December 17, 2006


What Iran vote says about Ahmadinejad's support: The president's supporters hailed Friday's high turnout as a sign of satisfaction; reformers pointed to discontent. (Scott Peterson, 12/18/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

On the other side of Iran's broad political spectrum, reform-leaning politicians appeared to have broken the four-year grip by conservatives on the Tehran City Council by winning a handful of seats there and on a string of local councils across Iran. [...]

With more than three-quarters of the ballots counted Sunday night, Mr. Rafsanjani was leading the race in Tehran for the Assembly of Experts, which supervises and can replace Iran's supreme religious leader. He took almost twice the number of votes as the ayatollah seen as Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor, who trailed in seventh.

The hard-liners who see losing in a higher turnout election as proof that they're popular display an ignorance of Iran you normally only find in Western analysts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2006 6:12 PM

Note that a "conservative" Wackistani is sort of like a "conservtive" Communist in THE FORMER SOVIET UNION.

It really doesn't make any sense, but the media doesn't want to lose a chance to poison the word.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 17, 2006 6:42 PM

They consider themselves winners right up to the point where they're looking down at their shadows on the sidewalks beneath the lampposts they are being hanged from...

Posted by: M. Murcek at December 17, 2006 8:05 PM

So, the elections were about as decisive as the US mid-terms?

The visible support for Rafsanjani would be transformational only if he were an outspoken "opponent" of Khameini - which is not the case. The article notes that Khatami was twice elected in landslides, but hints that no reform occurred. Khatami was a political safety valve for the mullahs at home, and a Potemkin stick figure for Europe and the UN.

The salient point with Iran and its 'government' is not that Ahmadinejad and Khameini are blood brothers and that every Persian hates Israel, the West, and especially America because they are told to do so - rather, it is that a proud and vital people have been eviscerated by 30+ years of tension, oppression, violence, and fear. First by SAVAK and then by the nutjobs. To a great degree, the nation has lost its soul. It is akin to enduring a "Cultural Revolution" (but for a much longer time). Plus, Iran had its 8-year war, with twice the casualties of Iraq.

As the article states, the real test will be when the parliamentary election ballots are issued next time. If 4000+ names are excised, then nothing will have changed from 2005. If Rafsanjani is seen as the great hope, the cultured and diplomatic mullah who will turn Iran towards the future (peaceful and gentle), then there will have another empty turban out there (like Khatami), deceiving (and probably being deceived). Remember, Rafsanjani has made his declarations on Israel (and on the US) that are not so far from his President.

The issue in Iran is not electing someone that the mullahs or some paper in Tehran identify as a 'reformer'; it is for someone who can revivify the nation to overcome the gangsters who have been running it since 1979.

But if the majlis is restricted only to those who will encourage, endorse, or accede to Ahamdinejad and Khameini, then the gang is probably safe, even at a 60% turnout in a mid-term election.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 17, 2006 10:55 PM

The inability -- or refusal -- to differentiate between Khanenei and Ahmadenijad is symptomatic.

Posted by: oj at December 17, 2006 11:54 PM

I have to laugh - whenever any Republican gripes about illegal immigration, he is a hater, a racist, a bigot, and worse. Even if he speaks from frustration (and foolishness) rather than animus.

But when real haters, bigots, racists (and worse) are incessantly telling the world what they will do and to whom they will do it, you wave your hands and dismiss it.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini has been saying for years just about everything Ahamadinejad has uttered since he took office. His surrogates have gone even farther (including Rafsanjani).

Are Ali and Mahmoud allies? No. Are they mortal enemies? We can only hope. Is the little global 'everyman' (as TIME called him today) a monster or just a canny politician? If he is the latter morphing into the former, then you need to stop waving your hands. If he is just a puppet, then we need to ignore him and proceed directly to GO. If Khameini dies (Michael Ledeen says he has only 6 months or so to live), then what?

Even the 86 names on the ballot for the Assembly of Experts were chosen for 'reliability'. Sure, there was tension on election day. At least 2, and possibly 4 bombs went off around the nation. There were several street battles between reformers and hard-liners, and a couple of fatalities.

Iran is not monolithic - but that exactly is why the secretive gangster regime of the last 30 years has been such an abortion for people. Just because these guys are all Shi'a doesn't make them special, and it doesn't mean they hate us any less.

The people know that if they can only vote for Khameini's reformers, nothing substantive will change. They might be able to ding Mahmoud this time, but that's about it.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 18, 2006 12:29 AM

A puppet? That's not how democracy works. He's an alternate center of power, an accidental one which Khamenei needs to defeat. He will.

The precise point is that the whackos on their side are the same as ours.

Posted by: oj at December 18, 2006 7:59 AM

OJ, your promotion of Iranian "moderates" reminds me of those li berals who thought Andropov was a "moderate" communist just because he drank bourbon and listened to jazz music.

The average Iranian gets force fed anti-Jewish propaganda from early childhood. Ahmadenijad isn't an aberration, he's just less tactful.

Posted by: baja at December 19, 2006 5:58 AM

No, Iranians generally believe that the British are the conspirators behind everything. There's little organic anti-Semitism in Iran.

Your confusion of Communism and Shi'ism is symptomatic.

Posted by: oj at December 19, 2006 8:39 AM