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Iran election… Continued (1)

Part 1; continues: … Part 2 …;

previous discussion of the Iranian elections here

From the NYT:

Among downcast Iranian journalists and academics, the chatter focused on why the interlocking leadership of clerics, military officers and politicians, without whose acquiescence little of importance happens, decided to stick with Mr. Ahmadinejad. Did they panic at the unexpected passion for change that arose in the closing weeks of the Moussavi campaign? Did Mr. Moussavi go too far in his promises of women’s rights, civil freedom and a more conciliatory approach to the West? Or was the surge an illusion after all, the product of wishful thinking?

The optimists in Iran and abroad have to ask themselves whether the joyful ruckus that filled the streets represented a new popular force or just an opportunity to let off steam. While Iran is not quite the closed society many imagine — it is a nation of text messagers and Facebook users, with access to Persian-language BBC broadcasts and other independent voices — it is still a controlled society.

Previous discussion of the Iranian elections here

[links added by RB]

Perspective: When a moderate Muslim squares off against a religious ideologue in a society that does not believe in basic women’s rights… the ideologue wins. The war continues. But the possibilities of the impossible, the Obama win… are there. .

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#1 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On June 14, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

Nico Pitney’s coverage on Huffington Post seems the most comprehensive blow-by-blow.

Amanpour: “It’s the people.” Unprecedented numbers in the streets; reports that armories and military facilities may have been seized; tanks in the streets; …

#2 Comment By sophmom On June 14, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

I agree, Ken. Powerful stuff. And Amanpour! She is amazing.

This at 2:52 AM (ET):

How can Americans help? The excellent National Iranian American Council notes a message from an Iranian to the United States: “Help us.” How can Americans do that? The NIAC writes:

American policy makers will feel the need to react. But they need to remember this isn’t about us. This is about Iran and Iranians seeking the right to determine their own future. The United States can help little and harm much by interjecting itself into the process. The Obama administration’s approach to the election — keeping its comments low-key and not signaling support for any candidate — was exactly the right approach. While tempting, empty and self-serving rhetorical support for Iranians struggling for more freedoms serves only to aid their opponents. History has made Iran wary of foreign meddling, and American policymakers in particular must be sensitive to giving hardliners any pretense to call reform-minded Iranians foreign agents. That’s why Iran’s most prominent reformers, including Nobel-laureate Shirin Ebadi, have said the best thing the U.S. can do is step back and let Iran’s indigenous human rights movement progress on its own, without overt involvement from the U.S-however well intentioned.

#3 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On June 15, 2009 @ 2:57 am


I’m reminded of the moment during my first year at Berkeley, when a representative of the ‘women’s movement’ in India, asked by a young, white, middle-class feminist academic “what the women of the United States could do to help the women of India,” the much older woman responded, “mind your own business.”

That said– this is a situation in which our cultures, and our destinies, are entertwined on many levels. It is hard to miss, as PTC has pointed out, that the Iranian “state” has a direct impact on US soldiers and US interests– and the game is much larger.

The history of US involvement and intervention– such as our involvement in the Mexican Revolution, or in Vietnam– is that we tend to see what we wish– we underestimate our ignorance and overestimate our own perspective– blundering, towards disaster.

Can we learn from history?

In this case– it appears the Obama regime is exercising some restraint. It has not endorsed the election result, like the EU (excepting Germany); it has not rejected them. It has directly held open the possibility of engagement with an Ahmadinejad government.

And behind the scenes.

In the ‘blogosphere’ and ‘punditry,’ certain interpretations have come to dominate– such as the assertion that Ahmadinejad is merely a puppet of a unified clerical class, and/or that the political structure of Iran is about to fall apart “in blood.” Some of this is true– but is still far too complex.

The imams are not a unified block, no more than the Democrats and Republicans in the US. To see them as such!

