently. This was the greatest occasion for the government’s officials to bond with their people.

But unfortunately, they used it in the worst way possible. Declaring results that no one in their right mind can believe, and despite all the evidence of crafted results, and to counter people protestations, in front of the eyes of the same nation who carried the weight of a revolution and 8 years of war, in front of the eyes of local and foreign reporters, attacked the children of the people with astonishing violence. And now they are attempting a purge, arresting intellectuals, political opponents and Scientifics.

Now, based on my religious duties, I will remind you :

1- A legitimate state must respect all points of view. It may not oppress all critical views. I fear that this lead to the lost of people’s faith in Islam.

2- Given the current circumstances, I expect the government to take all measures to restore people’s confidence. Otherwise, as I have already said, a government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy.

3- I invite everyone, specially the youth, to continue reclaiming their dues in calm, and not let those who want to associate this movement with chaos succeed.

4- I ask the police and army personals not to “sell their religion”, and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before god. Recognize the protesting youth as your children. Today censor and cutting telecommunication lines can not hide the truth.

I pray for the greatness of the Iranian people.
See? Big deal. Now we have a Grand Ayatollah weighing in in the protesters favor, and publicly at that. We also have one saying that "receiving orders will not excuse them before god", a clear threat that this sort of repression is unIslamic. Since one of the main faultlines here is going to be whether or not the protests or the crackdown are more in line with Islam—which the Iranians still take very seriously—this is both welcome news and valuable ammunition for the protesters on the streets and Rafsanjani in the Assembly.

It shows that the faultlines are not between "the mullahs and the people", as the ignorant neocons out there would have you believe. The line is drawn between Muslims who believe in democracy and the "people's confidence" and autocrats who do not.

Potential Twitter Breakdowns and How You Can Help

I'm not sure how long Twitter is going to remain a useful source of information. More and more, it seems like it's being flooded with nonsense: either nonsense from spammers hoping to make a quick buck, nonsense from barely-concealed Iranian government proxies, or nonsense from well-meaning folks who are retweeting whatever catches their eye, without an eye to its veracity. Already the #iranelection tag is deprecated, and it seems to have split between several others. (I won't post them, just in case, but following key Iranian bloggers like Persiankiwi will reveal them.) If this keeps up, the white noise will make the whole thing useless.

I'm just a humble blogger, so all I can offer is advice: if you cannot contribute to the discussion, leave it be. Twitter is a participatory medium, but hashtags are a ramshackle organizational tool to begin with, and your attempts to show your support by adding them are just going to make it worse. If you want to show your support, by all means tweet (or twitter or whatever) your support. And if you seriously think that something deserves a "re-tweet" and hasn't been RTed in the last while, then do it.

Edit: If you do re-tweet them, strip out their names. I know you want to credit them, but you could be endangering them. So don't do it.

But otherwise, let the people of Iran get the word out. This is their story. Not yours.

Third Analytic

This time, I can probably make it simple. Ahmadinejad made a big mistake by pulling the Basij into this. The arresting, shocking footage was exactly what the protesters needed to make this whole thing about their struggle. Whether Mousavi or Ahmadinejad won the election is almost immaterial at this point: the repression itself is stripping away his legitimacy.

There are two things to look out for right now: the army, and the 'net. The question of whether or not the Army is going to get involved looms over this whole thing. They said they were "neutral", but I've read accounts implying that there's some internal strife going on there, and it may well continue. Conflict within the army makes it far harder to turn them against others, however, so that may be good news for the protesters in-and-of itself.

Whether they'll be able to keep up connections with the outside world is a better question. You've probably already seen #iranelection practically turning on itself from fears of Iranian monitoring, and that's going to keep up. That may scare away actual Iranian twitterers, and lets be honest: they're the story here, not the rest of us. But there are indications that it's getting harder and harder for Mousavi supporters to get online, period, or even carry around a laptop without getting it smashed. Will Iran slowly go dark over the next few days? And can anybody do anything about it?

I hope enormously that it doesn't go dark. That may be the only thing preventin harsher repression. Those cameras and "tweets" need to stay on.

Tomorrow (Tonight?) is the strike. We'll find out the answer to the military question, at least. And, I suppose, we can move on from there.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Girl gets shot in Tehran

So I was wrong about a picture ending up on Twitter showing a girl having been shot.

It's a video.

Seen On Twitter Just Now:

"ill kill who killed my brother"

No link, the person doesn't want to be named.

Basiji Responsible for Violence?

