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May 06, 2010

Comments

It is true we've been hearing of Iran's immanent arrival into the nuclear club for decades with nothing ever coming of it.

But still...

(Hey, someone had to say it.)

ha

I wonder if this weird myopia/paranoia that shows up in elite policy discussions whenever Iran is mentioned was caused or exacerbated by the embargo. One of Benazeer Bhutto's assets was that she went to Harvard and convinced a lot of stupid people who went on to become powerful elites that she was awesome and not a crook and totally representative of her people. Of course, the mind boggles at someone so crooked that the Swiss government would convict them of money laundering but I digress. America does get some Iranian students, but I believe the paperwork is a nightmare and the process of coming here is much more onerous than coming from other middle eastern countries.

Heck, IEEE was hammered by the government for the crime of printing journal articles written by Iranian scientists. Maybe if we had more Iranian students coming to elite universities, they would have been able to reassure the minds of our dumber elites so that we wouldn't get so irrational whenever anyone mentioned the word Iran.

The political price for Obama for letting Iran get a provable bomb would be huge. The political price for overreacting to the threat is tiny, or even negative (insofar as stupid knee-jerk decisions shore up his stupid, knee-jerk cred national security cred).

But there's also quite a bit of blame for the Iranians I think. Just as Saddam's desire to appear strong led him to exaggerate his WMD capabilities (nb or be lied to about them), Iran does seem to want to keep open the possibility of at least getting near a bomb. They talk, for example, of Iranian capacity to enrich uranium far past the levels needed for even research or medical reactors- levels only useful for military applications.

I see it as just another example of situations where radicals on both sides effectively work to each others' benefit, to the detriment of moderates on both sides.

But there's also quite a bit of blame for the Iranians I think. Just as Saddam's desire to appear strong led him to exaggerate his WMD capabilities (nb or be lied to about them), Iran does seem to want to keep open the possibility of at least getting near a bomb. They talk, for example, of Iranian capacity to enrich uranium far past the levels needed for even research or medical reactors- levels only useful for military applications.

But Iran is allowed to do that under the NPT.

Japan, for example, has developed this "near capacity" under the NPT. I'm not sure why Iran would be "radical" to want such a capability all things considered (US currently fighting two hot wars to its east and west, after fighting another in the early 1990s, Israel and Pakistan nuclear powers, US officials coninuously, and casually, discussing regime change and military attacks on Iran, etc).

The timeline does seem to lump acquisition of parts for bombs, actual bombs created elsewhere, and the ability to enrich fuel domestically, as though it is all the same claim.

Well, they are all part of Iran's drive for a nuclear weapon. Or so the argument goes about each of those items/acquisitions.

Right. I think the earlier claims at least were about behavior that violates the NPT (bomb parts and actual explosive devices) whereas current claims are perfectly within the rights of Iran based on the treaty.

But I don't think it is mutually exclusive to claim that they were getting bomb parts two decades ago, and are now enriching fissile material domestically to make those parts useful, nor that they obtained working devices after the fall of the Soviet Union and now are making more domestically.

On the other hand if they have had bombs for 20 years and haven't used them, tested them, or threatened their use, I suppose they have been proven trustworthy with ownership.

Carelton raises a valid point with respect to enrichment levels. Iran has had a number of options made available to them with respect to out-of-country production of reactor fuel which it hasn't capitalized on. Further, while the NPT doesn't prohibit production of weapons-grade uranium, the insistence on production of highly-enriched (way past fuel grade) uranium does not engender confidence in the Iranian assertions of peaceful nuclear use.

But I don't think it is mutually exclusive to claim that they were getting bomb parts two decades ago, and are now enriching fissile material domestically to make those parts useful, nor that they obtained working devices after the fall of the Soviet Union and now are making more domestically.

Most of the 20 years ago comments talk about Iran having completed nuclear weapons. Most of the other 20 year old comments don't distinguish between fissile-material and other components. I'm really confused as to what your assertions here are based on.

Iran has had a number of options made available to them with respect to out-of-country production of reactor fuel which it hasn't capitalized on.

Um, is this rational behavior? The driving force behind these offers is the US. The US government has repeatedly behaved in an irrational manner. Why should Iran believe that these offers would be honored? I mean, let's say Iran takes these offers and scraps its enrichment program. 3 years later, the US asks Iran to do something totally unrelated and Iran says no. Then mysteriously, reactor fuel deliveries run into technical difficulties and stop. Now the Iranian economy starts crashing since they don't have enough electricity.

