Posts Tagged ‘Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’

Relieving the Green Veil

In light of Barack Obama’s recent speech to the Muslim world, many hoped that the U.S. president’s overtures could charm the Islamic Republic of Iran away from the hard-line  incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinjad and towards his reformist rival Mir Hussein Mousavi.

Two weeks into the three week campaign, Mousavi captivated the attention of Western media and drew tens of thousands to his rallies. Represented by the color green, Mousavi came to represent normalized relations with the West and a renewed attention to the interests of women, youth, and the country’s intellectuals. Some even called the election furor that accompanied his ascent the “Green Revolution,” a reference to the political shakeups in post-communist nations, such as the “Orange Revolution” of Ukraine.

At the end of Iran’s  campaign race Wednesday, it seemed possible that the former prime minister could trump Ahmadinejad in the Friday elections. At the tail-end of last week, opposition leaders cited polls that put Mousavi in the lead.

Yet, when the ballots were counted Friday, the green veil was lifted by Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory. According to the Ministry of the Interior, the incumbent president won 62.6 percent of the vote with Mousavi taking just under 34.6 percent, the New York Times reports.

The results, which came merely two hours after polls closed, did not only upset Mousavi, who defiantly declared his own victory Friday night, but it shocked those who banked on the “Obama effect.”

Politico reports,

Though his backing of Iran’s nuclear program differed little from Ahamdinejad’s, the tone of Mousavi’s campaign, and the impression of a broad stirring for change led by the country’s youth, organized online and by text messages, seemed to echo Obama’s own victory and to respond to the promises of engagement in Obama’s recent speech in Cairo….

In symbolism that will be particularly resonant for Obama’s American supporters, the Iranian regime reportedly shut down text messaging services and opposition websites on election day, and internet connections

nationwide were running at sub-dial-up speeds. And the result leaves Obama with the renewed choice of a more difficult engagement with an even more discredited Ahmadinejad; or a return to the policies of isolation that the American president has denounced.

American observers from Obama on down appeared to see great potential in Mousavi’s ascension, and to see signs of a broad regional shift that began with the election of a pro-American government in Lebanon last month.

After the speech that I made in Cairo, we tried to send a clear message that we think there’s the possibility of change, and, you know, ultimately the election is for the Iranians to decide,” Obama said Friday. “But just as has been true in Lebanon, what can be true in Iran as well, is that you’re seeing people looking at new possibilities.

Disillusionment with the results has run so deeply that acrimonious protests have engulfed Iran. Several thousands have taken to the streets in defiance of Ahmadenijad and Ayatollah Khamanei, both of whom appeared on television Saturday urging the public to accept the final count.

The struggle on the Iranian street is fueled further by Mousavi’s absence from the public eye. According to the Times of India, Mousavi was barred from appearing before the Interior Ministry and from addressing a press conference Saturday. It is rumored that he is under house arrest.

Zahra Rahnavard, Moussavi’s wife and a respected academic, gave a speech at Tehran University Sunday in which she confirmed Moussavi’s ongoing contestation of the elections and called his supporters to protest in 20 Iranian cities June 15th.

Mousavi’s website currently hosts a letter in which the opposition leader implores Iran’s Guardian Council to overturn the election results and to allow permits for protest.

Despite the post-election fervor that grips Tehran, the Obama administration is handling the news with gentility and reticence. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibb’s statement, as reported by Politico, is the best example of this.

Like the rest of the world, we were impressed by the vigorous debate and enthusiasm that this election generated, particularly among young Iranians. We continue to monitor the entire situation closely, including reports of irregularities.

Even Joe Bidden, a man known for speaking in a forthright fashion, told Meet the Press that validity of Friday’s elections may be suspect, but from the point of view of United States foreign policy, little has changed.

“Our interests are the same before the election as after the election, and that is, we want them to cease and desist from handling a nuclear weapon and having one in its possession, and secondly, to stop supporting terror. That’s why we’ve joined with the so-called P5-plus-1…. And if there are talks… it’s something that’s going to be done with a regime, not with a person.”