Posts Tagged ‘Mir Hussein Mousavi’

The Protests Continue in the Streets of Iran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamanei told opposition rival Mir Hussein Mousavi to pursue his complaints legally.

According to Lebanese news service  Al-ManaarTV, Imam Khamanei told Iranian state television, “In previous rounds some people followed matters through the Guardians Council as it is the legal reference body in these issues and such matters should naturally be pursued legally in this round.”

This brief statement starkly contrasts with the Ayatollah’s unabashed support of Ahmadenijad’s win this weekend.

For the opposition, the statement is nothing short of an admission of fraud.

Former U.S. State Department policy advisor Suzanne Maloney wrote, “The notion that nearly two-thirds of Iranians want another four years of [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad strains any credulity. By nearly every measure, his presidency has been disastrous for most Iranians.”

She is, of course, referring to Ahmadinejad’s failed domestic economic policies and his bellicose method of diplomacy.

Maloney writes,

The economy represented Ahmadinejad’s primary vulnerability; the campaign took place in the shadow of double-digit inflation and uncertainties surrounding the whereabouts of billions of dollars in oil revenue. Participants at election rallies hurled potatoes in mocking protest of the president’s efforts to offset rising prices with free vegetables.

And beyond the pocketbook, Ahmadinejad did little to improve Iranians’ quality of life. Many of the modest gains in political and social freedoms achieved during the Khatami period were rolled back, and Ahmadinejad’s regional swagger and hateful rhetoric generate international support for the United Nations, an unprecedented dishonor for a proud country. Each of these issues emerged as key themes in reports of campaign rallies, public commentary, and the barbs exchanged by the candidates themselves. Ahmadinejad countered by stepping up his nationalist rhetoric, laced with increasingly pointed accusations of official corruption and smears against his primary opponent’s wife.

What reinforces the absurdity of the official outcome are the blatant inconsistencies in the official version of the final vote tally. Given the rumors about plans for rigging swirling around Iran in the last weeks of the campaign, a narrow margin for Ahmadinejad would have been greeted rightfully with skepticism. But it would have been plausible at least, particularly if Mousavi and the other reformist candidate, former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi, had appeared to have split their support. But a landslide for an incumbent who is manifestly detested among large swaths of the population simply defies reason.

The indignation felt by the opposition has yet to wane. According to the New York Times, the detainment of more than 100 opposition leaders and Mousavi’s calls to protests have embolden the opposition.

In his first appearance since Friday, Mir Hussein Mousavi appeared amidst hundreds of thousands at a rally he called through a number of methods, including Twitter. In the face of the government’s insistence that such an assembly would be “seditious,” the throngs were unstoppable. In Vanak Square, “bye-bye, dictator!” could be heard from rooftops.

Mousavi’s supporters and riot police continued to clash despite a largely peaceful showing. One protest turned violent toward the end of the day, killing one and wounding several.

A 48 year old woman told the New York Times, “People feel really insulted, and nothing is worse than that. We won’t let the regime buy time, we will hold another march tomorrow.”

The Obama Administration continues to handle the news with kid’s gloves, citing only concern for a final resolution of the results.

Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney criticized the Administration for its tight-lipped stance. The Washington Post relates his comment to ABC,

Appearing yesterday on ABC’s “This Week,” former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) said, “What has occurred is that the election is a fraud, the results are inaccurate, and you’re seeing a brutal repression of the people as they protest.”

“The president ought to come out and state exactly those words, indicate that this has been a terribly managed decision by the autocratic regime in Iran,” said Romney, who has not ruled out another run for president in 2012. “It’s very clear that the president’s policies of going around the world and apologizing for America aren’t working.”

On the reality of the situation, Maloney writes,

For the Obama administration, the developments of the past week in Iran represent perhaps the worst possible outcome. The U.S. administration’s strategy of engagement was never predicated on the personality of the Iranian president, who after all is not even the country’s final authority. But a win for the reformists would have added real energy to the effort, both within Iran and here at home, in the excitement over shifting ideological tides in Tehran and the inclusion of Iranian leaders who were both capable of and prepared to countenance serious negotiations. A plausible Ahmadinejad victory, while unwelcome, would at least have offered Washington the prospect of dealing with a consolidated conservative government that might have felt confident enough to pursue a historic shift in its relationship with an old adversary.

Instead, Washington now faces a newly fractured Iranian polity ruled by a leadership that is willing to jettison its own institutions and legitimacy in its determination to retain absolute control. That does not bode well for Iran’s capacity to undertake serious talks and eventually engage in historic concessions on its nuclear program and support for terrorism. Obama has to be prepared to move forward with diplomacy despite the wholesale setback for Iran’s limited democracy. In the wake of this disastrous election, opportunities for progress on engagement may unexpectedly present themselves. But he should do so in full awareness of the farce that has been perpetrated with this Ahmadinejad “landslide” and of the seething frustration of so many Iranians.

For photos of the protests, visit the Twitter’s flickr.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

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.”