Look, we need to face facts. The Iranian government would be very very stupid to assume these offers are being made in good faith and will be consistently honored. Maybe if we had some thawing with a complete normalization this might be a good idea, but in the current climate? It is so absurd that the only people naive enough to consider it are ignorant Americans incapable of objectively viewing US government behavior.

The Iranian government would be very very stupid to assume these offers are being made in good faith and will be consistently honored. Maybe if we had some thawing with a complete normalization this might be a good idea, but in the current climate? It is so absurd that the only people naive enough to consider it are ignorant Americans incapable of objectively viewing US government behavior.

I agree with this.

The whole point of "engagement" is really "engagement and the beginning of normalization." Or it should have been. Instead, Obama's engagement amounted to a couple of culturally attuned statements, and a slightly warmer, friendlier delivery of an ultimatum that, on its face, would be almost impossible for Iran to accept (nor should they, a sovereign country, be required to).

But if real, substantive engagement were pursued, then the standoff might have eased a bit, allowing for more cooperation and mutually acceptable workarounds (also, somewhat less urgency for Iran to pursue near capacity).

This would be great news. We can all be happy. If it's true.

But several questions remain:

1. Why did Iran hide it's nuclear development for so long from the IAEA?

2. What are all those ballistic missiles really for? The national ego?

3. Why are the neighboring Arab states so upset about Iran's nuclear program if it's just hot air?

4. And Israel has also been fooled by all the hot air? Then what did Rafsanjani mean when he called Israel a one-bomb state?

5. If Iran has no nuclear program, why have Presidents Obama and Bush both been working so hard to stop the program? Are they political twins?

6. Virtually all of Europe's intelligence agencies are of the opinion that Iran is building nuclear weapons, are they all wrong too?

To be fair, the Iranian regime has some real weirdness, as illustrated by these questions:

7. Why do the leaders make Holocaust denial part of their official policy? Do they really think they'll persuade Germany the Holocaust didn't happen?

8. What is the point of yelling "Death to America" for 30 years? An aid to diplomacy?

2. What are all those ballistic missiles really for? The national ego?

Which ballistic missiles? Can you link to a credible source?

Of course, international relations scholars have long pointed out that weapons systems are often purchased for reasons of national prestige. And can you explain why the US has so many ballistic missiles? I mean, there is clearly no military need for most of them since deterrence does not require nearly so many. Are those just national ego boosters as well?

4. And Israel has also been fooled by all the hot air?

Israel doesn't have a very bright government. They're not as dumb as the US government to be sure, but I really don't think we should be imputing great intelligence to any organization that thought the 2006 Lebanon war was a good idea, let alone an organization that gave so much power to Ariel Sharon after his role in ordering the extermination of civilians was made public.

6. Virtually all of Europe's intelligence agencies are of the opinion that Iran is building nuclear weapons, are they all wrong too?

Just because right wing newspapers carry unsourced reports claiming that different intelligence agencies say this or that does not actually mean it is true.

5. If Iran has no nuclear program, why have Presidents Obama and Bush both been working so hard to stop the program? Are they political twins?

Both Presidents also used the toilet on a daily basis. Thus proving that they are twins.

7. Why do the leaders make Holocaust denial part of their official policy? Do they really think they'll persuade Germany the Holocaust didn't happen?

Perhaps for internal political purposes? Can you name the specific leaders involved?

8. What is the point of yelling "Death to America" for 30 years? An aid to diplomacy?

Um, maybe because we killed their democratically elected government and replaced it with murderous regime that killed without mercy? And then convinced the international community to levy crippling sanctions on them?

Do you accept the fact that chanting death to America is much less serious than overthrowing a democratically elected government and replacing it with a tyrant?

But Iran is allowed to do that under the NPT.

I think the US is also allowed to bluster under the NPT, and yet you criticize us. :) Im pretty clearly not absolving the US of pursuing a short-sighted policy, just pointing out that there are groups in Iran that view inciting that policy as a positive. Just as there are groups in the US who view creating tension and conflict with Iran as a positive.
So you can blame all of the tension on the US insofar as we're a necessary component of that tension. But we're not the only player who wants to create conflict, either.

