Iran: President Ahmadinejad?

Reuters is reporting that Tehran's "ultra-conservative" mayor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has "swept to victory in Iran's presidential election." Aides to the other candidate, "moderate" cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told Reuters that, "It's over, we accept that we've lost."

The wire service speculated that an Ahmadinejad victory would result in an "end to fragile social reforms and rapprochement with the West." Ahmadinejad has promised to redistribute Iran's oil wealth and to attack corruption; his apparent victory has been attributed to support from the urban and rural poor.

The ostensible new president may owe his victory to other factors as well. One is alleged voter intimidation on his behalf by militiamen; the other is a boycott of the election by reform-minded Iranians who are weary of their revolution and who seek to foment a crisis of legitimacy.

The "official" turnout numbers are that 22 million people, or 47 percent of Iran's eligible voters, participated in this round of the elections. Assuming those numbers to be accurate, that's a major drop-off from the 63 percent of Iranian voters who reportedly participated in the first round of voting on June 17. (The regime's June 17 numbers have been disputed by anti-regime bloggers.)

Anyway, Reuters reminds us that in revolutionary Iran, "Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word on all matters of state." Nobody is president of Iran until the Supreme Leader says he is president of Iran.

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  • Justin Slotman||

    I keep being amazed that the hardliner is the guy in the blazer and the moderates are the guys in the clerical robes. "Moderates," I mean.

  • ||

    It's so cute when people think not voting delegitimates a politician.

  • ||

    Color me surprised - I thought Rafsanjani had this one in the bag. But, pace Mencken, this seems to be more one more lesson in how it's hard to go broke underestimating the political tastes of the masses. Even with the lower turnout, I think it's safe to say that promises of social liberalism have less pull with Iranian voters than promises of economic illiberalism. Even when the guy with the illiberal economic views is a reactionary tool who openly venerates theocracy over democracy. Oil wealth truly is a socioeconomic curse to developing nations.

    Maybe there'll be a silver lining to this farce if it makes the Bush Administration recognize that, as foul as the Iranian regime is, a "people power" revolution is unlikely to occur anytime soon, particularly not with oil well above $50/barrel. A strategy of hard-nosed engagement - offering to lift the trade embargo and normalize ties if the nuclear program was scrapped, sponsorship of terrorism ended, and major improvements were made to the country's human rights record - would be much more sensible at this point, particularly with Iranian public opinion strongly in favor of better ties with the US. Only now, there might be no official on the other side left to discuss such an offer with.

  • ||

    Just remember, Ali Larijani would have been worse!

  • ||

    The "official" turnout numbers are that 22 million people, or 47 percent of Iran's eligible voters, participated in this round of the elections. Assuming those numbers to be accurate...

    Probably not a good assumption to make, if any of the chatter Instapundit has linked to is valid, which is that in the cities the elected has boycotted on a massive scale.

  • ||

    Don't worry about it, we'll be bombing them soon enough guys

  • ||

    Probably not a good assumption to make, if any of the chatter Instapundit has linked to is valid, which is that in the cities the elected has boycotted on a massive scale.

    I think it's been well-established that Mr. Reynolds sees only what he wants to see on foreign policy-related issues. All of the reports that Reynolds linked to come from two US-based opposition groups, one of whom I've found to be quite un-credible in the past (e.g. it basically suggested that a revolution was happening in June 2003). Media sources such as AP, Reuters, CNN, and the BBC (yeah, I know, the dreaded "MSM") all reported that a decent number of people showed up at many polling sites. And that seems quite logical, given how heated and widespread public debate on the election appeared to be in the days leading up to it.

    I definitely wouldn't hold it past the mullahs to inflate turnout numbers, and it looks like there's substance to the claims of voting irregularities, particularly for the first round. But I wouldn't buy into reports of a "massive" boycott simply on the words of some opposition groups who have long been hell-bent on finding signs that 1989 will be arriving any day now.

  • ||

    In other news, Jafaari told Bush that ties with the US would remain strong even if the White House decided to "confront" Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Whether he said this out of conviction or political expediency can't be known, but it does throw a wrench into the idea that the UIA leadership is nothing more than a collection of Iranian stooges.

  • ||

    I can only pray that this unfortunate turn of events will inspire the students to push even harder for reforms. But waiting forever for change isn't an option. And please spare me the crap that force never works. Either we take out their nukes or they take out New York.