According to one of Sully's readers:

I finally got through and spoke with my family in Tehran. My cousin, who studies at the University, had the following report:

"Life has come to a halt. There were at least 2-3M in the streets today. I've never seen such anger. We are not going let this go. They've closed all the universities (during final exams) and have started a purge. Many of our professors are missing and student organizers are moving constantly to avoid detainment. The police is just watching and the army has declared neutrality. The violence is 100% caused by the BASIJ and thugs who are roaming the streets. They seem to be targeting girls, swinging with clubs and chains. Its disgusting but we are protected by numbers. Get the word out-- the more of us stand together, the safer each individual will be. The reports of the university attacks yesterday are true. We don't know how many were hurt or killed."
This suggests both that the Revolutionary Guard are behind this (the Basij would never act without their go-ahead) and that the other organs of the state are ambivalent at best.

If the army and policy are demonstrating their ambivalence, though, Ahmadinejad and Khamenei could be in bigger trouble than I thought. Especially that "targetting girls" thing. That's going to inflame anger, especially if those disturbing pictures going around Twitter start featuring young Iranian women.

Gunfire on People at Mousavi Rally

Source is Huffpo, Sully, and various Twitters on #Iranelection.

The regime just made a terrible, terrible mistake. I had discounted the possibility of insurrection. I'm not discounting it anymore. The pretense of normalcy and stability could be kept up as long as it was simply police suppression. That's gone now.

This is rapidly spiraling out of control.

It's Not Just in Tehran, and What's Next?

Two bits, both from the running thread on Huffpo.

First, video showing that the protests are NOT just happening in Tehran:



That's from Ardabil, in the Northwest.

Second, an analysis by Laura Rozen about what's coming next.

Iranian opposition presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi is planning a march of his supporters at 4 p.m. Monday in Tehran, Iranian sources said. He apparently went to see the supreme leader Sunday to seek a permit for it, but one hasn't yet been obtained. If he is prevented from getting permission, he has said he plans to march to the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomenei, an act that Iranians say the authorities of the Islamic Republic would be disinclined to prevent.

Iranian sources said former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is in Qom, seeking to persuade clerics not to certify the Iranian elections.

Another presidential candidate, Mohsen Rezai, the former head of the Revolutionary Guards, issued a statement today saying he wants to have the ballots examined, Iranian sources said.

On that latter point, I was under the impression the ballots had been destroyed. That would make a recount impossible. The very impossibility of the recount would be damning, but they didn't think that far ahead.

As to the other two... they were predictable. There aren't a lot of endgames here. One is an out-and-out revolution, but as I said earlier, I find that unlikely. Revolutions and civil wars require a number of predictable elements, and while some exist in Iran—like a huge gap between people's self-perception of their status and what they believe should be their status—others aren't. Among others, the alternative elite structure that forms the backbone of a revolution as a prospective government just isn't appearing. Mousavi, Rafsanjani, Karrobi and the rest still have stakes in the current system, and nobody else appears to be in any kind of position to take over.

(Certainly MEK isn't.)

What this suggests is that they are going to attempt to use the strife to convince the power-holders in the current system, the Mullahs, that neither Ahmadinejad nor Khamenei are fit to rule in their name. Mousavi and Karrobi are doing that by not backing down and ensuring that the protesters aren't going to back down either. Rafsanjani is doing that by approaching the Mullahs in the Assembly of Experts as the spokeman for his moderate faction, and trying to convince them to see things his way.

(If they don't certify the results, it will be a clear indication that Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have earned their ire.)

The big problem for the Iranian state is that the rest of the world is clearly not happy. Yes, the regional powers have congratuated Ahmadinejad, they could care less about elections, but Obama's indicated as much "concern" as is possible without perverting the situation and both Canada and Germany have indicated that they find both the election and the repression troubling at best. France isn't impressed, and I'm sure more will come as time passes.

That will limit any possible crackdown. If they just kill Mousavi and turn the situation into a bloodbath, their opponents will claim vindication and they'll find themselves in an even worse position than they were before. The nuclear program will be difficult-to-impossible to carry out and they will be unable to leverage humanitarian arguments when reacting to any possible strike. Other states will also take it as a sign of weakness and instability.

But without that option, I'm sure they're wondering just what the hell they can do. These people clearly aren't intimidated, or at least not enough. A recount simply isn't going to happen. And Mousavi shows no interest in backing down. So even if Rafsanjani is unsuccessful, the state will have enormous problems settling this down. They may even be unsuccessful; I may be wrong about revolution.

And, I'm sure, Rafsanjani is going over all of this with the Mullahs. They want a peaceful, orderly country. Khamenei may not be worth sacrificing that indefinitely. I'm sure Ahmadinejad isn't.

Right now, it's in their hands.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cole on Iran: It's About Culture, not Class

On various blogs discussing the Iranian situation right now, there's been an argument over whether or not the west has, perhaps, been "snowed" by wealthy people in North Tehran. Maybe Ahmadinejad really did as well as he seemed thanks to his support by the poor and religious, and this response is just the wealthy and their children acting out in frustration.

