Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran Reality Check

I am inclined to agree with John Cole's comments in The Blogger Coverage of Iran that the blogosphere's breathless endorsement of allegations of election fraud in Iran has been slightly overblown and, from a factual standpoint, a bit hard to swallow.

Andrew Sullivan's Twitter v. The Coup is but one example of the current, hyperbolic genre.

In reality, the facts are not in. The evidence may or may not ultimately support the election fraud hypothesis that has been so readily accepted here in the West.

Perhaps most likely, neither we nor the Iranian people may ever know.

There is some indication, however, that incumbant President Ahmadinejad may legitimately have won the election.

As the Washington Post is reporting in Signs of Fraud Abound, But Not Hard Evidence:
There are many signs of manipulation or outright fraud in Iran's disputed election results, according to pollsters and election experts, but the case for a rigged outcome is far from ironclad, making it difficult for the United States and other Western powers to denounce the results as unacceptable. Indeed, there is also evidence that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent president deeply disliked in the West for his promotion of Iran's nuclear program and his anti-Israeli rhetoric, simply won a commanding victory.
Also see Ahmadinejad Won, Get Over it from Politico:

Without any evidence, many U.S. politicians and “Iran experts” have dismissed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection Friday, with 62.6 percent of the vote, as fraud.

They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejad’s 62.6 percent of the vote in this year’s election is essentially the same as the 61.69 percent he received in the final count of the 2005 presidential election, when he trounced former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The shock of the “Iran experts” over Friday’s results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking.

Although Iran’s elections are not free by Western standards, the Islamic Republic has a 30-year history of highly contested and competitive elections at the presidential, parliamentary and local levels. Manipulation has always been there, as it is in many other countries.

But upsets occur — as, most notably, with Mohammed Khatami’s surprise victory in the 1997 presidential election. Moreover, “blowouts” also occur — as in Khatami’s reelection in 2001, Ahmadinejad’s first victory in 2005 and, we would argue, this year.

Bottom line is that opinions aside, at this point we in the West have very little idea as to the will of the Iranian electorate or what the facts will eventually disclose.

Thus, a bit of analytical caution is urged here, and U.S. President Barack Obama's measured approach strikes me as entirely appropriate:

Speaking to reporters at the end of a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the White House, President Obama stressed that it is difficult for the United States to pass judgment on the running of the Iranian election. He stressed that "it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be."

"We did not have observers there," he said. "We did not have international observers on hand, so I can't state definitively what happened one way or another with respect to the election. But what I can say is there appears to be a sense on the part of people who were so hopeful and so engaged and so committed to democracy, who now feel betrayed."

..."What I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation - regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was," said President Obama.

Let's just wait and see.

In the meanwhile, CBC reports that Iran orders partial vote recount. And to be clear, I doubt we will know much more thereafter.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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