U.S. analysts find it “not credible” that challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi would have lost the balloting in his hometown or that a third candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, would have received less than 1 percent of the total vote, a senior U.S. officials told FOX News.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini apparently has released a statement calling the results “final” and hailing the election as a legitimization of the regime and its elections…
The dominant view among Obama administration officials is that the regime will look so bad as a result of whipping up Iranian hopes for democracy and then squelching them that the regime may feel compelled to show some conciliatory response to Obama’s gestures of engagement.
Maybe. Or maybe popular unrest will force them to clamp down harder, become more recalcitrant about negotiations, and double down on nationalist propaganda about nukes to get the public back on their side. More from Time on what a shabby fraud this was:
By Saturday morning, the most often repeated exclamation in Tehran was: “It’s not possible!”…
A group of young men said they had talked to their families in the provinces, including Kurdish Kermanshah, Azeri Oroumiyeh and Ardeblil. Mohsen, 23, said, “Everyone in Tabriz [Mousavi’s hometown] voted for Mousavi. The official count says a majority for Ahmadinejad. That’s not possible.” Mehdi, 27, chimed in, “Even if just Karroubi’s family in Lorestan had voted for him, he would have won more than 300,000 votes.”
More serious allegations came from officials involved in the various reformist candidates’ campaigns. Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, part of opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi’s campaign, pointed out that the government “announced a wholesale figure of 70% for Ahmadinejad last night, as opposed to breaking it down province by province as they usually do.” The first figures were announced shortly after voting closed, he added. A breakdown of how people in each city and province voted has not been released yet.
At the Mousavi headquarters, former Interior Minister Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour protested that Mousavi observers had not gained access to many of the polling centers. He also said that in Tabriz, Mousavi’s birthplace, many of the polling stations had run out of ballots only two hours after opening, even though about 59 million ballots had been printed by the government, about 13 million more than the number of eligible voters.
The regime shut down text messaging across the country yesterday too to hamper organization of the protests they knew would follow the results. Even so, the Beeb says street violence today is the worst Tehran has seen in 10 years, replete with Iranian cops beating women with nightsticks. The clip below will give you a taste but see Michael Totten for more vids, including one of a monster rally where protesters chanted “Death to the government.” There’s also a hot rumor going around that Rafsanjani, the former president of Iran, current head of the powerful Assembly of Experts, and rival-in-chief to Ahmadinejad, has resigned from the Expediency Council in protest of the results, a move which should go a long way towards delegitimizing them. After 30 years, only a diehard optimist would bet on this clusterfark exploding into full-fledged counterrevolution, but the more discredited the regime is and the more alienated Iranians feel from it, the more leverage the west has to get tough with them over the nuclear impasse. Assuming, of course, that the political will to do so exists. Which it doesn’t.
As I write this, news is breaking that Mousavi’s been arrested, which would be the second big mistake the mullahs have made in the last 24 hours. Three questions now as things heat up. One: Why didn’t they rig the vote in a more convincing way? Everyone expected the margin to be close after such a nasty campaign; a close Ahmadinejad win, with Mousavi victorious in the urban areas he was supposed to carry, would have been credible. I guess they figured that a narrow defeat would be treated as even more suspect by Mousavi’s supporters, so they went in the opposite direction and made it a landslide — to an implausible degree, as it turned out. Two: With the regime more illegitimate than ever, where does this leave The One vis-a-vis nuke negotiations? He’s been careful in the past to distinguish Khamenei from the more toxic Ahmadinejad, but Khamenei blessed the results today as a “divine assessment.” His credibility’s shot now, too. If Obama meets with him anyway, it’ll put the U.S. on the side of a sham government against the Iranian people more starkly than ever before. Three: Did Khamenei order the election rigged on Ahmadinejad’s behalf or did Ahmadinejad order the election rigged on his own behalf? That is to say, who really controls the levers of power in Iran? If you read nothing else I’ve linked here, at least read this fascinating interview in the Nation with a former Iranian minister who argues that because Dinnerjacket is closely allied with the fantastically powerful Revolutionary Guard (and a former Guardsman himself) and oversees the ministries that keep Khamenei informed of what’s happening, he can effectively isolate and manipulate him. Maybe — maybe — the situation in Iran is now less a case of Khamenei using Ahmadinejad as a public mouthpiece than vice versa. Good luck, Barry.
Update: At the Standard, Stephen Hayes says it’s time for a new Obama speech challenging the results on behalf of the Iranian people. If he does that, though, then nuke negotiations are well and truly dead; the regime’s not going to chat with a guy who’s basically calling for it to be overthrown, in which case the military option is the only solution left to stopping an Iranian bomb. Think The One’s going to leave himself with that hand?
Update: Another must-read at Foreign Policy’s blog The Cable rounding up reaction from Iranian experts. No one but no one is taking the election numbers seriously, which makes this a full-blown legitimacy crisis for a regime that’s never been very legitimate to begin with. I can’t believe they FUBAR’d the fix this badly.
Update: Tehran Bureau, a site for independent Iranian journalism, claims there are 50 to 100 people dead from Iranian cops’ thuggery at protests today. Plus thus tidbit, proving that this is in fact a coup:
Two interesting points on Iranian election:
1. After election results were announced, the election committee must wait for three days to accept any grievances for any irregularity before certify the results.
2. The results of election needs to be certified by the Council of Experts before it goes to the Leader for final approval
Today neither of these two rules were followed and the Leader in his speech approved the results of the election and asked all parties involved to work with Ahmadinejad.
Follow the link for videos galore. And see this post too for a graph that’s as much of a smoking gun as LGF’s famous Rathergate graphic was.
Update: Steve Hayes had better not hold his breath waiting for that Obama speech. The White House says it’s full speed ahead on “dialogue.”
The Obama administration is determined to press on with efforts to engage the Iranian government, senior officials said Saturday, despite misgivings about irregularities in the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad…
“This is the worst result,” said Thomas R. Pickering, a former under secretary of state. “The U.S. will have to worry about being perceived as pandering to a president whose legitimacy is in question. It clearly makes the notion of providing incentives quite unappetizing.”
Presumably the thinking here is that public outrage in Iran will weaken the mullahs’ hand against the U.S. and force them to accept some grand bargain, in which case Obama’s basically offering them legitimacy in exchange for denuclearization. The more likely outcome, though, is that the regime will continue to jerk him around while it builds a bomb and then count on its announcement that Iran has become a nuclear state to stoke national pride and win over its disaffected public. In which case Obama will have given them legitimacy in exchange for nothing. Terrific.