Juan Cole knocks that one down:
Some comentators have suggested that the reason Western reporters were shocked when Ahmadinejad won was that they are based in opulent North Tehran, whereas the farmers and workers of Iran, the majority, are enthusiastic for Ahmadinejad. That is, we fell victim once again to upper middle class reporting and expectations in a working class country of the global south.

While such dynamics may have existed, this analysis is flawed in the case of Iran because it pays too much attention to class and material factors and not enough to Iranian culture wars. We have already seen, in 1997 and 2001, that Iranian women and youth swung behind an obscure former minister of culture named Mohammad Khatami and his 2nd of Khordad movement, capturing not only the presidency but also, in 2000, parliament.

Khatami received 70 percent of the vote in 1997. He then got 78% of the vote in 2001, despite a crowded field. In 2000, his reform movement captured 65% of the seats in parliament. He is a nice man, but you couldn't exactly categorize him as a union man or a special hit with farmers.

The evidence is that in the past little over a decade, Iran's voters had become especially interested in expanding personal liberties, in expanding women's rights, and in a wider field of legitimate expression for culture (not just high culture but even just things like Iranian rock music). The extreme puritanism of the hardliners grated on people.

The problem for the reformers of the late 1990s and early 2000s was that they did not actually control much, despite holding elected office. Important government policy and regulation was in the hands of the unelected, clerical side of the government. The hard line clerics just shut down reformist newspapers, struck down reformist legislation, and blocked social and economic reform. The Bush administration was determined to hang Khatami out to dry, ensuring that the reformers could never bring home any tangible success in foreign policy or foreign investment. Thus, in the 2004 parliamentary elections, literally thousands of reformers were simply struck off the ballot and not allowed to run. This application of a hard line litmus test in deciding who could run for office produced a hard line parliament, naturally enough.

But in 2000, it was clear that the hard liners only had about 20% of the electorate on their side.

By 2005, the hard liners had rolled back all the reforms and the reform camp was sullen and defeated. They did not come out in large numbers for the reformist candidate, Karoubi, who only got 17 percent of the vote. They nevertheless were able to force a run-off between hard line populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative billionaire. Ahmadinejad won.

But Ahmadinejad's 2005 victory was made possible by the widespread boycott of the vote or just disillusionment in the reformist camp, meaning that fewer youth and women bothered to come out.

So to believe that the 20% hard line support of 2001 has become 63% in 2009, we would have to posit that Iran is less urban, less literate and less interested in cultural issues today than 8 years ago. We would have to posit that the reformist camp once again boycotted the election and stayed home in droves.

No, this is not a north Tehran/ south Tehran issue. Khatami won by big margins despite being favored by north Tehran.

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.

And just because Ahmadinejad poses as a champion of the little people does not mean that his policies are actually good for workers or farmers or for working class women (they are not, and many people in that social class know that they are not).

So let that be an end to the guilt trip. The Second of Khordad Movement was a winning coalition for the better part of a decade. Its supporters are 8 years older than the last time they won, but it was a young movement. Did they all do a 180 and defect from Khatami to Ahmadinejad? Unlikely. The Iranian women who voted in droves for Khatami haven't gone anywhere.
Bolding mine, and it pretty much sums it up. There's no way that these results make sense, even without looking at Karoubi's comically low vote count. It was always possible that Ahmadinejad was going to win, and I honestly believe he could have.

But we don't know who won. That fact is all we do know. And for the people of Iran, that was more than enough to stop supporting this regime.

Edit: And what the HELL is going on in his comment thread? There's endless ranting about "Obamabots" and obvious spinning for Ahmadinejad and Iran. I'd buy it if it seemed to come from honest Ahmadinejad supporters, but it seems like it's coming from this bizarre mindset where Ahmadinejad MUST be popular since he takes potshots at the U.S and affects a populist image. It's quite possible to enjoy popular success and take shots at the U.S. Hugo Chavez does it, and his elections are routinely verified as legitimate by international observers. But that's simply not what happened here.

There's also a lot of wanking on about how "America shouldn't lecture them until it cleans its own house". Maybe. But people like Cole aren't telling Iranians what to do. They're explaining why Iranians are reacting as they are, and why the spin is unlikely at best. Americans shouldn't dictate what Iranians do, but that's not what's happing here, either.

You're allowed to be against both Iranian election fraud and the excesses of the American right, folks. They aren't mutually exclusive.

Michael Ledeen Remains Completely Useless

I tell you, the worst thing about this story is the right-wing idiots who think it somehow proves them right. Case in point: Michael Ledeen.

There ain't much here that ain't nonsense. Whining about people criticizing "neoconservatives" by using silent digs about how disagreement is anti-semitic, putting scare quotes around "reformer" like a tool, taking potshots at Roger Cohen for being the first to notice the "Green Revolution" (while Cohen risks his ass on the streets of Tehran, writing some of the best mainstream coverage out there)...

