Will There Be An “Obama Effect” in Iran??

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barack_obama.jpgCampaigning has stopped in the presidential election in Iran — and voting begins in a few minutes.
I have no idea who will win, but if Ahmadenijad falls to former Prime Minister and reformist challenger Moussavi, then this is huge in a domestic context. No incumbent president in the Islamic Republic of Iran has ever lost a race.
On the broader strategic gaming between Iran and the US, I suspect that the differences between the two leading candidates are more stylistic than substantive — but I’m happy to start with a more constructive posture from Iran’s political leadership and see what policy options that might help trigger.
But as Keith Olbermann pointed out the other night, despite there being other fundamental dynamics that will drive the political outcome other than Barack Obama’s mesmerizing Cairo speech and overall sizzle — the Iran race will be cast as a function of his power and influence today — a so called “logical fallacy”.
Olbermann and I discussed such a logical fallacy with regard to Obama’s impact on the recent triumph of a Western-supported coalition in Lebanon over Hezbollah.
But in Iran today, If Moussavi wins, many will reference the power of an “Obama Effect.” If he loses, then others will say that Obama’s impact is self-indulgent hype and imaginary.
More later.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

13 comments on “Will There Be An “Obama Effect” in Iran??

  1. Arun says:

    Elliot Abrams, in today’s NYT:
    “In fact, a victory by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s main challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, is more likely to change Western policies towards Iran than change Iran’s own conduct. If the delusion that a new president would surely mean new opportunities to negotiate away Iran’s nuclear program strikes Western leaders, solidarity might give way to pre-emptive concessions.”
    A quote on the Rachel Maddow show y’day, from Daniel Pipes, wanting Ahmadinejad to win, because (implied) it will be easier to wage war against Iran headed by Ahmadinejad than the alternative, makes me think that neocons are rooting for Ahmadinejad.

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  2. Don Bacon says:

    Let’s have some truth about the Lebanon election results. The numbers show that the opposition garnered over 100,000 more votes than March 14 did on election day. But the electoral law gave greater weight to votes in some districts than it did to those in others (remember Al Gore?). The aggregate averages of voters in each district in Lebanon, shows that the ‘losers’ got 54.8% of the total votes (839,371 votes) and the ‘winners’ racked 45.2% of the votes (692,285 votes)
    March 14 won 71 seats, gaining one seat, against 57 for Hezbollah and its main allies, the Shi’ite Amal faction and Christian leader Michel Aoun. Hezbollah ran only eleven candidates and they all won. Hezbollah and Amal candidates swept Shi’ite areas in the election. The opposition alliance lost overall because Christian leader Michel Aoun failed to do the same in mainly Christian districts. “Hezbollah has already captured the state,” said Ousama Safa, director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. “It has done so last May. That is a fact on the ground.”
    Hezbollah, sure of its military and political power, may be be content that the vote did not thrust it into a greater role in managing Lebanon’s affairs, notably its huge public debt.
    “Arab and international governments would have reacted negatively, and investor confidence in Lebanon would have been undermined,” wrote Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut. “A victory for the opposition alliance would also have strengthened Israel’s argument that Hezbollah dominates Lebanon, leaving the country more exposed to attack.” U.S. officials had warned bluntly before the election that aid to Lebanon hung on its outcome. Now Washington is likely to renew its support, especially for the Lebanese army.

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  3. Dan Kervick says:

    Although US-Iranian diplomacy might be significantly easier to stage manage with a Mousavi win, it ought not to be contingent on such a win. It is in the interest of the United States to pursue a more constructive relationship with Iran, and the opportunity to pursue that more constructive relationship will be there no matter who wins.

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  4. John says:

    Obama is one of these people that does not stop proving me correct. I got on board in early 07, and he has continued to validate my choice. We can all blame him if Ahmadenijad wins, but, he already won in Lebanon, in the sense that the Lebanese Christians chose peace and money over a gamble with Hezbollah. Is Iran not the same? The Iranians are similarly torn between pride and money. It really all comes down to that. Hezbollah is a Lebanese entity, built out of Shi’a Lebanese who want fairness and the ability to raise a family, like every other human being in this world. Same with Iranians. Obama’s speech did nothing. People are just tired of the BS and want to, again, be left in peace and to build families. The Lebanese chose M14 because it represented stability.

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  5. kotzabasis says:

    Steve’s two question marks promptly save him from falling and drowning into the politics of wishful thinking. The hate of the Islamic Republic against America is deeply rooted and no “mesmerizing” speech by Obama will ever change that. Even if a change from Ahmadinejad to Moussavi does occur, which in my opinion is most unlikely, as I believe the silent majority of Iran will deliver victory to Ahmadinejad, the geopolitical POWER LUNGE by Iran to become the hegemon of the region and of Islam, hence clashing with the geopolitical interests of the United States, will not be derailed, and therefore its policies will not be modified by one iota. This is why Iran will continue with its nuclear program and its consummation into a nuclear bomb.
    And all those wishful thinkers who believe that Obama’s Cairo speech will have an impact will be gaping at a mirage.