What is the point of yelling "Death to America" for 30 years?

Im not sure if this is serious or not; having an external enemy (real or imagined) is obviously useful insofar as it serves as a rallying point for nationalism and an excuse for censorship, tight national security, etc.
And, it's not like the Iranian people didn't have a very good reason for being quite angry with America.

What are all those ballistic missiles really for? The national ego?

Obviously missiles can carry cargo other than nukes. If you're arguing that Iran shouldn't have a 21st-century military- well, that's all well and good for the US, but not sure why the Iranians would be interested in that bargain.
And yeah, weapons systems do stroke the national ego- this is not a phenomenon confined to the ME.

Why are the neighboring Arab states so upset about Iran's nuclear program if it's just hot air?

This just seems naive. Of course, the Saudis don't like the Iranians and are likely to take any pretext to complain to the teacher. And, are the Shi'a who run Iraq upset about this?

If Iran has no nuclear program, why have Presidents Obama and Bush both been working so hard to stop the program? Are they political twins?

They are both working in the same political environment, with very similar goals and groups to please. US foreign policy is surprisingly durable across administrations; I suspect this is bc most voters are much more focused on domestic issues. Witness eg Bush's protests against settlement building in Palestine v Obama's slightly louder protests. Rarely do we see actual policy breaks with new administrations.

Why do the leaders make Holocaust denial part of their official policy? Do they really think they'll persuade Germany the Holocaust didn't happen?

I am trying to think of what this has to do with the conversation, but I can't see it.

"2. What are all those ballistic missiles really for? The national ego?"

What were Saudi Arabia's 50-odd DF-3 IRBMs for? Not much, as it turns out, and from what I can tell they're planning to get rid of them or have already done so - but possession of medium-to-large conventional ballistic missiles has been a prestige item for various militaries since WWII, despite their ineffectiveness with conventional warheads. This may come as a shock, but military spending priorities don't always make much sense.

1. Why did Iran hide it's nuclear development for so long from the IAEA?

It didn't. Some portions were not fully disclosed, but not "its nuclear development."

Otherwise, I'll just sign on to Turbulence's responses.

And Carleton's and Jacob's for that matter.

I think the US is also allowed to bluster under the NPT, and yet you criticize us. :) Im pretty clearly not absolving the US of pursuing a short-sighted policy, just pointing out that there are groups in Iran that view inciting that policy as a positive. Just as there are groups in the US who view creating tension and conflict with Iran as a positive.

Without a doubt. But I also think that Iran might want near capacity, along the lines of what Japan and South Korea got, and not for the purpose of stoking conflict.

Interestingly, the US, and the UN, were relatively silent about the same transgressions/bends when they were made by Japan and South Korea.

Eric,

One thing to keep in mind about places like Japan and South Korea (and Taiwan for that matter), is that the US has a much broader array of of diplomatic responses short of making a big public stink, if nothing else, because these countries care (or at least pretend to care) what we think. Iran offers very few substantive Track 2 diplomatic avenues, for a host of rather obvious reasons.

One interesting case was Taiwan, where the CIA had spies at top-levels in their nuclear program. When the program was became rather mature, the US pulled the spy and a great deal of research data, which it then used in back-channel negotiations to get Taiwan to halt it's nuclear program.

Turbulence,

With respect to the external fuel processing proposal, that effort was to be administered and run by Russia, who, if nothing else, would probably dearly love to see the Bushehr LWR completed, and have stronger contractual maintenance and upkeep ties to Iran at that faciltiy. In any case, I can scarcely imagine a situation in which Russia would stop delivering fuel to Russian-built reactors in a regional power with whom Russia has strong ties.

and South Korea (and Taiwan for that matter), is that the US has a much broader array of of diplomatic responses short of making a big public stink, if nothing else, because these countries care (or at least pretend to care) what we think. Iran offers very few substantive Track 2 diplomatic avenues, for a host of rather obvious reasons.

True, but I'm not sure that changes what I was saying.

In any case, I can scarcely imagine a situation in which Russia would stop delivering fuel to Russian-built reactors in a regional power with whom Russia has strong ties.

Yeah, my guess is Iran is a lot less certain that, in perpetuity, such a reliance is wise. Especially seeing the way Russia put the squeeze on Europe with respect to energy.