Is Moussavi about to exercise strong control over street demonstrations– using his influence to bring the country to a halt, through strikes and civil– but nonviolent– demonstration and resistance? Perhaps– it has been speculated– but who knows? No one who is speculating is in the room, as far as I can tell.

Would he be “correct” in exercising such a strategy? Does he have a more forceful option? Can he co-opt or split the Guardian Soldiers of the 1979 Revolution? Would– given the situation– would a pacifist response, be suicide?

Is Ahmadinejad attempting his own sort of revolution– with consequences that might just be in the interest of all, and of the United States?

I’m going to skip forward– to a question I raised a few days later than this in the process in Mexico (at the suggestion of others)– is power-sharing between the contestants possible? Is it– if among the most difficult solutions to enact– possibly the closest to “ideal” solution?

#4 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On June 15, 2009 @ 3:35 am

von Tagesschau.de:

Bundesaußenminister Steinmeier hat die iranische Führung scharf kritisiert. Es sei inakzeptabel,

–> Foreign Minister Steinmeier has heavily criticized the developments in Iran: It is unacceptable…

#5 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On June 15, 2009 @ 3:48 am

BTW: via Radio Praha: yesterday was the anniversary of the massacre at Lidice, during the interregnum known as the Czech Protectorate of the Third Reich;

Farsi, in the first five hours of lessons, … >>scalom, marci<<

>>ye khemi… bal’alaha’da<<

#6 Comment By Ronit On June 15, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

Andrew Sullivan has been great on this.

Heard on BBC World Service this morning (according to their reporter on the ground) that traffic is flowing again in Tehran.

#7 Comment By kthomas On June 15, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

Ronit: well, since you are mentioning Sullivan– and since his blog allows trackbacks but not comments– I was struct by this comment:

Reading your blog over the past 30 something hours makes me realize why the MSM is really finished. I mean, this point has finally hit home.You are blogging real time events, with descriptions, evaluation, analysis, and eye witness accounts. You are gathering information from a myriad of sources and putting it out there for a cohesive message.CNN, NY Times, et al are merely running an article about “thousands” of protesters. Its a canned message from just a few stale sources.The revolution is definitely on in Iran. And its on in American journalism too.

First, this is not exactly an accurate representation of how a newsroom works. Let me use my lens–

In the McClatchy newsroom in 2006, I kept multiple running logs– the one you saw here on eB, a longer and more detailed electronic log, as well as a written notebook of events and items that were private, “off the record,” or otherwise not to be revealed lightly.

I assure the author above– collegial jabs at the NYT personnel for their coverage aside– the series of pieces of information going through any of the major newsrooms attempting to cover this, there is a very rich, nuanced and detailed stream of information passing through. One of the things I was struck with during the events of the Mexican election– this stream was the real news, and told the story.

We paused many times during those days to consider what we were reporting, how and why– what we were getting across, and the state of journalism. You’ve heard some of this before– but one of the conversations I rememeber is stepping into the hallway by the cramped kitchen, and talking with Kevin —- about how much of what was being written, would never be published or read.

There’s a sort of dangerous feedback dynamic between the so-called MSM and the internet going on here– as Kevin put it, the vast majority of people under thirty “no longer read newspapers–” they get information online, for free. Because of this, the papers have less revenue– and thus less available column space– the reports being filed to McClatchy, were going to be whittled down by local editors, to 500 words– none of the complexities were going to be reported to a general population.

As well– there were all the things written for potential publication– which, by the turns of events, were never published. There’s also a dangerous dynamic there– what was published, determined perception and reality. I love how Andrew Sullivan uses the strikethough of “defeated” before “Presidential Candidate,” in one caption, to counter this effect.

Compared to the Mexico election in 2006, I am heartened by how the reporting on the Internet has evolved– how much more is out there– note that the Atlantic is hardly not “MSM.” But– as difficult as it is to report and frame a picture in realtime– I have to be concerned that HuffPosts and/or Sullivan’s coverage, as examples– lacks some access to the players, events, connections and sources that (“so-called,” I will say,) “professional journalists” have.