...and, as always, giving completely destructive advice.

Ledeen is castigating Obama for not having come out on the side of "Iranian Freedom." Ledeen should damned well know that if Obama had breathed a word about this in the Cairo speech, it would have served as a massive boost to Ahmedinejad's credibility and legitimacy. We wouldn't have even got this far.

Ledeen should also damned well know that if Obama pushes too hard now, it will make Iranians feel that the protesters are American tools, and not an expression of genuine Iranian outrage. He DEFINITELY should know that chattering about "the Mullahs" as a unit is demonstration of deep ignorance about how Iran works and the conflicts within its religious class.

But, then again, Ledeen has never given any indication that he knows anything. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Meanwhile, check out the Roger Cohen piece. He knows what's going down.

Clemons

From Steve Clemons, a source states just how serious this is:
Last night in London after appearing on Keith Olbermann's show, I got an email from a well-connected Iranian who knows many of the power figures in the Tehran political order asking to meet me. I told him that the only place possible was Paddington on the way to Heathrow -- and there we met.

He conveyed to me things that were mostly obvious -- Iran is now a tinderbox. The right is tenaciously consolidating its control over the state and refuses to yield. There is a split among the mullahs and significant dismay with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. A gaping hole has been ripped open in Iranian society, exposing the contradictions of the regime and everyone now sees that the democracy that they believed that they had in Iranian form is a "charade."

But the scariest point he made to me that I had not heard anywhere else is that this "coup by the right wing" has created pressures that cannot be solved or patted down by the normal institutional arrangements Iran has constructed. The Guardian Council and other power nodes of government can't deal with the current crisis and can't deal with the fact that a civil war has now broken out among Iran's revolutionaries.

My contact predicted serious violence at the highest levels. He said that Ahmadinejad is now genuinely scared of Iranian society and of Mousavi and Rafsanjani. The level of tension between them has gone beyond civil limits -- and my contact said that Ahmadinejad will try to have them imprisoned and killed.

Likewise, he said, Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Mousavi know this -- and thus are using all of the instruments at their control within Iran's government apparatus to fight back -- but given Khamenei's embrace of Ahmadinejad's actions in the election and victory, there is no recourse but to try and remove Khamenei. Some suggest that Rafsanjani will count votes to see if there is a way to formally dislodge Khamenei -- but this source I met said that all of these political giants have resources at their disposal to "do away with" those that get in the way.

He predicted that the so-called reformist camp -- who are not exactly humanists in the Western liberal sense -- may try and animate efforts to decapitate the regime and "do away with" Ahmadinejad and even the Supreme Leader himself.

I am not convinced that this source "knows" these things will definitely happen but am convinced of his credentials and impressed with the seriousness of the discussion we had and his own concern that there may be political killing sprees ahead.

This is not a vision he advocates -- but one he fears.
Bolding is mine. if this IS true—and I see little reason to believe it isn't—this will most certainly get uglier because Rafsanjani and Moussavi have, quite literally, nothing at all to lose. Removing Khamenei strikes me as almost impossible, but this series of events he has endorsed has seriously, seriously damaged his country's stability and reputation. They may have no choice.

That also provides a guiding motivation for the protests. The greater the instability, the greater the anger, the more pressure the Assembly of Experts will feel to do something about it before their country becomes ungovernable. An out-and-out revolution is extraordinarily unlikely, but the system does provide a mechanism for replacement of the Grand Ayatollah, and if he falls Ahmadinejad goes too.

Protest Trap?

This just gets worse. The latest on the twitter feed is that Mousavi supporters are being deliberately mislead to believe that the candidate has been released, and is headed to the ministry...so that they'll attempt to join him and can be dealt with en masse.

The US Needs to Keep its Distance

Andrew Sullivan is right in stating that the U.S. should make no overt move towards either condemning or endorsing what Ahmedinejad and his allies did. It would throw everything off, and serve as a means by which the faltering leadership can reunite itself with its angry citizenry.

I think Obama's savvy enough to understand that, too. Bush would have jumped in, because his tone-deaf, delusional neoconservative advisers would have counseled him to do so and he wouldn't have known any better. Obama's people are smarter, and so is he.

Meanwhile, what the hell is going on with western coverage of this story? The networks seem uninterested, and even a lot of otherwise-solid bloggers seem to be either keeping their distance or giving it one desultory entry and moving on to wrangle over DOMA or the public option or Larry Summers or whateverthehell. TPM has been really solid, as has Huffington and Sully, but when I signed off earlier, I had thought I'd return to an absolute blizzard of coverage.

I mean, you see something like this:



And, honestly, everything else just kind of fades into the background. Or so I thought.