  • ||

    Hey Clyde:

    Maybe one of the reasons which you didn't cite for Ahminanejad's victory could be that many Iranian voters are angry at the US for all its threats and decided to put their own tough guy in charge. If so, just one more reason why we'll probably say farewell shortly to the ringadingding.

    Still Swinging,

    Frank Sinatra

  • Jim Henley||

    Either we take out their nukes or they take out New York.

    Of course! Because once Iran took out New York they could . . . uh . . . um . . . something!

  • ||

    I've got a great idea, James! After our government invades Iran, you and I should take up a collection to fund the insurgency! You've said before that suicide bombers aren't a bug, they're a feature!

    I say we raise money to fund suicide bombers. Since suicide bombings against our troops overseas aren't a bug, they're a feature!

  • ||

    Voting irregularities? Hardline, warmongering, religious fanatics being elected to high office?

    Thank your lucky stars that America is nothing like that at all.

  • ||

    The Atlantic had a great article about the practical impossibility of bombing out Iran's nuclear program. This is the same magazine that also predicted, before the war, how difficult it would be to manage Iraq after Saddam's defeat. The Atlantic's writers are a bright and analytical bunch; us "taking out" Iran's nuclear facilities is logistically and politically ridiculous.

  • ||

    Not bugs but features is your wording, Thoreau. I think that there is an exhaustable supply of bombers, hell, they are having to go all the way to Morocco and Algeria to get them these days. And better they detonate in the Mideast as opposed to midtown. There's no doubt the foreign bombers aren't winning friends among the general populace in Iraq.

    As for Iran, why don't we just keep waiting for the moderate factions to take control for a few dozen more years. Surely none of Kahn's technology will function properly, right?

  • ||

    Well, this bodes well. The guy who recommended nuking Israel as soon as they were capable is labeled a moderate, and loses to a "hardliner".

  • ||

    "And better they detonate in the Mideast as opposed to midtown."

    Of course they weren't detonating in midtown in the first place....

  • ||

    Now days, midtown explosions would cause more trouble then downtown explosions. Shopping and all...

  • ||


    One problem is that not every insurgent is a suicide bomber. If all of the foreign fighters went to Iraq to die then you'd have a point. Of course, there'd still be the ghastly cost of US troops and innocent Iraqi civilians killed by suicide bombers, but you'd have a point.

    Instead, some of the insurgents will gain experience in irregular warfare and survive the conflict. And when they're done, they won't just go home to work at ordinary jobs. They'll find new battles to fight.

    Whatever the merits of our action in Iraq, acting as a magnet for foreign fighters isn't one of them. Those who die exact a horrific human cost. Those who survive, well, they'll be an even bigger problem than they were back when they were angry but impotent young men.

  • ||

    A few more points for James:

    1) Yes, I realize that some of the foreign fighters in Iraq would have come here otherwise, but not all of them. And while many of them are being stopped, they're exacting a ghastly body count before they die. And the foreign fighters who survive will be a big problem when it's over.

    2) Of course, even if this conflict creates some battle-hardened veterans among the bad guys, that alone is not enough to argue against it. For starters, there will be a lot of battle-hardened veterans among the good guys as well. And the veterans on the other side might find themselves with fewer recruits and less funding if the liberalization project achieves its goals.

    We'd better hope that's the case.

  • ||

    us "taking out" Iran's nuclear facilities is logistically and politically ridiculous.

    Logistically, yes. In good part because our panzy assed democrats say "NOOOOOO!!!!!" every time the pentagon wants to develop low level nuke bunker busters.

    The whole world knows that our No decision means, all ya gotta do is dig a deep enough hole in the ground.

    High tech toys beat boots on the ground any day. It always amuses me when people argue "we don't need more high tech military development". People like, say, Clinton, who burned this into my brain when he said it: "Someday, the US won't be a major super power anymore...." What he didn't say was "...and I can't wait..."

    Is a rational president impossible? First we got Clinton, then we got Bush.

    If we could keep nukes out of Iranian hands it would be for the better. And if Iran knew we could bomb their efforts to Mars, they probably wouldn't waste their time.

    If your only option is boots on the ground, then politically taking out Iranian nukes is impossible.

