Riots rock Iran following election

As Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed election results that show him winning by more than 62%, supporters of his opponent Mir Hossein Moussavi flooded the streets and clashed with riot police in Tehran June 13, saying the vote was rigged. Protesters in Tehran’s Moseni Square smashed store fronts and started fires. Moussavi and his supporters said before the votes were counted that the process was tainted, and urged a halt to the counting because of what he called “blatant violations.”

“The results announced for the 10th presidential elections are astonishing,” Moussavi said in a statement. “People who stood in long lines and knew well who they voted for were utterly surprised by the magicians working at the television and radio broadcasting.”

The amount of votes Ahmadinejad received is making observers worldwide suspicious of the outcome. Ahmadinejad is popular in rural areas, but Moussavi was expected to do well, if not win. But Ahmadinejad has the backing of the country’s powerful religious leader, Ayatollah Khameni and his mullahs, who oppose Moussavi and his reform-minded views. Iran’s Interior Minister Seyed Sadeq Mahsouli said 85% of the county’s 46 million eligible voters turned out to vote Friday June 12. (AHN, June 13)

See our last post on Iran.

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  1. Official Sorosphobia
    A June 14 post on Daily Kos, “Iran’s Fear of A George Soros-Funded ‘Velvet Revolution’,” includes a “bizarre public service message” apparently produced by the Iranian government (and provided to Western viewers courtesy of the neocon Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI), featuring a CGI George Soros conspiring with John McCain and the CIA in a secret White House meeting to destabilize Iran. The (presumably MEMRI-provided) subtitled translation helpfully identifies Soros as a “Jewish tycoon” (and McCain as a “senior White House official”—huh?).

    The Daily Kos blogger, one “Ukit,” notes that two Iranian academics who have received funding from Soros’ Open Society Institute, Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, recently faced charges in Iran of conspiring to overthrow the government. Both Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh were eventually freed after wrangling between the Iranian and US governments, but not before eliciting the following “confession” from Tajbakhsh:

    The long-term goal of the Soros Foundation is to achieve an open society [in Iran]. The way to achieve this is to create a rift between the rulers and the people. Through this rift, those parts of civil society which were formed and strengthened according to the concept of open society will exert pressure on the rulers to change their conduct. This rift can be created like what happened in Georgia, or else this conduct can be altered gradually, through elections and other “soft” methods. In order to create this rift, either you weaken the central government, or else you strengthen that part of civil society which opposes the government.

    The most surreal thing about the Iranian propaganda video is the presence at the secret White House conclave of Gene Sharp—author of The Politics of Nonviolent Action (1973), which sought to systematize the successful strategies of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and was indeed used as a tactical manual by Serbia’s Otpor and opposition movements in the “Rose” (Georgia), “Orange” (Ukraine) and “Tulip” (Kyrgyzstan) revolutions. Sharp and his Albert Einstein Institution have also been roundly bashed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez for supposedly plotting to destabilize his regime. 9-11 conspiranoid Thierry Meyssan has likewise been on the attack against Sharp, alleging that NATO drew upon his work in the 1980s “to organize the Resistance in Europe after the invasion of the Red Army,” and that subsequently, the “CIA began using it to overthrow inflexible governments without provoking international outrage.” Actually, Sharp’s 1985 book Making Europe Unconquerable: The Potential of Civilian-Based Deterrence and Defense posed civil nonviolent resistance as an alternative to NATO and to nuclear-armed military alliances both sides of the Berlin Wall. Life’s little ironies.

  2. Iran: Juan Cole weighs in for fraud
    From Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, June 13:

    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. [Ahmadinejad is widely thought only to have won Tehran in 2005 because the pro-reform groups were discouraged and stayed home rather than voting.)

    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 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.

    See our last post on the Azeri struggle.