No one cares about Pakistan having nukes, why is that?

No one cares about Pakistan having nukes, why is that?

Because they're already there, I think. I mean, people care in the sense of putting that on the scale when considering eg regional instability, or potential for conflict with India. But that particular chicken isn't going back into the egg.

That, and the American public only gets excited about things it thinks it understands. It's hard to paint a one-sentence picture of the challenges and complexities laid out above. It's easy to paint a picture of "dont let the craaazy mullahs get the bomb!"

What the hell?

Every word that Mr Martin writes assumes that the Iranian regime is legitimate--the expression of the will of the Iranian people. This was plausibly true before 2009. There is no way that that is true today, not after the Ahmedinejad coup and the bloody suppression of street protests.

Eric, do you really believe that the crushing of the Green Revolution was the triumph of the democratic system in Iran? If so, I think your membership in the reality-based community needs to be reviewed.

Aren't we supposed to be on the side of democracy and human rights, here? I thought one of our goals was for the US to stop forming strategic partnerships with and giving recognitions and victories to unpopular military dictators.

Only under Republican administrations. It can be assumed that, under Democratic administrations, if that sort of thing happens it was for good reasons. Anyway, it WILL be so assumed, by Democrats...

Now, just a point of logic: It is, in fact, perfectly possible to be two years away from having a nuclear bomb, for several decades. There are two circumstances this could happen under:

1. You want to reserve the capability, without taking that last step. That's Japan, everybody understands they could throw together a nuclear bomb in short order, if they really needed to.

2. Somebody else has been interfering with your efforts to finish the damn thing for a couple of decades. Arguably, Iran falls into this category, along with one or two other states.

So the fact that it was claimed a couple of decades ago that Iran was two years from having the Bomb, and that they don't have it now, doesn't establish the claim was wrong.

Somebody else has been interfering with your efforts to finish the damn thing for a couple of decades. Arguably, Iran falls into this category, along with one or two other states.

It wouldn't surprise me if this argument has been advanced by people who also assert that efforts to contain Iran have been completely ineffectual. Many propositions which are arguable are not really worth discussing - Last Thursdayism for example.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has picked up the baton from prior administrations and has, again, repeated with certainty that Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon, that it is rapidly approaching the date of acquisition and, thus, that the UN should impose "crippling sanctions" that themselves will be counterproductive and unduly punitive.

Gosh, who could possibly have foreseen that?

Every word that Mr Martin writes assumes that the Iranian regime is legitimate--the expression of the will of the Iranian people.

Without discussing the election itself, absolutely none of my words depend on that presupposition.

There is no way that that is true today, not after the Ahmedinejad coup and the bloody suppression of street protests.

Coup is a very strong word. Do you have evidence for this?

Eric, do you really believe that the crushing of the Green Revolution was the triumph of the democratic system in Iran?

Triumph? No.

Aren't we supposed to be on the side of democracy and human rights, here?

Yes. But support for democracy and human rights is an abstract concept. That support does not translate into any and all actions that are arguably in "support." For instance, I don't support invading Iran and slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Iranians in the name of supporting democracy and human rights. As with Iraq.

I thought one of our goals was for the US to stop forming strategic partnerships with and giving recognitions and victories to unpopular military dictators.

Leaving aside the obvious fact that A-Jad is neither a dictator, nor a "military" dictator, if that is indeed one of our goals, we should probably start elsewhere. In terms of taking umbrage and reassessing ties with oppressive and brutal regimes, I would say we should probably start with those that receive the most US aid. As is, Iran receives none.

So let's start with Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Colombia, Nigeria and Ethiopia for starters. After we've shut off all or some of the aid and/or broken ties with those, we can move on to our other dictatorial/despotic/oppressive allies. Then, after that, we can make sure that we don't start any strategic relationships with the likes of Iran.

Somebody else has been interfering with your efforts to finish the damn thing for a couple of decades. Arguably, Iran falls into this category, along with one or two other states.

Do you have evidence of how we've been interfering?

It is, in fact, perfectly possible to be two years away from having a nuclear bomb, for several decades.

This is true about many things. For instance, we've been a decade away from the nuclear fusion breakeven point for over thirty years, now.