Edit: Then again, the beating heart of this has been, of all things, a single Twitter hashtag: #iranelection. I'm not terribly fond of the whole premise of Twitter, and that whole 140 character thing is obviously not up my alley. But as a link farm, it's hard to beat.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Iranian Analysis Time

All right, time to pull back for a moment and play analyst.

There are two dimensions to this story: the election, and the reaction. The salient elements to the election are pretty straightforward: Mousavi was supposed to be either easily beaten by Ahmedinejad or be an unobjectionable "moderate" reformist. For whatever reason, the election moved in a much more vicious direction, and Mousavi started to become a lightning rod for the same sort of revolutionary imagery and attitudes that propelled a lot of the "color revolutions" over the past few years, and arguably the Obama campaign.

This clearly scared the Powers That Be into a panicked spate of election fraud, and they either didn't know or didn't care that they would get found out. At this point, though, it's pretty clear that they did get found out. There are still those hemming and hawing over whether or not the numbers might be legit, but they're being drowned out by those who apply both political knowledge and commons sense to come up with near-irrefutable evidence of fraud. All of these are known factors, or at least unknown things that can be known. In the intelligence biz, those latter things are what they mean when they talk about "secrets".

The other dimension is the reaction. That, in intelligence-speak, is a "mystery", because its full nature is unknown and can't be known yet. We've got the incredible riots in Tehran and, if Twitter can be believed, across the whole damned country. That came hand-in-hand with brutal police suppression and Iranian telecommunications getting nearly completely shut down.

But that's what happened. This reaction will continue for many days, weeks, and months to come. So the question is what sort of reactions are going to happen. It's a "mystery", as I said, so nobody can be 100% confident. But I'll break down what I expect.

First, the telecommunication blockade will be ineffective, and they will continue to get information out to the outside world. The twitterers and bloggers are getting through the blockade, and I imagine more will as time goes on, considering the relative age and expertise of the protesters vs. their censors.

Next: both the riots and crackdowns will get worse. The nature of this event is such that the government's illegitimacy cannot be denied. If the system permitted no election at all, that would almost be better; the people would be used to it and have to be converted to expect anything else. But all these people expected their votes to matter, and even Machiavelli knew that people who perceive a loss of assumed rights get really, really angry about it.

The opposition are scared and feel isolated, but since the wall will be ineffective, they'll be able to communicate with one another and the outside world. They'll be reminded that they are not alone.

Thirdly, the regime's future. This is a tougher call. This debacle is a huge blow to Khamenei. It has hurt the legitimacy of the Grand Ayatollah in the eyes of too many Iranians, and the way that it will be exploited by Iran's enemies (see next point) is going to cause a lot of Ayatollahs to become very cross indeed. Neither he nor Ahmedinejad will come out of this unscathed.

Whether they will come out of it at all is really hard to see. I don't expect a revolution; I don't think the elements are in place for it, especially from a strategic and tactical angle. But I don't completely discount it either, especially if it is accompanied by a "push from within" by those within the Assembly of Experts who are unhappy with the situation.

Finally, this is an unquestionable gift to Israel's right and American neoconservatives. It's hard to overstate just how much of a life-saver this is for that entire school of thought. Had the election happened honestly, whether or not Ahmedinejad would have won would have been almost immaterial. It still would have been "democratic" enough that the bright-line distinction between "Democratic West" and "Totalitarian Iran" that neoconservatives depend on would be hard to make, and neoliberal arguments about reform would have carried the day.

As it is, Iran looks like a banana republic. WORSE than a banana republic. They will easily be able to use this ridiculous farce to make the case that Iran's leaders have become completely unglued, and that Iran's people want America to come in and save them. That would be an absolute disaster, but it just became significantly more plausible thanks to this nonsense.

That may be the best argument for a revolution, or at least an ousting of the Ahmedinejad/Khamenei faction: because no matter how much damage it does, it'd be less than whatever the American neoconservatives would inflict.

New Footage

This is also from saeed valadbaygi, showing night protests in Iran. This is likely to be his next "liveblog" entry.

Edit: These videos are actually from prior to the election. But they're still worthwhile.



I'll also embed some of the other videos in the series:





Here's a really good view from the entrance to the tunnel:



All of these come from a YouTube poster named Agilint.

Iranian Monitor Also Says: "Rigged"; Rafsanjani Still Head of Assembly of Experts

More Sully:

Yes, the president of Iran's own election monitoring commission has declared the result invalid and called for a do-over. That is huge news: when a regime's own electoral monitors beak ranks, what chance does the regime have of persuading anyone in the world or Iran that it has democratic legitimacy? Second:

Stratfor is reporting that Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, head of the Expediency Council, has resigned. Though unconfirmed, the report is saying that Rafsanjani is resigning from his position as head of the Expediencey Council, NOT his position as the leader of the Assembly of Experts, which has oversight responsibility over the office of the Supreme Leader and would be responsible for naming Ayatollah Khamenei’s successor.
I have little to add to this, except to note that the Assembly gives Khamenei his authority, so it would make sense that he wouldn't give up that position. Stratfor can be a bit dicey at times, this is likely accurate.