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  6. JohnH says:

    If the opposition wins in Iran, the ball will be in Washington’s court to end its 30 year confrontation with Iran. As Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett said, “To fix our Iran policy, the president would have to commit not to use force to change the borders or the form of government of the Islamic Republic.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/opinion/24leverett.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all
    By replacing Ahmadinejad, Iran will have signaled its desire for change. Will the US seize the opportunity or continue to insist on regime change? Soon the world will know if the United States has peaceful intentions or continues to demand Iranian submission. Soon the world will know if Obama is walking the walk or just talking the talk.

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  7. Dan Kervick says:

    Obama may have something to do with what is happening in Iran, but I doubt the Cairo speech is itself a major factor. There was always strong opposition to Ahmadinejad among Iran’s sizable reformist-minded populations. This race was destined to become competitive once the Guardians decided to permit reformist candidates to enter the contest. So the question is, why did they do that? At the least, it’s because the campaign has occasioned a debate they thought the nation needed to have. Many powerful Iranians are also purportedly upset about Ahmadinejad’s handling of the economy.
    Internationally, Ahmadinejad was always somewhat embarrassing, but Ahmandinejad’s and Chavez’s neo-nonaligned, petro-populist buddy act had a certain global appeal when the villainous Bush was around to serve as a target for their anti-imperial speechifying. But with the much more appealing Obama elected last fall, Iran’s leadership smartly decided Iran needed to change its image to punch closer to its weight on the global stage. And there has probably been some feedback from Iran’s allies contributing to the decision. Ahmadinejad’s moronic, loud-mouthed and high-profile holocaust denialism has damaged the cause of the Palestinians, for one, and given Israel and American neoconservatives all the ammunition they need to promote rejectionism and a policy of isolating Iran. The presence of Ahmadinejad has also slowed the start of the diplomatic opening with the US, because it is very hard for a US president to sit down and shake hands with the denialist Ahmadinejad. One suspects that the administration delayed the start of their Middle East diplomatic initiatives to wait on the Iranian election.

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  8. Cookies_and_milk says:

    It’s disgusting to attribute a Mousavi win to Obama. Iranians have been fighting for reform for decades and are now out on the streets to get Ahmedinejad, the left’s favorite hateful tyrant, out of office.
    The Messiah gave a good speech, maybe he should try action and then his supporters can give him credit for the rising sun. At least then it’ll be less funny when he’s not begging a tiny country called Israel to – limit – their aggression and pretend that’s tough.

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  9. Saadia Chaudhry says:

    I was very interested in the discussion of your panelists and how they said that some of Iran’s stances would be the same regardless of who wins. From what I understand, Flynt was saying that some of it still just depends on whatever approach the US decides to take.

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  10. easy e says:

    Pragmatic Iranians know that they and the rest of the world would be better off with an alternative (Mousavi or Karroubi).
    The crazies want Ahmadinejad (i.e. U.S. & Israeli war hawk profiteers & neocons, plus religious fanatics—which aren’t necessarily limited to the Mullah nutcases).
    Evil forces are at work…..
    NEOCONS FOR AHMADINEJAD
    Daniel Pipes made an unusually revealing comment while discussing Iran’s upcoming presidential elections.
    “I’m sometimes asked who I would vote for if I were enfranchised in this election, and I think that, with due hesitance, I would vote for Ahmadinejad,” Pipes said. the 1:29:00 mark.)
    More here…http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=256

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  11. michael claussen says:

    The differences between the candidates may be more
    stylistic, but the electorate is substantive to
    the boiling point. The results of the election may
    matter little in the day to day lives of Iranians
    in the short term. The effect of people risking
    quite possibly their lives to voice their contrary
    opinion may nudge their society towards
    accommodation with the rest of the world instead
    of confrontation.
    I agree with your observations of the influence of
    a speech by President Obama. He is formidable, to
    say the least. He should not be underestimated.
    Those that may attribute anything to Obama’s
    speeches, either pro or con, are like a trout
    fisherman stepping in a hole that ends up missing
    his mark and wishing he’d kept his mouth closed.

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  12. JohnH says:

    It may or may not be the case that people will claim to observe an Obama effect in Iran. However, it is almost guaranteed that America’s self centered media and political class will attribute any positive developments as proof of America’s enormous influence in the world. As a rejoinder, people should ask why we remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, given the fact that a couple speeches by Obama could turn the whole situation around!

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