And by the year 1990, flying cars will be SOOO 1985.

I can scarcely imagine a situation in which Russia would stop delivering fuel to Russian-built reactors in a regional power with whom Russia has strong ties.

I can. In any case, assume, for the sake of discussion, that Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful. ISTM that the Iranian government would be very stupid to rely on Russia to provide it fuel when it could have its own reactors. That's asking to be blackmailed.

Considering how much we talk about not wanting to have to rely on oil imports from the Middle East, I'd think that most Americans should understand that.

Yeah, and when the hell is smellevision going to replace television?

Iran has had a number of options made available to them with respect to out-of-country production of reactor fuel which it hasn't capitalized on. Further, while the NPT doesn't prohibit production of weapons-grade uranium, the insistence on production of highly-enriched (way past fuel grade) uranium does not engender confidence in the Iranian assertions of peaceful nuclear use.

"Way past fuel grade" is a null concept. Almost all of the major reactor design firms/countries are developing simpler modular reactors with very long refueling intervals (or in some cases, already have such reactors in operation) that use uranium enriched to anywhere from 20% to 93%. Given its grid problems over the last decade, distributed generation using such reactors would seem to make much more sense for Iran than a couple of multi-gigawatt monsters.

One can only image the reaction if Iran were to say (politely) to the nuclear powers, "No thanks on buying your reactor technology -- history in this region of the world suggests strongly that we can't trust any of you to uphold your long-term bargains. However, we are interested in buying 40% HEU fuel engineered to the following specifications to run in our own reactors..."

I'm not defending Iran, a lot of their actions certainly look suspicious. But none of the actual nuclear research or development appears -- yet -- to be unreasonable for a country developing a certain class of power reactor.

Somebody else has been interfering with your efforts to finish the damn thing for a couple of decades. Arguably, Iran falls into this category, along with one or two other states.

Aside from the possible claim that there are covert programs performing this activity and therefore evidence in favor cannot be introduced, I don't see any support for this theory.
Furthermore, Iran seems to have been making significant technological progress during this long period of time- yet they're still estimated to be the same distance from a working bomb. Therefore, the earlier estimates can't have been correct- unless Iranian progress is also illusionary.

Good point(s) CW.

I thought one of our goals was for the US to stop forming strategic partnerships with and giving recognitions and victories to unpopular military dictators.

Among our many goals is not helping the current Iranian regime, but that is not our only goal by any means. Reducing tension in the region is a goal. Steering Iran away from actually producing a bomb is a goal. Defusing the current distrust of America among the Iranian people is a goal. Encouraging moderates within and outside of the regime is a goal. etc.
If you gave me a button that would put the moderates in charge of Iran Id break my f&$^ing finger pushing it. But I don't have that button, so I end up advocating the policies that I think produce the best net outcome in the world.

Now, I agree in principle that the US usually does itself a disservice in the long run to *partner* with oppressive regimes- again, practically this does a fantastic job of undermining our principles in view of the world. But this just doesn't seem like that kind of case to me- we're not partnering with the Iranian regime, just asking to tone down the saber-rattling and recognize that- absent a very stupid invasion- you've got to negotiate with the enemy you've got.

I was making a point of logic, CW; That a state really CAN be x number of years from accomplishing something, for a period much longer than X. I would not be surprised if there'd been covert efforts to keep Iraq from getting nuclear weapons, (Not that http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/7/newsid_3014000/3014623.stm>Israel bombing Iraqi nuclear facilities was exactly covert.) but since the NYT apparently never got wind of them, I haven't heard of them.

Pointing out that an argument against something being true doesn't work, is not the same as asserting that something IS true. I frequently consider it worth pointing out flaws in arguments for propositions I think are probably correct.

I was making a point of logic, CW;

So was Carleton Wu. You cannot hold that progress was being made over some number of years while simultaneously holding that no progress has been made over that same number of years. I don't know if anyone has been noting Iran's continued progress over these years that Iran has been said to have gotten no closer to a nuclear weapon, but Carleton's logic is sound AFAICT.

Right. What HSH said.

You can be that close forever. But if you are continually making progress, you can't remain "that" close for "that" long.

If we were disrupting their efforts, then they weren't making the progress claimed.