We are– constructing a sort of spectacle of the event– and while the depth at which that spectacle is being read worldwide, by “real people,” is important– my fear is that there is as great or greater a tendency and danger, to reinforce misconceptions and prejudices, as to give a “nuanced” representation of the complexity of events and to develop a closer understanding of what is emerging.

There is– a sort of naive opposition being imagined between the traditional media, and “citizen journalism” and the Internet– as if internet journalism were revolutionaries, attacking the edifice of traditional media, breaking down their “stale,” “canned” messages. It just isn’t that simple.

There are, of course– many small, technical processes. Professionally journalists, and city newsrooms– are largely independent, separated actors– acting as fiefdoms in competition, not in co-ordination. When a journalist in the field listens to the television broadcast of an official announcement, for instance, she tends to either translate that address immediately into a report, or record it onto a hand recorder and listen to it while composing a report– that’s it, no review.

That representation– as with so many of the representations we’re seeing here– can be then ‘picked up’ by tens and then hundreds of others, “adopted,” with no review or questioning. In rapidly changing events, the pressure to publish something by dealines is enormous– and can lead to a sloppy, inaccurate process which magnifies errors and misperceptions. Particularly in this case, the “Ahmadinejad is a puppet” meme, which represents only one aspect of the situaiton, has been heavily overemphasized– the NYT lede has picked it up, from other sources, and repeated it.

Also in this case, to pull out one instance– we have, through Sullivan, a translation of part of one of Moussavi’s statements, which links though to the source of the translation, and then to the original document in Farsi. This depth seems to me incredibly valuable– it can be re-examined and reviewed– we can go back to the source, over time, and look at it again, as our understanding develops. We can find new things, relevant to our new understanding of the situation; we can revise.

As I see things– yes, sort of a revolution in the media is necessary– journalists need to continue to adopt, and consolidate, new and richer tools– to survive, the major traditional players need to develop ways of presenting more complex and richer representations and conversations– and they need to upgrade the tool sets and skills of their journalists, to do that.

FWIW, that’s not really happening in the journalism schools– yet.

Original comment on Andrew Sullivan

#8 Comment By Ronit On June 15, 2009 @ 6:25 pm

Quick link from sidebar:

Dan Drezner analyzes what might happen next to US foreign policy assuming the status quo persists. Marc Lynch, before the election, wrote about the foreign policy effects of the alternate scenario – what happens if Mousavi wins? I don’t think either of these men have any particular contacts/sources/etc. in Iran, but the scenarios they lay out are worth pondering.

#9 Comment By Ronit On June 15, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

Speaking of McClatchy:

Iran: News Happens, But Fewer Journalists Are There to Report It, by Mark Siebel, managing editor for online news in McClatchy’s Washington, D.C. bureau

On the Media interview with Siebel

#10 Comment By sophmom On June 15, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

Thanks all,

It has been fascinating to watch events unfold, and the excellent commentary and links provided here have been very helpful.

I caught a bit of Amanpour on the news, and her reportage was dramatic. She described a demonstration that was five miles long, pointing out that it was composed of more than the expected crowd of students. That there were all ages, conservatives, liberals and clerics.

Also, David Gurgen commented that though it isn’t yet known for sure that the election was fraudulent, the magnitude and variety of demonstrators is a pretty good indication that it was.

#11 Comment By Ronit On June 15, 2009 @ 11:45 pm

A measured and thoughtful statement from the President

#12 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On June 15, 2009 @ 11:57 pm


Short version or long version?

Short version: One view is that the numbers are more or less “correct” in the sense that they represent, more or less, the levels of support that Ahmadinejad had in Iran.

The rub is– the elections process appears to be entirely controlled by the Interior Ministry, which is entirely controlled by the State. There are no “checks and balances;” there are no series of electoral processes and institutions, through which to contest the results of an election on a “precinct by precinct” basis; — and there are strong indications, that the Ahmadinejad camp took precaution to insure the result would be, no matter what, what they wanted.

