The Iranian Election is Their Issue, Not Ours

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This is the clip from a segment I did last night on the Iranian elections with Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. I tried to emphasize that the Iranian election belongs not to Frank Gaffney or John Bolton, or to the Obama administration – but to the Iranian people themselves.
As Americans, we need to remove ourselves from the process and allow it to unfold on Iranian terms.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

36 comments on “The Iranian Election is Their Issue, Not Ours

  1. David says:

    I’m in Paul Norheim’s corner on this one, and I honestly cannot imagine there being no meddling, but there are different kinds and degrees of meddling, some kind of benign, others quite deadly, and at this point it would be wise of Obama to mean what he says about Iran. The idea that Israel would be hands-off regarding a regime they want desperately to see destroyed defies logic. And the possibility that Ahmadenijad is a radical zealot who wants war makes it all the more imperative that the US do everything in its power to prevent that from happening. Israel has to be constrained by the United States on this one. The consequences of Israel attacking Iran are just too disastrous to allow.
    Biden said it, and he was correct: Obama would be tested seriously early on. We will find out what he and his administration are made of, and we will also find out whether or not the nations of the world can find a way to cohere.
    Meanwhile, global warming marches on relentlessly and very consequentially. At least the Obama White House is acknowledging that fact, although I am singularly unimpressed by the ok-ing of the continued decapitation of Applachian coal belt mountains. It’s a hideous practice for some jobs and a lot of coal company profits. Same shit, different decade.

    Reply

  2. Paul Norheim says:

    A short comment to what Questions said:
    If history is a guide, I can`t see any reason to doubt that foreign
    powers are meddling in the Iranian election drama (they ALWAYS
    do during crucial events with potential geopolitical implications,
    one way or another). But of course questions is right when he
    says that the Iranian opposition is real on a domestic level.
    However, one dimension does not exclude the other in this case. I
    think we can assume that foreign manipulation is real. And that
    domestic opposition is real.

    Reply

  3. Sand says:

    Oh dear, I guess Roberts — ex-Assistant Secretary of the ‘Treasury’ in the Reagan administration isn’t gonna like the latest from Dreyfuss then.
    Battle Lines in Iran
    by Robert Dreyfuss [06/17/2009]
    http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/444147

    Reply

  4. questions says:

    What does “CIA meddling” mean here? Did the CIA pay tens or hundreds of thousands of demonstrators? Or did the CIA say, “Hey, Moussavi, go ahead and use a color. It’s worked before.” There’s really a huge difference, and getting specific might help. If you’re vague enough, anything can sound true.
    If no one were demonstrating FOR Moussavi, it would look very different. But a lot of people seem to be pretty unhappy with Ahmadinejad, and reports from HuffPo suggest that the disaffection cuts across class, region, ethnicity and religiosity. So it doesn’t really seem to be just a bunch of dupes and idiots who think they’re getting freedom when what they’re really getting is 4 dollar a gallon gas and lousy schools and lousy health care.

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  5. David says:

    POA,
    I think you are correct to suspect CIA meddling. That is their specialty. What I don’t know is whether or not Obama sees that as a mistake, nor do I know to what extent he can rein in an ongoing commitment to meddle, especially since Congress authorized funding for meddling in Iran in the 90s. Again, apparently Obama refused to meddle in El Salvador’s most recent election, which was won by a moderate in a coalition with the FMLN, and as recently as the previous election, Jeb Bush was dispatched to El Salvador to express the displeasure of the US if the FMLN candidate won that election. Team Bush’s position was that only ARENA should be allowed to rule in El Salvador, of course. Clearly, to me, Team Obama is not Team Bush. On the other hand, the CIA is the CIA, which under William Casey was blatant about intervention in Italian electoral politics. And I have no idea what it actually means for a president to try to redirect the CIA – I’m thinking here of the darker aspects of the CIA, not the rank-and-file folk, one of whom (retired) is the father of a close personal friend and was an analyst. I have come to suspect the CIA is anything but monolithic, but components of the CIA sure as hell have a lot of blood on their hands.
    I do think it might be a bit less clear cut than it would have been had McCain won.