Nate Silver is also arguing that the infamous "chart" may not be impossible after all. He has a point, but his commentators are pointing out some rather questionable assumptions he made; he definitely had to do some backflips to make it possible. And he acknowledges that this only may justify "The Chart"; the problem of regional votes that Juan Cole brings up is acknowledged as very real, and very serious.

Juan Cole Breaks it Down

Here's the Perfessor on why it's fraud:

Top Pieces of Evidence that the Iranian Presidential Election Was Stolen

1. 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.

2. Ahmadinejad is claimed to have taken Tehran by over 50%. Again, he is not popular in the cities, even, as he claims, in the poor neighborhoods, in part because his policies have produced high inflation and high unemployment. That he should have won Tehran is so unlikely as to raise real questions about these numbers.

3. It is claimed that cleric Mehdi Karoubi, the other reformist candidate, received 320,000 votes, and that he did poorly in Iran's western provinces, even losing in Luristan. He is a Lur and is popular in the west, including in Kurdistan. Karoubi received 17 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections in 2005. While it is possible that his support has substantially declined since then, it is hard to believe that he would get less than one percent of the vote. Moreover, he should have at least done well in the west, which he did not.

4. Mohsen Rezaie, who polled very badly and seems not to have been at all popular, is alleged to have received only 670,000 votes, twice as much as Karoubi.

5. Ahmadinejad's numbers were fairly standard across Iran's provinces. In past elections there have been substantial ethnic and provincial variations.

6. The Electoral Commission is supposed to wait three days before certifying the results of the election, at which point they are to inform Khamenei of the results, and he signs off on the process. The three-day delay is intended to allow charges of irregularities to be adjudicated. In this case, Khamenei immediately approved the alleged results.

I am aware of the difficulties of catching history on the run. Some explanation may emerge for Ahmadinejad's upset that does not involve fraud. For instance, it is possible that he has gotten the credit for spreading around a lot of oil money in the form of favors to his constituencies, but somehow managed to escape the blame for the resultant high inflation.

But just as a first reaction, this post-election situation looks to me like a crime scene. And here is how I would reconstruct the crime.

As the real numbers started coming into the Interior Ministry late on Friday, it became clear that Mousavi was winning. Mousavi's spokesman abroad, filmmaker Mohsen Makhbalbaf, alleges that the ministry even contacted Mousavi's camp and said it would begin preparing the population for this victory.

The ministry must have informed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has had a feud with Mousavi for over 30 years, who found this outcome unsupportable. And, apparently, he and other top leaders had been so confident of an Ahmadinejad win that they had made no contingency plans for what to do if he looked as though he would lose.

They therefore sent blanket instructions to the Electoral Commission to falsify the vote counts.

This clumsy cover-up then produced the incredible result of an Ahmadinejad landlside in Tabriz and Isfahan and Tehran.

The reason for which Rezaie and Karoubi had to be assigned such implausibly low totals was to make sure Ahmadinejad got over 51% of the vote and thus avoid a run-off between him and Mousavi next Friday, which would have given the Mousavi camp a chance to attempt to rally the public and forestall further tampering with the election.

This scenario accounts for all known anomalies and is consistent with what we know of the major players.

In the past decade, reformers have always backed down in Iran when challenged by hardliners, in part because no one wants to relive the horrible Great Terror of the 1980s after the revolution, when faction-fighting produced blood in the streets. Mousavi is still from that generation.

My own guess is that you have to get a leadership born after the revolution, who does not remember it and its sanguinary aftermath, before you get people willing to push back hard against the rightwingers.

So, there are protests against an allegedly stolen election. The Basij paramilitary thugs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards will break some heads. Unless there has been a sea change in Iran, the theocrats may well get away with this soft coup for the moment. But the regime's legitimacy will take a critical hit, and its ultimate demise may have been hastened, over the next decade or two.

What I've said is full of speculation and informed guesses. I'd be glad to be proved wrong on several of these points. Maybe I will be.

PS: Here's the data:

So here is what Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli said Saturday about the outcome of the Iranian presidential elections:

"Of 39,165,191 votes counted (85 percent), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election with 24,527,516 (62.63 percent)."

He announced that Mir-Hossein Mousavi came in second with 13,216,411 votes (33.75 percent).

Mohsen Rezaei got 678,240 votes (1.73 percent)

Mehdi Karroubi with 333,635 votes (0.85 percent).

He put the void ballots at 409,389 (1.04 percent).
It really is the distribution issue that is most damning. I'd be willing to buy a Mahmoud blowout. But even results across all regions just don't happen.