So in fact– we may be seeing a minority movement– one of whose points of leverage, is that we didn’t just see a real and actual election– just a simulation of an election– and that the point is that Iran does not have an effective civil society, even if the majority of Iranians “conservatively” support the regime “as is.”

Thanks to all who have contributed, as well.

#13 Comment By nuts On June 16, 2009 @ 12:14 am

I believe this a student generated journalism from Tehran:


#14 Comment By nuts On June 16, 2009 @ 12:15 am

#15 Comment By nuts On June 16, 2009 @ 12:18 am

This article by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett made me think twice about a stolen election.

#16 Comment By nuts On June 16, 2009 @ 12:26 am

#17 Comment By Ronit On June 16, 2009 @ 9:39 am

Sam Crane on Tehran and Tiananmen:

In China, as the government hardened its position and attempted to isolate and repress the movement, the students came to focus upon those actions as the rationale for protest. It could be that leaders in Iran have learned from that experience. Although there has been some early violent repression, the announcement that a recount will be undertaken could diffuse the situation. It creates a moment when protest leaders will have to reconsider their strategy. Should they stay in the streets (as more radical dissidents might prefer), or should they wait and see what compromises might be possible (as more moderate opponents might desire). Harsher government repression can unite radical and moderate dissident groups. If the regime is smart, it will avoid such repression. But hardliners in the government will want to heighten the crack-down. It is a critical moment right now…

#18 Comment By PTC On June 16, 2009 @ 10:17 am

Ronit- Sam’s analogy is not terrible per say, but it is terribly simple. It is extremely broad and basic. It does not take a lot of thought to come to his conclusion. One could apply such logic for just about any similar situation. His comparison is lacking in many different aspects. Most notably, the extreme differences in terms of the “controls” within the sub and super structures of the societies he is using for comparison.

Sam is a very smart guy, much smarter than I, but he missed with this one. I honestly found it (or at least this snippet of it) hard to read.

#19 Comment By nuts On June 16, 2009 @ 11:17 am

State media today reported 7 killed in what they described “an attack on a military post.” The reality was far less clear cut, as suggested on Iran’s own English language news Web site PressTV.com, which reported that an “unidentified gunmen” had fired shots into the crowd after a “peaceful rally.”

That “peaceful rally” ended in gunfire, explosions and the ominous sight of flaming Molotov cocktails spinning through the air.

With five reportedly killed at the Tehran University dormitories the night before, it was all the more surprising that anger had not boiled over immediately. On Monday afternoon at least, far from venting the rage which might have provoked a police reaction, the peoples’ anger was displayed on hand-drawn placards carried in silence.

#20 Comment By nuts On June 16, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

Telephone interview with a protester who had just returned from rally. It’s in Farsi with English subtitles. Tehran Bureau will correct typos as soon as feasible. According to the witness, the shooting resulted in the death of at least “one young man.” He saw shot in the mouth.” She says that it was not the police who shot him, but Basij.
link to audio

#21 Comment By sophmom On June 17, 2009 @ 12:47 am

Re Ken’s commentary @ 7, and Nuts link @ 16, (specifically Internet news reporting):

Nico Pitney (see comment #1) was just on Rachel Maddow. Before introducing him, Maddow spoke of how the the situation in Iran has been impacted by the information network. How, regardless of efforts to thwart communications in Iran, the news is getting out. That the internet is now playing a very real part in how world events play out.

Pitney then came on and talked about his “live blogging”, his Iranian Twitter(!!) sources. He mentioned the patience needed, and the methods of verifying these kinds of sources, as well as his reliance on the generosity of volunteers in the US who speak Farsi.

As I was watching Pitney, I was struck with his youth, his “look”. I was reminded of Nate Silver and the role he played in our presidential election, his subsequent appearances on network television. I can’t help but note how very different these kinds of news reporters are from our more traditional talking heads. They aren’t “slick”, or “studied”, or “charming” in a practiced sort of way.

