Wednesday, June 17, 2009

George Friedman on the Iranian Election

Interesting column on the Iranian election by George Friedman of Stratfor, "Western Misconception Meets Iran Reality" (Hat Tip: RealClearWorld). Below are a few excerpts:

There are undoubtedly people who want to liberalize the Iranian regime. They are to be found among the professional classes in Tehran, as well as among students. Many speak English, making them accessible to the touring journalists, diplomats and intelligence people who pass through. They are the ones who can speak to Westerners, and they are the ones willing to speak to Westerners. And these people give Westerners a wildly distorted view of Iran. They can create the impression that a fantastic liberalization is at hand — but not when you realize that iPod-owning Anglophones are not exactly the majority in Iran.


Some still charge that Ahmadinejad cheated. That is certainly a possibility, but it is difficult to see how he could have stolen the election by such a large margin. Doing so would have required the involvement of an incredible number of people, and would have risked creating numbers that quite plainly did not jibe with sentiment in each precinct. Widespread fraud would mean that Ahmadinejad manufactured numbers in Tehran without any regard for the vote. But he has many powerful enemies who would quickly have spotted this and would have called him on it. Mousavi still insists he was robbed, and we must remain open to the possibility that he was, although it is hard to see the mechanics of this.

It also misses a crucial point: Ahmadinejad enjoys widespread popularity. He doesn’t speak to the issues that matter to the urban professionals, namely, the economy and liberalization. But Ahmadinejad speaks to three fundamental issues that accord with the rest of the country [piety, corruption, and an assertive national security posture as a salve for Iranians still bitter over their country's pyrrhic draw in the Iran-Iraq War -- Friedman elaborates on each of these issues in his column].


Perhaps the greatest factor in Ahmadinejad’s favor is that Mousavi spoke for the better districts of Tehran — something akin to running a U.S. presidential election as a spokesman for Georgetown and the Lower East Side. Such a base will get you hammered, and Mousavi got hammered. Fraud or not, Ahmadinejad won and he won significantly. That he won is not the mystery; the mystery is why others thought he wouldn’t win.

The image above, of a post-election protest, comes from Andrew Sullivan's Atlantic blog, where he is posting the tweets of some of those tech-savvy Anglophones who Friedman notes are not exactly representative of the broader Iranian society.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but this article of yours does not dig very deep. Consider reading Juan Cole's blog to get a more detailed picture of what has been happening in Iran this past decade. Here is his rebuttal to the Friedmanesque ideas you qouted in your blog:

DaveinHackensack said...

Thanks for the link to Juan Cole's post. I'm aware that he has a different take on this, and I'd suggest interested readers read his take as well as Friedman's.