Free Markets, Free People
I got a good laugh out of this particular characterization by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the external spokesperson for Mir Hossein Mousavi. Foreign Policy magazine interviewed him in Paris:
FP: There has been growing criticism here in Washington that U.S. President Barack Obama hasn’t said or done enough to support those demonstrating in the streets of Iran. Do you think Obama is being too careful? Or even that he is helping Ahmadinejad by being cautious?
MM: Obama has said that there is no difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. Does he like it himself [when someone is] saying that there is no difference between Obama and [George W.] Bush? Ahmadinejad is the Bush of Iran. And Mousavi is the Obama of Iran.
FP: Would Mousavi pursue a different foreign policy than Ahmadinejad?
MM: As you may know, former President Mohammad Khatami, who is supporting Mousavi at the moment, was in favor of dialogue between the civilizations, but Ahmadinejad talks about the war of the civilizations. Is there not any difference between the two?
We [Iranians] are a bit unfortunate. When we had our Obama [meaning President Khatami], that was the time of President Bush in the United States. Now that [the United States] has Obama, we have our Bush here [in Iran]. In order to resolve the problems between the two countries, we should have two Obamas on the two sides. It doesn’t mean that everything depends on these two people, but this is one of the main factors.
The only problem is there is nothing to really indicate that concerning the large issues – nuclear weapons, funding terror organizations (Hamas/Hezbollah) and keeping the Palestinian/Israeli situation stirred up, there’d be any difference at all.
As the Times of London reminds us:
Mr Mousavi, 67, is a creature of the political Establishment — a former revolutionary and prime minister who would like to liberalise Iranian politics but has never challenged the system in the way his followers are doing.
So the question remains who is this guy in reality? In fact he may be more like Obama than we imagine. He’s riding a wave of “hope and change” in Iran that may be completely different than what he’s willing or able to deliver. In other words, just as here in the US, he’s letting those who support him decide what “hope and change” mean for the purpose of putting him in power. He’d then govern as an establishment president albeit with a softer and more diplomatic touch.
The first indicator of his true colors comes today:
The moderate Iranian leader who says that he was robbed of victory in last week’s presidential election faces a fateful choice today: support the regime or be cast out.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has told Mir Hossein Mousavi to stand beside him as he uses Friday prayers at Tehran University to call for national unity. An army of Basiji — Islamic volunteer militiamen — is also expected to be bussed in to support the Supreme Leader.
The demand was made at a meeting this week with representatives of all three candidates who claim that the poll was rigged, and it puts Mr Mousavi on the spot. He has become the figurehead of a popular movement that is mounting huge demonstrations daily against the “theft” of last Friday’s election by President Ahmadinejad, the ayatollah’s protégé.
Will he stand by Khamenei or will he defy him? My money’s on him supporting the regime.
Before anyone gets too worked up about this development, it should be noted that there is probably no way to authenticate this alleged letter, and its existence comes to us via Robert Fisk (yes, that “Fisk“). Nevertheless, there is a purported letter from the Ministry of the Interior running around Iran that states the following:
Regarding your concerns for the 10th presidential elections and due to your orders for Mr Ahmedinejad to be elected President, in this sensitive time, all matters have been organised in such a way that the results of the election will be in line with the revolution and the Islamic system. The following result will be declared to the people and all planning should be put in force to prevent any possible action from the opposition, and all party leaders and election candidates are under intense surveillance. Therefore, for your information only, I am telling you the actual results as follows:
Mirhossein Mousavi: 19,075,623
Mehdi Karroubi: 13,387,104
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: 5,698,417
Mohsen Rezai: 38,716
(signed on behalf of the minister)
Fisk has this to say about it:
They were handing out the photocopies by the thousand under the plane trees in the centre of the boulevard, single sheets of paper grabbed by the opposition supporters who are now wearing black for the 15 Iranians who have been killed in Tehran – who knows how many more in the rest of the country? – since the election results gave Mahmoud Ahmadinejad more than 24 million votes and a return to the presidency. But for the tens of thousands marking their fifth day of protests yesterday – and for their election campaign hero, Mirhossein Mousavi, who officially picked up just 13 million votes – those photocopies were irradiated.
