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Iranian elections: It could have been worse!

06/14/2009

How, you may ask, could the Iranian election results be worse than they are? A virulent demagogue, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been 'elected' in a transparently fraudulent process in which the number of reported votes increased with d in a charming, orderly and improbable linear fashion as the count progressed. Voters found themselves locked out of polling places and protests were crushed with calm efficiency.

Consider the alternatives. Suppose Mr. Ahmadinejad's allies had done a much better job of election fraud, and had brought the elections to a close runoff, in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a far more reasonable 53 or 55%. Or suppose that Mr. Mir Housein Mousawi had been declared victor?

It would have been really tragic had there been any result in the Iranian elections other than massive fraud, because then the leaders of the world might have applauded the "democratic" elections in Iran, without thinking about the nature of the regime they are calling "democratic." No matter who would have won these elections. Iran would still be a state in which the final word is that of the unelected Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader elected by the Council of Experts. These people make all the important decisions in Iran, including approval of laws passed by the Majlis assembly. They decide who may run in elections and what laws are legal.

There could not be an Iranian candidate who proposed to abolish the regime of the Mullahs or to allow women to walk about without the Hijab. No Iranian president would abolish the IRGC or stop support for the Hezbollah. And if there had been any such initiatives, the Guardian council or the Supreme Leader would nullify them.

Make no mistake. In principle, there is no difference between the Iranian system of "elections" and the Egyptian or Syrian system. Nobody would get excited if, in choosing between Assad and Assad, the results of the Syrian election had shown that 101% of the people had chosen Assad. Likewise, nobody is upset that in Saudi Arabia there are no elections at all.

Perhaps the worst aspect of lack of fair elections in many Middle Eastern countries is that the alternative is worse. Were there to be fair elections in Egypt, Syria or Saudi Arabia they might elect t an Al-Qaeda backed or Muslim Brotherhood government, as happened in the Palestinian Authority. One man, one vote, one time.

The surprise of much of the world at the blatant election fraud. is really surprising. Of elections in states such as Iran, Josef Stalin is said to have remarked, "In elections, it does not matter who votes. What matters is who counts the votes."

In Lebanon there were recently elections that were applauded as paragons of the democratic process. But Lebanon too has a choice between a bad alternative and a worse one. The Christian/Sunni majority is maintained by a process of gerrymandering. On the other hand, the "opposition" Hezbollah is not really a political party. Imagine what US democracy would be like if the Republican party had a few hundred thousand troops with M16s and say, 10,000 rockets. But at least, Lebanese can usually speak their mind with relative freedom, unless they anger Hezbollah or sister Syria too much.

The Iranian elections were a fraud within a fraud, and could not have been "legitimate" no matter who was elected, because the real power rests in the hands of the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader, and because real opposition candidates would never be allowed to stand for office. It is tragically absurd if anyone mistook the charade in Iran for democracy, and it is silly to be shocked by the obvious rigging of the 'elections.' At most, Iranians had a choice between the Iranian equivalent of Stalin and the Iranian equivalent of Khrushchev. The Mullahs decided not to be polite about the fraud this time. So what?

As regards foreign policy issues, no matter who would have been elected in Iran, it would have made little difference to Iranian foreign policy or nuclear development issues. At most, a different Iranian president would not have continued the farce of Holocaust denial and the circus of anti-Semitic "conferences" with David Duke, but the general policy would have remained the same. The Iranian nuclear project began before the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. The Arak reactor and the Natanz centrifuges were hidden from the IAEA during the presidency of reformist president Khatami. In general, democracy is not related to atomic power. The United States, Britain and France, all democracies, all have nuclear weapons, and the United States is the only country to have used nuclear weapons. The real issue is not the Iranian bomb, but the Iranian quest to throw the United States out of the Middle East, and in particular the Gulf Area, and to replace the US as the dominant power in the region. With dialogue or without, the unfolding of the conflict between Iran and the United States must follow approximately the same course. Iran will not change its policy. It is up to the West to decide what they will do about it.

Those who expect a revolution in Iran will be disappointed. As long as the IRGC and the police apparatus support the government of the Mullahs, they will stay in power. Attempts by foreign powers to change the Iranian system of government would only result in legitimizing it as "patriotic" defender of Iranian independence. On the other hand, there is no reason to rush to legitimize and congratulate this nightmare regime, as would have happened no doubt, had the election fraud been perpetrated with more subtlety and savoir faire.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000764.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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