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  6. ... says:

    paul norheim 951pm.. i got a laugh out of that one. thanks! twitter strikes me as something akin to facebook – for the most part a vacuous, superficial communication tool, very helpful for spreading all sorts of b.s. i will have to learn more about it, but that is my general impression.. your analogy sounds about right to me as well…

    Reply

  7. Paul Norheim says:

    In contrast to so many westerners, I would say that Dan Kervick shows a socratic streak in his approach to events
    unfolding in a distant society very different from his own. The current president of the United States seems to
    possess similar virtues – which of course makes him despicable (or “vaudevillian”) in the eyes of Kotzabasis.
    Speaking about vaudevillian streaks… am I the only one who finds it amusing to watch an Australian effortlessly
    distinguishing between facts and fictions in the Iranian power game?
    Apparently, there are no “Rumsfeldian unknowns” in the minds of Kotzabasis and the Mullahs – not even in
    Rumsfeld himself. It was a tragedy for the former Defense Minister, for America and for the Middle East that he
    paid so little attention both to the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns.
    Widespread looting in Bagdad? “Stuff happens.” What an irony! His arrogance was visible even while he coined
    that wonderful socratic expression in front of journalists and TV cameras.

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  8. kotzabasis says:

    For a political animal like Steve his Pontius Pilate stand “not our business” is astonishingly amusing. But I suppose saying this with a grin on his face is because he has no answer to the argument that Bush’s hard policies MIGHT have influenced the educated classes of Iran in their revolt against Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs.
    Even if Ahmadinejad won the election fairly, the fact remains that now as a result of the election the extant split prior to the election between the modernist forces and the antediluvian ones is exacerbated. What is imponderable, and lingers in the realm of Nostradamus, is whether this fissure of Iran’s society between these two forces will bring an internal ‘modernist’ change or an open dictatorship of the Mullahs and the military, as their only way to survive from this tsunami of dissent against them.
    As for Dan Kervick in his desire to present himself as an imaginative thinker he foolishly delves in ‘Rumsfeldian unknowns,’ which excellently illustrate the vaudevillian streak in him. His comment that there might be “anti-democratic” forces that would aim to “overturn” the democratic election is a fiction. The forces that want to “overturn the result of the election” are doing so because of the PERCEPTION that Ahmadinejad STOLE the election, not because they could be “anti-democratic.”

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  9. He Who Must Not Be Named says:

    I agree with Steve on this one. During the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which was a similarly glorious event to watch, the Bush administration quite rightly took a hands-off approach.
    This made is quite difficult (though not impossible, as the posts by apologists like Pissed Off American indicate) for the ancien regime to portray the unrest as the work of foreign agents provacateurs.

    Reply

  10. He Who Must Not Be Named says:

    Ahmadinejad’s electoral victory should have come as a surprise to no one.
    …proving once again why no one takes Scott Ritter seriously.

    Reply

  11. AndrewM says:

    I am quite disappointed that so called “realists” like Lugar and Obama, as well as the owner of this web site, are refusing to criticize the dishonest and shameful behavior by Ahmadinejad and his army of goons. The Iranian leadership stole an election, the evidence IS there, and deserve to be condemned for it. I have a lot of respect for Senator Lugar, but I think its sad that he and so many others have decided that criticizing Iran’s shameful electoral process is the same as meddling in its affairs. To highlight their double standards, I should add that it is doubtful that any of these so called “realists” would say that there is insufficient evidence for believing that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, even though the evidence for that assertion is far weaker than the evidence of electoral fraud.
    If these so called “realists” had their way, Saddam would still be buying weapons from the US, Milosevic would still be the genocidal ruler of Yugoslavia, and the Shah would still be butchering people in Iran. The naivety of the realists and their enablers knows no boundaries. Their foolish insistence on “peace at any price” and their Ron Paul outlook towards the world will lead us all to ruin. Internationalism, based on international law and the United Nations – and not isolationism – is the only prudent way forward.

    Reply

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I find it somewhat hilarious that a “hands off” approach is being claimed, when there are fair to middlin’ odds that we are smack dab in the middle of this thing covertly.
    Hands off, my ass. This thing reeks of CIA incitement with agent provocateurs.