Brett,
Point taken. It's sort of abstract though; I mean, if we assume agents (in the philosophical, not covert, sense) that we can't see changing events, then we become totally skeptical towards reality. Does Obama exist? I've never met him. Or, I saw him once from a distance, but maybe he's died and there's a conspiracy to cover it up. etc. Of course, where covert agents are a real possibility we have to extend more latitude for this kind of thinking, but still.

Yet even logically, I think the progress argument reveals a flaw. They can't be 2 years away, make years of apparent progress, and still be two years away. Even if their progress is being slowed by some unrevealed agent, logically they can't have moved forward and yet still be the same distance from their goal.

But if you are continually making progress, you can't remain "that" close for "that" long.

Well, for the same of argument, there is the funding delay, which has the effect of stretching a program out interminably while accomplishing nothing. You can even turn funding back on for brief periods where you effectively accomplish nothing save gathering up the manpower to do the work...only to have to let them all go again because the funding has been re-cut.

I'm only jokingly suggesting that this is what has happened in Iran, because they couldn't possibly have a shorter attention span than some of our DoD programs do.

Which is, to be fair, not to suggest that all DoD programs suffer from this problem, or that no programs continue to trundle along as zombies long after they should have been beheaded and relegated to the burn pile.

Well, for the same of argument, there is the funding delay, which has the effect of stretching a program out interminably while accomplishing nothing.

I guess that would show 'progress' in terms of money and manpower expended, but it wouldn't show progress in the sense of actual milestone achievements.

I will note that, the fact that Iran is making progress tends to *support* the contention that they're closer to a bomb then they were 10 years ago. So, while it throws a lot of doubt on the ability of the prognosticators, it also supports the argument that- while we can't tell how close they might be with any accuracy- they are closer.

An engineering manager once described a project this way to me:
"Our schedule is currently slipping one week per week."

The project was eventually 'completed', albeit to a different spec, by an almost entirely different team, and when it was done there was no market for the product. The company is no longer in business.

Maybe the Iran nuke program is like that, maybe it isn't.

--TP

Coup is a very strong word. Do you have evidence for this?

...

Seriously, Eric? Are you being deliberately obtuse?

The election results were clearly faked to install Ahmedinejad as president. The popular anger at the stolen election led to street protests, which were brutally suppressed by the Basij. Media was, and continues to be, censored. Following his accession to power, the Iranian cabinet was purged, and replaced with people personally loyal to Ahmedinejad. Mass arrests of dissidents followed, and the most prominent critics of the regime--Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami, Montazeri--have been placed under house arrest.

How is this different from, say, Burma?

They didn't order everybody to call the country by a different name?

The election results were clearly faked to install Ahmedinejad as president.

Wait, you linked to a Nate Silver post which raised some questions about some things that looked questionable. Nate's link does not show "clearly" faked, nor, if so, in the amount necessary to swing the election.

If you have such evidence, I'm all ears. But you have to actually provide it.

The popular anger at the stolen election led to street protests, which were brutally suppressed by the Basij.

This is true, though not evidence of a coup. Brutal, regardless, but not unlike myriad other incidents not attendant to a coup.

Media was, and continues to be, censored.

Yes and no.

Mass arrests of dissidents followed, and the most prominent critics of the regime--Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami, Montazeri--have been placed under house arrest.

House arrest is the wrong word. Some have had their international travel curtailed, but not rising to the level of house arrest.

How is this different from, say, Burma?

Numerous ways. Too many to list in fact.

the Iranian cabinet was purged, and replaced with people personally loyal to Ahmedinejad.

Purged is too strong a word, but the replacements were opposed by conservatives! Hard to paint it as a coup, and a military dictatorship, when there are so many competing nodes of power.

If you're not even willing to concede that the Iranian election was stolen, then it is pointless to continue this argument. You're just being contrary.

Juan Cole on irregularities that point to a substantial likelihood of fraud. If the election returns were legitimate, why were only 10% of the ballots recounted? Why was the government so unwilling to do a full recount?

Der Spiegel last week, on Karroubi's house arrest and media censorship.


The question is, "Is Ahmedinejad working to neutralize competing centers of power that could plausibly threaten his regime?" Absolutely. The Revolutionary Guards, the media and the bureaucracy are already staffed with Ahmedinejad loyalists; the technocrats that were fired from their positions were one of the major blocs supporting Mousavi. The army has remained neutral, and the clerics haven't openly moved against Ahmedinejad yet.