And though the internet is far from perfect, and I often curse it’s ability to worm it’s way into my life and invade my privacy, I also am seeing that we are only on the brink of discovering it’s reach, for good or for worse. And I pray that it helps to give voice to all of these brave and desperate Iranians, and thus a better result than if their voices had not been heard.

#22 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On June 17, 2009 @ 4:29 am

BRIEF: many sources seem to confirm Pitney’s reportage– that members of the Guardian Soldiers of the Republic are forcefully opposing the Basij militias, and that there is contention and confrontation at the highest levels– a crisis of legitimacy, which is vaguely parallel to the question of the legitimacy of the electoral process.

#23 Comment By PTC On June 18, 2009 @ 3:55 am

#24 Comment By Ronit On June 18, 2009 @ 11:01 am

#25 Comment By kthomas On June 19, 2009 @ 12:11 am

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, described Wednesday‘s television debate between mullahs’ president Ahmadinejad and Mir-Hossein Moussavi, a presidential candidate and a former prime minister, where the mullahs’ secrets were revealed, as a turning point in the regime’s escalating internal feuding and a devastating blow to its entirety. Whoever comes out of ballot boxes is doomed to suffer from its scathing and broad consequences, she reiterated.

Immediate reaction by Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president and the head of the regime’s Expediency Council, to the debate and his call to respond on television to charges made there against him is the unraveling outcome of the debate.

Mrs. Rajavi added that the escalation of infighting and uncovering of internal secrets of the regime have deeply worried mullahs’ Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He allowed the debate between the candidates – approved by him personally – in a bid to warm up the already boycotted sham election. This was a miscalculation and a clumsy imitation of election campaigns in other countries. For the medieval regime with no capacity for such debates, the Wednesday’s event was a blow to its entirety before benefiting one or the other candidate.

(Iran: A Turning Point (05 June 2009))

#26 Comment By kthomas On June 19, 2009 @ 12:29 am

Winds of Change: On 26 January 2009, the EU removes the classification of the People’s Mojahadin Movement of Iran (PMOI) as a ‘terrorist organization’.

#27 Comment By kthomas On June 19, 2009 @ 1:17 am

Having set up their government-in-exile, Bani-Sadr and
Rajavi were determined to undermine the one at home.
So the Mujahedin’s guerrilla actions, directed in Iran
by Khiyabani, continued. In late October a Mujahedin
spokesman in Paris claimed that his party had
assasssinated 1,000 governmental and religious
officials since Bani-Sadr’s dismissal four months
earlier. But once Mujahedin partisans had failed to
disrupt the presidential poll, their campaign lost
impetus and direction. This was not the case with
Khomeini. By sticking to the election schedule on 2
October he strengthened his position. He impressed
Iranians anew with his firmness and refusal to be
intimidated. And he underlined his commitment to
securing legitimacy for his regime through popular
vote. The high voter turnout boosted the morale of his
supporters and demoralized his opponents. Those who
had been neutral in the conflict now turned against the

from Iran Under the Ayatollahs, p. 198

#28 Comment By kthomas On June 19, 2009 @ 2:41 am

Rafsanjani, … who heads the Expediency Council and Assembly of Experts… {//< --} sent a message to the king of a Persian Gulf state that said: "Do not worry. This government will fall within six months."

via CNN; read this one carefully.

#29 Comment By kthomas On June 19, 2009 @ 3:57 am

The Mousavi government intensified the policy of purging[s]… of those with ‘insufficient Islamic convictions’… and accelerated the pace of Islamisation… [T]he purge of the judiciary… was extended. The recently passed laws on Islamic dress for women in public was implemented strictly. {…}
A hardliner, Premier Mousavi decided to go beyond the lines… when purging… the judiciary…

//Ibid, p. 199. Are humans capable of change; can the Lion, remove its own teeth?

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#31 Comment By kthomas On June 19, 2009 @ 8:32 pm