Ayatollahs Calling for New Elections, Can't Get Dial Tone

Update over at Kos again by Clifflyon. A group of clerics is calling for new elections, and apparently the telephones have been completely cut off in Tehran.

Between 50 and 100 Dead So Far

According to TehranBureau. They have video. It's Facebook so I can't embed it, but it shows crowds running away, screaming, from police who beat them with truncheons whenever they get close.

There is also a blog by Saeed Valadbaygi showing images and video and being updated constantly

Edit: He posted up the video in question, here's the embed:

Iranian Internet to be Shut Down Completely?

I've been watching what's going on on Twitter, supposedly the only social network left in Iran, and somebody is saying that the entire Iranian Internet connection is about to be shut down.

...and now apparently Twitter is shut down.

Ahmedinejad's people must be terrified. So must the opponents. I fear that something horrible is about to happen.

Mousavi Arrested, Rafsanjani Resigns, Iranian Police Fleeing Demos

At least according to DKos, though keep in mind that that source has been off before:

UpdateII: Pyknet: Mousavi has been place under house arrest. He was arrested on his way to Khamenei's house. All communication has been shut off. Khamenei has issued a statement claiming that HE that he is leading this coup to SAVE the Islamic Government (Nezam)

Update: Sianat az ara (Protectors of Votes) Iran' Election Commission, have called the result fraud and are calling for new election. They pointed to the suspension of text messaging Thursday night and the disruption of phone service for the campaigns and pthers, and ballot shortages.
Sianat az ara is a group of election monitors chosen by the four candidates. Ahmadinejad campaign is rejecting the claim of fraud and dismissed the committee as pro-Mousavi.

It is almost 9:30pm in Iran. In the north (rich part) of Tehran, the curfew is being ignored.

Photos here. Mo' pix here.



Here's the video of the cops running:



This isn't going away.

Edit: Footage of police beating protesters on the BBC. Skip to a minute in.

Riots in Iran

According to MSNBC, who can't get any closer to the rioting than any other foreign journalists (who have all been asked to leave Iran), they're setting buses on fire, and clashes are happening between the police and protesters. The leaders are being rounded up and texts are being jammed. Video:



(Ignore the anchor chattering about "who voted for Ahmedinejad." They didn't. That's the problem.)

Iranian Impossibilitiy

Courtesy of Sully:



This is a picture of the ratio of Mousavi vs. Ahmedinejad votes throughout the counting process. The smooth, uncurving slope means that as votes for one were added, votes for the other were added in proportion; and THAT means that throughout the counting process the percentage by which Ahmedinejad was winning didn't change at all. Ever.

This isn't even unlikely. It's impossible.

And here's what the people think of it:

Iranian Elections: Rigged?

Well, aside from Ahmedinejad pulling off the biggest upset since Truman beat Dewey, the main opposition figure just got put under house arrest and his supporters are being dispersed with revolutionary guards with pepper-spray.

Draw your own conclusion.

Edit: I'm reading sources suggesting that there was identical vote percentages at each polling place: that is, 65% Mahmoud EVERYWHERE in Iran. That is literally impossible. Elections don't work that way.

Re-Edit: Mousavi isn't arrested. But it looks like the opposition is going to call this thing out. It depends on Khameini.

Edit 3: There's a good piece on MyDD about all this by Shaun Appleby. I won't reproduce it here, but Shaun's contention is that this is proof that Ahmedinejad's faction within the Iranian oligarchy has won out. He was able to bring around enough officials and power players to pull off this rigging game, and it's that control of the players that matters, not so much the election itself. The Mousavi /Rafsanjani/Khatami faction has lost its power to do anything about this, and so have proven their weakness.

I think that's correct as far as it goes. But the problem is that in places like Iran, you still need at least the illusion of a democratic process to take place. The elections in the past have been sketchy, yes, but still roughly accurate. This one beggars belief, and states to all and sundry that any future elections are absolutely meaningless. Even if Ahmedinejad has brought a good chunk of the oligarchy on board, he still has to worry about the public, and they could get very angry, indeed. If Iran becomes ungovernable, he'll have achieved nothing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Museum Shooting

You probably already know that a white supremacist named James Von Brunn shot up the Holocaust Museum Shooting In Washington D.C.

You may also know that he was a violent, crazed anti-semite with ties to the white power movement:

We've been tracking this guy for decades," said Heidi Beirich, director of research for the law center's Intelligence Project, which tracks hate crimes. "He thinks the Jews control the Federal Reserve, the banking system, that basically all Jews are evil."

The Rev. David Ostendorf, executive director of the Center for a New Community in Chicago, a national civil rights group, said von Brunn has described in his own writings a long relationship with Willis Carto, founder of the Liberty Lobby, the Spotlight Newspaper and a well-known white supremacist and anti-Semite.