  • ||

    Insurgent dude,
    1 we have bunker busting nukes.
    2 If we put boots on the ground, then it really is not impossible. Putting boots on the ground would work much better than trying to find any hidden facilities and bomb them, and then know that we got them all.

  • ||

    As much as I hate to defend a warsie, "le insurgente" merely said that the need for boots on the ground in Iran made taking out the Iranian nuclear program politically impossible, not physically impossible.

  • ||

    Well, this bodes well. The guy who recommended nuking Israel as soon as they were capable is labeled a moderate, and loses to a "hardliner".

    The truth is that Rafsanjani, the "moderate", is a craven opportunist who will say and do just about anything if it's politically expedient to him. So he'll tell a crowd of fanatics about the joys of nuking Tel Aviv, and follow it up the next year by endorsing the Saudi proposal for normalizing ties with Israel in exchange for a return to the 1967 borders. He'll vociferously denounce America on multiple occassions, and then make a core part of his Presidential campaign a promise to improve ties with Le Grand Satan.

    Sensing the zeitgeist of the pro-Western middle class, Rafsanjani tried to get elected by pitching himself as a more politically savvy version of Khatami. And if he felt that being such a person was necessary to gain power, that's probably how he would've tried to govern. What he didn't count on, though, was the extent to which much of the public still saw him as a corrupt, self-serving plutocrat, and the degree to which poorer, less worldly Iranians could be sold on the rhetoric of a populist zealot with a Robin Hood demeanor.

    The Bush Administration owes it to itself to take note of what happened here, instead of blindly heeding the words of detached exiles and one-note pianos like Michael Ledeen. As does China, another country whose path to modernity has left a lot of lower-class true believers feeling estranged from the system.

  • ||

    And better they detonate in the Mideast as opposed to midtown.

    Well, first, they have to get into Midtown, which is probably a bit harder than getting into Ramadi or Samarrah. But even if getting in wasn't a problem, I suspect that many of these lunatics have less interest in murdering infidels in their own country than they do in murdering them in a Muslim one.

    It's worth recalling that one of the main goals of 9/11 for Al-Qaeda was to rally public opinion in the Muslim world in favor of their totalitarian movement, and against the US and the local governments that the organization considers to be American stooges. It's been clear that their primary objective for a long time has been not to destroy America or Israel (though they wouldn't mind that), but to instigate Islamist revolutions. So, while I'm sure that many of the foreign jihadis causing mayhem in Iraq celebrated 9/11, it's also likely that many of them consider an act of "martyrdom" in Iraq a more logical action for furthering their agenda than one in America.

  • ||

    I'll buy that, Eric. It looks like the terrorists are more concerned with Shiite rule in Iraq than our involvement there. That doesn't explain Iran though. Since fundamentalist Shiites are the governing power there, a revolution is not required or desired. And I can't see them welcoming Wahabbi Sunnis creating a pan-islamist state in the region.

  • ||

    The Iranian revolutionary Islamist government has been in power for 26 years. During that period, they have launched 0 (zero) attacks against United States territory.

    So James's theory is that they were waiting until they could do just enough damage to guarantee nuclear retaliation?

    Islamist tyrants aren't all irrational savages, James. The mullahs may have some disgusting practices, but they're not going to write their regime's, and much of their nation's, death warrent just so they can make some Americans go boom.

  • gaius marius||

    Islamist tyrants aren't all irrational savages

    exactly. the paranoid hypermilitarism of the war-party right (whose america resembles nothing so much as bismarckian germany or tojo's japan) notwithstanding, not every nation which displays some degree of autonomy from the american will to power is an imminent threat.

    more bluntly, we can't stop them. oh, maybe we can bankrupt ourselves prosecuting wars against everyone we don't like that threatens to step into the industrial age -- but ultimately, all this nonproliferation nonsense is a rearguard action. the amount of ire we are willing to inject these developing nations with in trying to hold them back will finally determine how many bombs we get down the throat over the next few centuries, and very little else.

