Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Who's the Real Victim of the Iranian Fraud?


According to journalist Michael Collins, it's former two-term president Hashemi Rafsanjani.

At first, you might think that that's absolutely absurd. After all, Rafsanjani already holds a powerful position as the head of Iran's Assembly of Experts. Besides, he wasn't running for office. While Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei may be the ultimate authority on all matters in Iran, including the final arbiter of any "democratic" election, Rafsanjani's authority gives him great leverage in choosing the next Supreme Leader when the nearly 70 year-old Khamenei dies or steps down.

The former two-term president is more of a reform ally than an actual reformist like Mr. Mousavi, but, according to Collins, Rafsanjani, a name familiar mainly to students and experts of Iranian politics, could have the most to lose in the short term. As Collins states,
Ahmadinejad's faction has a radical interpretation of Islamic law that's highly restrictive. This restrictiveness includes criminal acts like executing those convicted of homosexual behavior. Ahmadinejad is also pushing a hard for a redistribution of wealth.

Rafsanjani is opposed to this for several reasons. According to Forbes he's one of thee wealthiest men in the world. He wants more openings to the West. In this campaign, he has also been the target of highly personal attacks by Ahmadinejad who accused him of fraud in a presidential debate.

Rafsanjani fired back with an open public letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reminding him that he, not Ahmadinejad, was a true follower of the balance of power initiated by Khomeini. The letter was also a preemptive notice to the current government to avoid stealing the election according to Hossein Bastini, an Iranian foreign policy analyst.

By conspicuous relief, against the backdrop of the oppressive Shia power bloc that controls Iran, Rafsanjani looks like a flaming liberal. Up until the rioting in the streets began to bloom into outright rebellion and revolution finally forced him to demand an investigation into the election results, Khamenei was hardly following his predecessor's example in balancing power. The election results could be a way of almost isolating Rafsanjani by reinstituting a united front consisting of an ultra conservative secular government headed by Ahmedinejad and his ally Khamenei leading a hardline Supreme Ruling Council.

What Ahmedinejad didn't count on was how hated he was by the young and female voters of Iran. The election "results" that flashed in between the 12th-13th were so ham-handed and inept it made the GOP's obvious theft of the '00 and '04 presidential elections look suave and sophisticated by comparison.

While Minnesota still has only one senator going on eight months after election day, 40,000,000 Iranian votes were counted and tabulated to within tenths of percentage points just two hours after the polls closed. Politics being more local in Iran than perhaps anywhere else in the world, Mr. Mousavi suddenly couldn't even win in his own home city. And Ahmedinejad, despite running against a reform candidate who was so popular as to be leading in several pre-election polls, still won by a margin of nearly 30%.

No wonder people are taking to the streets and are risking their lives to protest what amounts to not an electoral fraud but, in the words of the late Hunter S. Thompson, "a mugging."

The mainstream media haven't connected the dots and seen that this is perhaps a multiphase operation designed to victimize and marginalize not just Mr. Mousavi but all potential opponents. In the most restrictive and inflexible dictatorships in all the world, the public outrage at having their votes stolen has reached such a deafening pitch that even a Shi'ite hardliner like Ali Khamenei has at least temporarily broken with his ally Ahmedinejad to ask for an investigation.

If it wasn't for the outcry on the part of the Iranian electorate, it would be easy to anticipate a sham investigation that would "officially" clear the president of any wrong-doing but that would only enrage the population even more.

Iranian and Pakistani politics are radically different in structure and approach to governing so we won't be seeing any proposals for power-sharing as we saw in the wake of the last elections that saw General Musharraf get barely re-elected but at the erosion of his power base. It will have to be one man or the other. But considering that Iran is at the very tipping point of revolution, perhaps the results of this investigation will be honest enough to admit the possibility of fraud and to hold a runoff election outside the Interior Ministry controlled by Ahmedinejad.

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