But what you may not know is that, yep, he's a Freeper, as you can see from a cached posting to the site about the birth certificate thing posted on Huffpost. Among many others.

So what does that mean? Well, judging by their past behavior, I doubt the Freeps will moderate much. They have no reason to exist except as the barely-acceptable face of the psychotic right. They will probably become more extreme, if only as a defensive reaction.

But the mainstream right, the Fox News types, have a rather nasty conundrum on their hands. They can't condone this. They must condemn it. But in condemning it, they're just going to reinforce the arguments of those who claim that Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck 'n Co. have gone too far. They'll need to change their behavior somehow.

How could they do it, though? If they keep going as they are, it'll be easy to associate them with Von Brunn and the rest of the hatemongers. That won't affect their audience, but will discredit them in the eyes of hte public and poison their relationship with the rest of the media community. If they moderate, the vital center of discourse in America will shift radically to the left; it's their presence on the far right that has helped keep things as they are. They have to thread the needle between the two, and that's a subtle game that their type has never been especially good at.

All this is temporary, of course. They might just wait out the cycle and go right back to it. But right now, they're in a dilly of a pickle.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Hill Divided Against Itself

So. Lieberman and Graham are wailing that they'll filibuster EVERYTHING unless the detainee picture publication ban gets passed. Meanwhile, Democratic Senators are saying that they'd never touch a public option for health care, whereas "blue dogs" Dems in the House are facing up to the fact that the House proposal is going to have one.

Oh yeah. The two houses of Congress are now officially at war with each other. Rahm, however you might have liked this little game up until now, playtime is definitely over.

(Yes, there are going to be Democratic Senators that aren't opposed to a public option. But Baucus and Nelson are the chief anti-public voices in the process, Landrieu is against it, and meanwhile the Senate voted near-unanimously in favor of the picture ban.)

Lieberman FOIA Amendment:Gone. But the Problem Remains.

And that's what happens when progressives get their shit together.
I think there's a positive side to all this. Obama's honeymoon is over. Conservatives never gave him one, but progressives aren't pleased either. They're VERY concerned with how he seems to be either trying to bridge the gulf between Republican and sane positions, or is just plain-and-simple ignoring the progressives that handed him so many primaries and caucuses. (Especially caucuses.)

And if you look at Matt Bai's NYT Magazine piece on the weekend, you see an administration that's more concerned with keeping the Senate naysayers happy than getting anything done. Even the House appears to be getting lost in the shuffle:

Here again, the stimulus process is illustrative, specifically at the point when negotiators for the two chambers met to reconcile the differences in their bills. A bipartisan group of senators led by Nelson and Collins had secured enough votes to hold up final approval of the bill, and they wanted it scaled back to under $800 billion — a symbolic threshold, really, but one that would slash billions in school construction and other programs from the final package. It was at this point that the White House, in the person of Emanuel and Orszag, inserted itself as arbitrator and effectively took charge of the process. For several contentious days and late nights, a frenetic Emanuel personally shuttled between the offices of Pelosi and Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, bargaining and cajoling and bullying his way toward a compromise. At a typically chaotic point late one evening, as one participant described it to me, Emanuel was standing in Reid’s office shouting at Pelosi over the speakerphone, then dismissed her to take a call from the president on his cellphone. Ultimately, the marathon process yielded a deal more to the centrist senators’ liking than it was to Pelosi’s; the bill Obama signed came in at about $787 billion...

...Some House Democrats I talked to have already begun to wonder audibly why they’re the ones who always have to surrender in Emanuel’s middle-of-the-night negotiating sessions. They accuse Reid and his lieutenants of repeatedly placating Republicans to avoid a filibuster, rather than taking a stand on principle now and then. Why not force centrist Democrats to vote against their party and let Republicans filibuster the agenda on national television? What would the voters think then?
The bolding is mine: it's an illustrative moment. Throughout the piece Rahm was siding with Senatorial centrists (and Reid, who is their puppet) over and over again. While the piece makes a big deal about how Obama doesn't want to leave people hanging, both Rahm and Obama seem to have forgotten that House Members have to get re-elected too. The fact that they're in safely Democratic seats won't matter if they're facing a primary challenger from the left instead of a general election challenger from the right. It may even be worse: look at their Republican counterparts, and look at how vocal progressives have been and the expectations that they may have.

If Congressional representatives want to keep their jobs, they'll need real, progressive laws and policies that they can take to their primary voters. That's as important as keeping a barely-Democratic Senator happy, especially in an electoral environment where Democrats are expected to win seats, not lose them.

And rest assured, Mr. President, the "change" that the people elected you to enact wasn't a more harmonious, considerate relationship with Capitol Hill. Don't forget that.