    Reply

  13. Steve Clemons says:

    LOL…thanks MNPundit – been traveling way too much, but do what I can to help. back in DC now…and going to “sleep”. All best, steve

    Reply

  14. David says:

    The history of US meddling in Iran is so reprehesible that we simply have no high ground to stand on as a government, except the high ground of hands off. Obama provided a welcome surprise when he acknowledged the role of the US in the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadegh. It would have been even more refreshing if he had gone on to acknowledge why Eisenhower agreed to it (actually it was Dulles the Brits got to with their claims of a connection between Mossadegh and communism after Truman had turned them down).
    Any intervention of any kind by the US government will only hamper, and possibly kill the possibility of, the reform Iranians apparently want, especially younger Iranians. They have to sort this out for themselves. Obama is apparently very popular among Iranians, so he simply needs to stand as a symbol and an American president Iranians can respect. The most important thing he can do is keep Israel from attacking Iran and turning the Middle East into a real nightmare for everyone.
    Steve, you looked good, sounded good, and made good sense last night on Countdown. Glad to see some Rolodexes are keying on rational, insightful, intellectually honest folk.

    Reply

  15. Paul Norheim says:

    For propagandists and spammers like Tahoe, Twitter must be the
    perfect tool – like a hand in a glove. Perhaps that`s why he is so
    rarely seen at TWN nowadays?

    Reply

  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The U.S. State Department contacted the social networking service Twitter over the weekend to urge it to delay a planned upgrade that could have cut daytime service to Iranians, a U.S. official said on Tuesday”
    Which perfectly dovetails into the reports about widespread use of Twitter as a propaganda tool…
    http://www.chartingstocks.net/2009/06/proof-israeli-effort-to-destabilize-iran-via-twitter/

    Reply

  17. samuelburke says:

    the iranian colored revolution is starting to sound like a bunch of b.s….
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/14/AR2009061401757_pf.html
    The Iranian People Speak
    By Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty
    Monday, June 15, 2009
    The election results in Iran may reflect the will of the Iranian people. Many experts are claiming that the margin of victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the result of fraud or manipulation, but our nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin — greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday’s election.
    While Western news reports from Tehran in the days leading up to the voting portrayed an Iranian public enthusiastic about Ahmadinejad’s principal opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, our scientific sampling from across all 30 of Iran’s provinces showed Ahmadinejad well ahead.
    Independent and uncensored nationwide surveys of Iran are rare. Typically, preelection polls there are either conducted or monitored by the government and are notoriously untrustworthy. By contrast, the poll undertaken by our nonprofit organizations from May 11 to May 20 was the third in a series over the past two years. Conducted by telephone from a neighboring country, field work was carried out in Farsi by a polling company whose work in the region for ABC News and the BBC has received an Emmy award. Our polling was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
    The breadth of Ahmadinejad’s support was apparent in our preelection survey. During the campaign, for instance, Mousavi emphasized his identity as an Azeri, the second-largest ethnic group in Iran after Persians, to woo Azeri voters. Our survey indicated, though, that Azeris favored Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 over Mousavi.

    Reply

  18. samuelburke says:

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090616_learning_to_live_with_the_devil_we_know/
    By Scott Ritter
    The Iranian people went to the polls last Friday to elect a president. Pre-election polling showed the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, consistently holding a 2-to-1 advantage over his closest opponent, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi. When the final election results were announced by the Iranian Ministry of Interior (the agency responsible for counting the votes and publishing the results), President Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, with 63 percent of the vote—about a 2-to-1 advantage. And yet, when the northern suburbs of Tehran, home to a large number of moderate reform-minded Iranians who are vehemently opposed to Ahmadinejad, erupted in violent protest, and Mousavi began to cry fraud, the Western media immediately jumped on the bandwagon, giving birth to the “instant history” of the 2009 Iranian presidential elections.
    Ahmadinejad’s electoral victory should have come as a surprise to no one.

    Reply

  19. Dan Kervick says:

    That;s harsh MNPundit. I though Steve looked perky and rejuvenated myself.

    Reply

  20. MNPundit says:

    Lookin’ a little long in the tooth Steve.

