World Record: Iran Edition
I asked a few Iranian analysts and experts - on the record - to provide some feedback on the situation in Iran this weekend:
Friday’s election in Iran was beyond an engineered election, with large-scale manipulation as we have become used to in recent years; it was a unique military coup led by the office of supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to keep Ahmadinejad’s government - backed by the Revolutionary Guard - in power for the next four years. Vice President Biden’s comment on Sunday that “monitors and officials do not yet have enough information to gauge whether the results are accurate” may seem true, and the election office in the Ministry of Interior maybe did count the cast ballots right. But there is much evidence that the government simply disregarded the votes and announced the numbers regardless of actual counts. The common practice in previous election was first the official announcement of the election’s final result by the ministry of interior, then its approval by the Guardian Council, and finally the official statement of the supreme leader. This time, even before the interior ministry’s final announcement, Ayatollah Khamenei issued a statement calling the election a “divine miracle," a “people’s epic” and a “completely fair and free one."
On June 4, in his keynote speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, Barak Obama admitted the U.S. government's involvement in the 1953 coup which led to the overthrow of “a democratically elected Iranian government." Since recent developments in Iran have been widely seen as a military coup under the cover of election, recognition of Ahmadinejad’s government would be interpreted by a majority of Iranian people as the U.S. support for another military coup in Iran.
The current events in Iran do not only impact domestic policy, they also have regional ramifications. The country which stands to gain most from the current public animosity against Ahmadinejad is Israel. Owing to his denial of the Holocaust and his calls for the elimination of Israel, Jerusalem, over the last number of years has been trying to isolate Ahmadinejad.
The recent walkout by 30 European countries during Ahmadinejad's speech at the Durban conference was one achievement. However, the very fact that Ahmadinejad's election has created such a domestic backlash is a more notable accomplishment. This is especially true since tax payer's money from Iran has been used to finance support for Hamas and Hezbollah. This was demonstrated recently when during the recent Israel war against Gaza, Iranian cell phone users were charged a nominal fee as assistance to the people of Gaza. They were given no choice about it. There is also the fact that Hamas and Hezbollah have both backed Ahmadinejad's election and congratulated him. This will undoubtedly make them more unpopular in Iran.
However, if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not push forward with the peace process, he will find that these achievements will be short lived.
The recent defeat of Hezbollah at the polls in Lebanon, and the backlash in Iran against Ahmadinejad's election and extremist policies have provided Israel with a golden opportunity to better relations with the PLO. Such a policy will further weaken extremist elements in the region, and more importantly, would improve Israel's own position in the region and with its most important ally, the United States of America.