  • gaius marius||

    fwiw, ahmadinejad may or may not be a bad thing. only time will tell. he obviously ran as a spartan idealist, riding the same dynamic bush did in achieving power. and i'm sure his rise is supported and even facilitated by the clerical establishment.

    but two things. one: he won by a massive, unfakable margin. his campaign made him out as the man of the people, and the people agreed -- there's nothing fraudulent about his election that isn't fraudulent about any western election. interview after man-on-the-street interview i read in both the western and eastern press brought endorsements from young and modernist iranians.

    two: one cannot conclude to whom he is beholden. he won. his office has real power, if not final authority. and the steps he takes to improve domestic living in iran -- which was the focus of his campaign, not foreign policy -- will be a source of great interest. the man that mr edelstein quoted above is not a savage; he's a ph.d. civil engineer, a technocrat who happens also to be socially conservative. that puts him a step above current american leadership, imo.

    the american reaction, however, has been more immediately telling. rumsfeld over the weekend in one breath admits that he doesn't know anything about admadinejad, and in the next calls him a threat to democracy and therefore an object of the global democratic revolution. how positively frightening our leadership has become.

  • gaius marius||

    You love to thumb your nose at the brand of cheap populism that Ahmadinejad demonstrated when it appears in Western nations, declaring it to be a sign of civilizational decline. But when it appears in a non-Western theocracy, you confer upon its bearer the title of "man of the people".

    you don't seem fond of people who come to power on promises of free bread and tawdry anti-elitism in certain other parts of the world.

    lol -- please, mr eric, don't make it out as an endorsement of ahmadinejad. such populism is indeed a sign of political instability, here and there -- but it is also a sign of an operating iranian democracy, something american hardliners would never tell you exists. indeed, their situation resembles ours insofaras their barbarous society (which has fallen so tragically far from its heights) has, as the teutons, goths and lombards did, adopted in mimesis the political machinery of the west.

    i'm simply saying that this is not pretext for immediate panic, attack and slaughter.

  • ||

    please, mr eric, don't make it out as an endorsement of ahmadinejad

    I didn't take your words as an endorsement quite as much as a sign that you don't hold him in the same contempt as, say, Bush. Which, taking into account the parts about Ahmadinejad being a man of the people and a technocrat, isn't hard to conclude.

    i'm simply saying that this is not pretext for immediate panic, attack and slaughter.

    There we agree. It's more a sign that, unless the Administration has a plan worked out to cripple the Iranian economy through international sanctions or a collapse in oil prices (neither of which seem likely to happen right now), it better develop a foreign policy towards the mullahs more sophisticated than one of praying for a revolution.

  • gaius marius||

    you don't hold him in the same contempt as, say, Bush.

    do i have a reason to? when ahmadinejad starts invading nations ex nihilo and raging against civility, i'll detest him, i assure you. :)

    it better develop a foreign policy towards the mullahs more sophisticated than one of praying for a revolution.

    i fear it already has, mr eric -- it's the same foreign policy it's applies to the cis states, the mideast and venezuela. that is, rather than hoping, take an active hand in undermining order and government throughout the third world to forcibly precipitate a global democratic revolution.

  • ||

    Wonderful discussion gentlement, plenty of insightful perspectives that seem more independantly rooted (politically) than is usually the case in these debates. It almost always comes down to 2 groups:

    1)the strongly anti-war crowd- Typically social liberals who will believe/espouse just about any conspiracy theory they hear accepting as gospel truth as long as it implicates America. They try to argue Bush & Hitler aren't so different, have more contempt/distrust for American government than countries whose human rights records & massive corruption problems make the US like a country of monks & nuns.

    2)the strongly pro-war crowd- Typically social conservatives who tend to be myopic in their designation of the guilty and the innocent. For them, America never did anything to justifiably foster any significant leve of contempt against us in foreign countries. Those who fight our soldiers abroad are all automatically classified as terrorists, mere animals incapable of understanding anything beyond hatred and murder. They'd defend virtually any war against Islamic states even if the civilian casualties would out-number terrorist casualties at a rate of 10-1, reasoning much of the muslim civilians are little more than dormant terrorists anyhow. The rest? An acceptable level of collateral damage necessary for the 'greater good'.

    Yes I realize these are grossly extreme stereotypes, and you can be anti-war & socially conservative or pro-war & socially liberal. But listen to conservative talk radio and then liberal talk radio for a week and see how sadly consistent these classifications hold up. Those interested enough in the war issue to debate/argue their stance in forums are typically passionate and loyal to one of the two major political parties. That's been my experience anyway, which is why seeing a debate like that above is so refreshing.


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