If you're not even willing to concede that the Iranian election was stolen, then it is pointless to continue this argument. You're just being contrary.

If you're not willing to provide evidence, why should I believe your contention? For the record, there were some irregularities, without a doubt. Though it is unclear if they were widespread, or that they were enough to decide the election. If you provide evidence, I'm willing to look. So far, not much.

As for Karroubi, you listed many names next to his. Are you conceding that Mousavi is not under house arrest?

Now, I do believe that A-Jad is consolidating power. But coup is still too strong a word - especially because you used it in the past tense!

Adding, you linked to a Juan Cole post that is almost a year old. That was tentative and caveated. You should link to Cole's ultimate determination.

You mean his concurrence with the Chatham House study found here?

From Prof. Cole's commentary:

"But that is neither here nor there. The numbers do not add up. You can’t have more voters than there are people. You can’t have a complete liberal and pragmatic-conservative swing behind hard liners who make their lives miserable.

The election was stolen. It is there in black and white. Those of us who know Iran, could see it plain as the nose on our faces, even if we could not quantify our reasons as elegantly as Chatham House."

---

The problem is that the regime in power is not willing to allow an examination of the evidence that would determine whether or not the election was stolen, with a full recount of the ballots. Now, I consider that, in itself, to be prima facie evidence that the election was stolen--a regime with nothing to hide has nothing to fear from a recount. But, you seem to disagree. That's fine.

Substantial evidence of note in the Chatham House study comes from the fact that two provinces had a voting rate of greater than 100%; that A-Jad won all loyalists, all moderates and independents, and up to 44% of the reformist vote. That is highly unlikely.

I do not know for sure whether Mousavi continues to be under house arrest. I believe that he is; Karroubi indicates that he is in the Der Spiegel piece. I have not found any news reports to contradict this.

That was Juan Cole's take back in June of 2009. Pretty strong language, but also misguided in some respects (and in some cases flat out wrong).

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett explain.

"In response to fraud allegations, the Ministry of the Interior has, for the first time ever, published the results of each of the 45,713 ballot boxes. With the personal information for all the nearly 40 million voters in the election registered on a computer database and each voter’s fingerprints on his or her ballot stub, it is clear where people voted, and each vote can be accounted for.

The Guardian Council — tasked by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to review alleged electoral irregularities — has acknowledged that the number of votes cast in 50 towns exceeded the number of eligible voters residing in those communities; roughly 3 million votes fall into that category.

But this is not unusual: Iranian citizens may vote in presidential elections anywhere in the country. Since the election took place on the Iranian weekend, many people had left their homes for their hometowns and villages and cast their votes there. Thus, in some places, the number of votes exceeded the number of resident, eligible voters.

Recently, spot analyses by scholars from the University of Michigan and the Royal Institute of International Affairs suggested that this year’s election results are out of line with previous presidential elections. These analyses compare this year’s results with the first round of the 2005 presidential election, when Ahmadinejad and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani outpolled other candidates to move into a runoff. Viewed through that prism, Ahmadinejad’s 2009 tally seems inflated.

But the comparison is structurally flawed. It is tantamount to arguing that, because Barack Obama won 38 percent of the vote in a competitive, multicandidate caucus in Iowa in January 2008, it is implausible that he could have won 54 percent of that state’s vote in the two-person general election in November. A more appropriate comparison for this year’s results in Iran would be the second round of the 2005 presidential election, when Ahmadinejad trounced Rafsanjani.

From the outset, this year’s presidential contest was effectively a two-man race, notwithstanding two other candidates’ presence on the ballot. In that context, Ahmadinejad’s second-round vote share in 2005 (61.7 percent) was essentially indistinguishable from the percentage of the vote he won this year (62.6 percent)."

The Leveretts' critique is based on a misreading of the Chatham House study.

The Chatham House study looks at *all* 2005 votes, not just A-jad's. From the study: "...in the 10 of Iran’s 30 provinces highlighted [in the table], in order for the official statistics to be correct, Ahmadinejad would have needed to win over all new voters, all former Rafsanjani voters, and also up to 44% of former reformist voters."

Referencing the table notes that all conservative votes were counted, not just A-jad's. The criticism remains valid.

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