In a highly sophisticated society like Iran, forgery is as efficient as anywhere in the West and there are reasons for both distrusting and believing this document. But it divides the final vote between Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi in such a way that it would have forced a second run-off vote – scarcely something Mousavi’s camp would have wanted.
Could this letter be a fake? Even if Mr Mousavi won so many votes, could the colourless Mr Karroubi have followed only six million votes behind him? And however incredible Mr Ahmadinejad’s officially declared 63 per cent of the vote may have been, could he really – as a man who has immense support among the poor of Iran – have picked up only five-and-a-half million votes? And would a letter of such immense importance be signed only “on behalf of the minister”?
That the Independent’s intrepid reporter is cautioning against assuming the veracity and provenance of the letter should tell you something (and, it should be noted, “intrepid” is truly meant here as Fisk is openly and flagrantly defying the journalist ban at great personal risk, for which he deserves great praise and admiration). Whether or not it’s real, the mullahs have their work cut out for them in damage control. If the protesters are fairly enough convinced (and it would appear, for now, at least some of them are), then little more fuel will be needed for the fire. Moreover, others who have been either sitting on the fence, or who thought the election was legitimate, are convinced of a sham due to this letter, then it’s difficult to see how the regime can retain any legitimacy.
In any event, this alleged letter may have a significant effect on the outcome of events in Iran.
It’s kind of hard to protest an election in court when you’re in jail.
Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi was reportedly arrested Saturday following the reformist’s defeat at the polls by hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mousavi’s arrest was reported by an unofficial source, who said that the presidential contender had been arrested en route to the home of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
My guess – and that’s all it is – is this is a move to defuse the protests. It will also remove the last bit of the veneer from the belief that these were “free and open” elections. In some ways this makes Iran easier to deal with. There’s no longer any doubt that it is a totalitarian regime where no “robust debate” is taking place or possible.
Look – the fantasy that these were “free and open” elections was a sham to begin with. 475 people applied to run for the presidency. 4 were approved by the ruling mullahs. That should tell you all you need to know about this election. Even Mousavi had impeccable revolutionary credentials, or he wouldn’t have been one of the 4.
But the election appears to have taken an unexpected turn. It would seem those that voted for Mousavi and perhaps Mousavi himself, took it a little more seriously than the authorities expected. Supporters turned out in record shattering numbers (85% of eligible voters) to vote and simply aren’t buying this supposed “landslide” win the mullahs and IRG had put together to keep their guy in office.
Crude, certainly, but to be expected. Authoritarians don’t believe in the democratic process – never have. But they understand the power of popular approval – even if they have to fake it and fake it poorly.
Electoral, of course.
Given the announced size of the victory (62.6% to 34%), we’re to believe that the majority of the country is quite happy to maintain the confrontational course (and style) set by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Not that it makes a particular difference (since the candidates all were approved by the ruling mullahs and in the case of Ahmadinejad, his opponent’s “reform” label was a relative one to begin with) in the long run. But given the reported unpopularity of Ahmadinejad and the vast turnout, it’s hard to believe that he was the first choice of the majority of those voting.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, the “opposition” candidate, claims there’s bee widespread vote fraud and he’ll take his case to court:
“I’m warning that I won’t surrender to this manipulation,” Mousavi said in a statement posted on his Web site Saturday. He said the announced results were “shaking the pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s sacred system” and represented “treason to the votes of the people.” He warned that the public would not “respect those who take power through fraud.”
“I would like to inform you that in spite of wide-ranging fraud and problem-making, according to the documents and reports we have received, the majority of your votes have been cast in favor of your servant,” the statement said. It concluded with a veiled suggestion of a possible confrontation, calling his supporters into the streets to celebrate his victory Saturday night and warning that if the votes are not fairly counted, “I will use all legal facilities and methods to restore the rights of the Iranian people.”
Meanwhile the mullahs have signaled the voting charade is over:
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni praised Ahmadinejad’s election and called on his rivals to cooperate with him.
In Iran, that’s as good as the fat lady singing.
So much for the “robust debate”. So much for the “unclenched fist” as well.