    Reply

  21. samuelburke says:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts06162009.html
    Iranians have a bitter experience with the United States government. Their first democratic election, after emerging from occupied and colonized status in the 1950s, was overturned by the U.S. government. The U.S. government installed in place of the elected candidate a dictator who tortured and murdered dissidents who thought Iran should be an independent country and not ruled by an American puppet
    The government-controlled U.S. corporate media, a Ministry of Propaganda, has responded to the re-election of Ahmadinejad with non-stop reports of violent Iranians protests to a stolen election. A stolen election is presented as a fact, even thought there is no evidence for it whatsoever. The U.S. media’s response to the documented stolen elections during the George W. Bush/Karl Rove era was to ignore the evidence of real stolen elections.
    Leaders of the puppet states of Great Britain and Germany have fallen in line with the American psychological warfare operation. The discredited British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, expressed his “serioU.S. doubt” about Ahmadinejad’s victory to a meeting of European Union ministers in Luxembourg. Miliband, of course, has no source of independent information. He is simply following Washington’s instructions and relying on unsupported claims by the defeated candidate preferred by the U.S. Government.
    Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, had her arm twisted, too. She called in the Iranian ambassador to demand “more transparency” on the elections.
    Even the American left-wing has endorsed the U.S. government’s propaganda. Writing in The Nation, Robert Dreyfus’s presents the hysterical views of one Iranian dissident as if they are the definitive truth about “the illegitimate election,” terming it “a coup d’etat.”
    What is the source of the information for the U.S. media and the American puppet states?
    Nothing but the assertions of the defeated candidate, the one America prefers.

    Reply

  22. Cookies_and_milk says:

    That video is back up, here is the link again:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXYvpJg_3OM
    Warning, this is heart-wrenching and brutal stuff.

    Reply

  23. JohnH says:

    I wonder if Rafsanjani/Moussavi are having second thoughts about the genie they have let out of the bottle. It’s fine to enlist the people in your hidden agenda of recapturing the oil ministry. But when you awaken the rabble, you might actually have to deliver some meaningful reform. That might include short circuiting their own careers.
    Are they ruing the day yet or are they still confident they can change everything but keep it all the same?

    Reply

  24. Paul Norheim says:

    Dan obviously has a point in his last comment (the last
    paragraph). Remember the overthrow of Ceausescu in Romania at
    the end of the cold war? Everybody in the western world
    celebrated. Due to simplistic ideological views and ignorance (or
    lack of interest) regarding what was really going on inside the
    country, they were surprised when it turned out that the coup
    makers were just new tyrants hiding behind slogans about
    freedom and democracy, claiming to represent the people.

    Reply

  25. Paul Norheim says:

    “Look, Brazil and India today rejected China and Russia’s
    approach on recognizing the result of Iran’s election. Couldn’t
    America at least do the same?”
    It could, but it would probably be counterproductive.
    And Dan, I`m sure US intelligence uses every available tool.

    Reply

  26. Dan Kervick says:

    I don’t agree that nothing that happens in Iran with regard to this election is “our business”. If, for example, the Iranian government engages in violations of international human rights law, then that would certainly be the business of everyone in the international community.
    But Zathras makes what I think is the important point: Despite many pronouncements to the contrary all about the internet, it is really quite difficult to understand what is happening in Iran right now. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to formulate an intelligent response one way or another, and thus people must proceed with caution. And obviously, US statements on the election calling for some particular course of action in Iran are likely to be used as political ammunition in the country for pursuing precisely the opposite course.
    Here is something that is, for me at least, a key consideration: Since nobody knows who really won the election in Iran, then nobody knows whether protesters aiming to overturn the result of the election are, in effect, *pro-democratic* forces aiming to achieve the legitimate outcome for which the people voted, or *anti-democratic* forces seeking to overturn the will of the people.

    Reply

  27. Dan Kervick says:

    Paul,
    While it could be that the State Department asked Twitter to stay online to assist the Iranian protesters, it could also be that they made the request on behalf of US intelligence agencies who are relying on Twitter as an intelligence tool.

    Reply

  28. AndrewMehdiz says:

    I don’t agree with you. Would you be making the same argument if there was an ongoing genocide in Rwanda? Human rights issues are not exclusively matters of “state sovereignty.” And yes, Obama does have a responsibility to criticize Iran while recognizing the specific evidence that points to a massive electoral fraud.
    The argument against criticizing Iran and its election is tantamount to appeasement. Look, Brazil and India today rejected China and Russia’s approach on recognizing the result of Iran’s election. Couldn’t America at least do the same?

    Reply

  29. ... says:

    cookies and milk, it sounds as though you haven’t had your cookies and milk today…
    steve, i agree with you..

    Reply

  30. Cookies_and_milk says:

    Wow the video was removed. For those curious it showed a student down with his friends trying to help him – he dies. The screams for so terrible.
    Unbelievable. Maybe some muslims or leftists flagged it at youtube. Or maybe it was all an act, I’m sure some here would have said.
    Here’s the post with links to facebook ones, I’m not sure if they work:
    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/the-murder-of-a-student.html

    Reply

  31. Paul Norheim says:

    Excellent comments on Countdown, Steve.
    Washington seems to be cautious, but not completely hands off
    – this is from Reuters today:
    ” The U.S. State Department contacted the social networking
    service Twitter over the weekend to urge it to delay a planned
    upgrade that could have cut daytime service to Iranians, a U.S.
    official said on Tuesday.
    “We highlighted to them that this was an important form of
    communication,” said the official of the conversation the
    department had with Twitter at the time of the disputed Iranian
    election. He declined further details.”
    Twitter`s role in all this must have come as a surprise for those
    who invented it.

    Reply

  32. Cookies_and_milk says:

    Here’s an american/zionist spy getting what’s coming to him:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXYvpJg_3OM
    All praise ahmadinejad, protector of the pious ummah against the world oppressor corporations like nike and mcdonalds. No McFreedom for Iran, no corporate tyranny, only spirituality and the purity of allah’s islam. Allahu Akbar.

    Reply

  33. mehdi says:

    Steve,
    Thank so much for the space you’ve given for the dispatches from Tehran. I believe you have provided a tremendous service to Americans and others interested in understanding the events unfolding now. Thanks!
    Mehdi,
    Paris (Formerly Washington, D.C.)

    Reply

  34. PrahaPartizan says:

    I agree that the US administration needs to take a “hands off” approach to the Iranian situation so long as the details of the election are unknown. The tough questions arise after the details come out and the issue of the election being stolen become a certainty. Should the US provide support to any internal Iranian opposition? Of what sort? Does the US succumb to the siren call of involving itself in Iranian politics the way it did in, oh, let’s say, Nicaragua under Reagan. There’s an awful lot of temptation floating around in the air if the election finally does appear to be bogus.

    Reply

  35. JohnH says:

    I agree with Zathras. “As far as Americans outside the administration, they are free to say whatever they want.”
    But doesn’t it make you wonder when Americans have a lot to say about a potentially stolen elections in Iraq and nothing at all to say about a potentially stolen election in Egypt, Mexico, or even here at home?
    As the song goes, who let the dogs out [now]?
    (woof, woof, woof, woof)
    (woof, woof, woof, woof)
    (woof, woof, woof, woof)
    (woof, woof, woof, woof)
    Who let the dogs out (woof, woof, woof, woof)
    Who let the dogs out (woof, woof, woof, woof)
    (woof, woof, woof, woof)

    Reply

  36. Zathras says:

    That’s the trick, isn’t it? The Iranian government appears to feel the election belongs to Iranians, the ones who occupy high office in Iran now. To the others, not so much.
    Is that our business? Wrong question. The right question is what the official American response should be. The Obama administration has fumbled a bit in its response — facing a fluid and unpredictable situation this could hardly have been avoided — but is basically taking the prudent position of withholding substantive comment until more facts are known. I agree with its response, and presume it will be reevaluated as developments warrant.
    As far as Americans outside the administration, they are free to say whatever they want. They are already “removed from the process” by virtue of being on the other side of the world. If, as appears quite likely, a governemnt hostile to the United States has bolstered its position by rigging an election, I wouldn’t expect or ask American commentators to be silent about it even if I disagreed with what they said.

    Reply

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