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June 16, 2010

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I'm Iranian and I say f*** the Leveretts - they do NOT speak Persian, and think a government-sponsored tour of Iran was enough to tell them that Ahmadi is very popular. We will probably never know if the vote was rigged or not (or somewhat rigged), but anybody not blinded by bias can look at the events immediately following the end of election day (Sepah troops surrounding the Interior Ministry to lock it down during vote counting, bizarre results in Iran's ethnic minority territories, banning of foreign press from covering protests...) to know that SOMETHING was up.

they do NOT speak Persian, and think a government-sponsored tour of Iran was enough to tell them that Ahmadi is very popular.

This is an untrue claim, and not the basis for their analysis. Try harder.

bizarre results in Iran's ethnic minority territories...

This is directly refuted in the cited reports.

From the "Turkey" link:

If I were an Iranian protester observing American political discourse since the Green movement began, what would I notice? During the last 12 months, the voices who claimed they want to see democracy take root in Iran were vastly more concerned with the foreign policy of a free Turkey than an unfree Saudi Arabia. I would notice that the voluminous output of anti-Semitism in Saudi Arabia was ignored, while the demagoguery of Turkey's leaders was treated as evidence of a nascent Islamist rogue state and regional competitor.

I would conclude that the same voices professing solidarity with my cause are less concerned with political freedom than with geopolitical orientation.

Pretty much.

We will probably never know if the vote was rigged or not (or somewhat rigged)

Which is, based on the excerpt Eric provides here, exactly what the Leveretts are arguing.

@Eric Martin:
This is an untrue claim, and not the basis for their analysis. Try harder.

Which part of it is untrue? Let me guess: they speak Farsi with a hilarious American accent?

This is directly refuted in the cited reports.
If by cited by the reports, you mean the reports showed that you can't mathematically prove the Iranian election was rigged, well, duh, you can't use statistical measurements to firmly prove or disprove anything. When we talk about statistical significance in scientific reports, we apply arbitrary confidence intervals (usually 95%). That still leaves 5% room for theoretical error. My argument on the ethnic vote isn't based on certain digits appearing too often in the vote tallies, but based on the fact that as an actual Iranian, I know that Azeris and Lurs will support the candidate with ties to their part of the country over the incumbent who hasn't done anything for them. It would be like if someone told you McCain won 50% of the black vote in 2008. Could you DISPROVE it based on vote tallies alone? Of course not, but nobody in their right mind would believe that 50% of black voters voted for him. That's why exit polls are so important, and Iran, of course, doesn't have them.

@Uncle Kvetch:
Which is, based on the excerpt Eric provides here, exactly what the Leveretts are arguing.

Please, these are the people who wrote an op-ed tauntingly called Ahmadinejad Won, Deal With It, presenting a laughably compromised phone survey of the Iranian electorate as the end-all of all discussion on the election results.

You want a fair and nuanced discussion of the Green Movement in Iran, its realistic power and potential? Read Hooman Majd or Mehdi Khalaji. People who actually know what they're talking about, not posers like the Leveretts or even the dozens of American op-ed columnists who think the Green Movement longs for the days of the Shah.

Which part of it is untrue? Let me guess: they speak Farsi with a hilarious American accent?

Well, that's one wrong assertion, and then the other about basing their analysis on a govt. tour. You were 2 out of 2 there.

My argument on the ethnic vote isn't based on certain digits appearing too often in the vote tallies, but based on the fact that as an actual Iranian, I know that Azeris and Lurs will support the candidate with ties to their part of the country...

Right, which is why beginning on Page 11 onward in the first report cited by the Leveretts, the authors of the report explain away these claims.

You want a fair and nuanced discussion of the Green Movement in Iran, its realistic power and potential? Read Hooman Majd or Mehdi Khalaji. People who actually know what they're talking about, not posers like the Leveretts or even the dozens of American op-ed columnists who think the Green Movement longs for the days of the Shah.

Um, yeah. Did you see who I cited in this same post? That would be Majd, who I have cited on numerous occasions. BTW: Majd and Khalaji agree with the Leveretts on this matter.

not posers like the Leveretts or even the dozens of American op-ed columnists who think the Green Movement longs for the days of the Shah.

Are there dozens that think this? Do you have links or cites to, say, half a dozen, let alone multiple dozens? I can't think of many off the top of my head.

@Eric Martin:
Yes, they do a great job of "explaining away" these claims by making some key errors:

1) They claim that Mazandaran disproved the vote-for-your-own-candidate theory by voting for the conservative in the 1997 election. They do not note that the conservative candidate Mr Nateq-Nouri is himself an ethnic Mazandarani. I know many people from that province, and while the vast majority of them are pretty liberal (Mazandaran is a fairly developed part of Iran), many voted for Mr. Nouri for the sole reason that he would probably bring home some pork, to increase the value of his real estate holdings if nothing else.

2) The authors hold up Mehralizadeh's poor showing in E. Azerbaijan as another counter argument for the ethnic candidates winning their state. Okay, I follow Iranian politics fairly closely, and I have NEVER heard of this guy. In Iranian presidential elections, where 6-8 candidates typically run, even the die-hard tribal-minded people know to be pragmatic and vote for the candidate who actually stands a chance of winning.

3) They point to Karroubi's strong showing in Lorestan and Khuzestan as proof that there was some, but not dominant, ethnic voting. Actually, I would say his less than 10% results in parts of the country that Ahmadinejad has repeatedly insulted (and had attempts on his life made) and have grievances with the central government hints at the opposite, that the results may have been tampered with.

This sentence summarizes my problem with the paper:
"An element of ethnic rivalry and difference in support for the candidates is also evident in the fact that the Sistani part of Sistan va Baluchestan province (such as the city of Zabol) voted strongly for Ahmadinejad whereas the majority Baluch areas backed Mousavi." Yeah, that's one way to look at it - the other is that Ahmadi and co. didn't care enough about the border regions (where they're fighting separatists and drug lords anyway) to manipulate those votes, and plus, this makes Mousavi look like he has the support of drug dealers and separatists. Same reason why Ahmadi's vote in Kerman was ridiculously high - it's a lot easier to stuff ballots in rural parts of the country where the Sepah has a firm grip on the ballot box.

Also, the authors repeatedly claim that some Persians fear Azeri influence in the country, which is pure BS (at least from my experience) and points to the authors themselves possibly being chauvinists. Plus, even if a sizable number of such people existed, why would they vote against the more Azeri candidate in favor of the Persian candidate who has closely aligned himself with the most powerful Azeri person in the entire country, Supreme Leader Khamenei? It would be like voting for a white Democrat over a black Republican in a Senate race because you didn't want the black guy to win, and as a result giving Obama another Senate vote.

As for my claim about the op-ed columnists, well that's an exaggeration, but I have read many a low circulation paper where they really seem to think Iranians are rejecting Khomeini with the Green Movement.

Also, Majd has repeatedly compared the Green Movement to a civil rights movement in Iran with real potential, while the Leveretts see it as a joke. I'm sure they cite Majd to back up their claims, esp. re: Iran's nuclear program, where Majd has shown many times that most Iranians support Iran having nuclear technology (but not weapons), but I doubt that Majd agrees with them about the Greens having no popular backing.

Also, Majd has repeatedly compared the Green Movement to a civil rights movement in Iran with real potential, while the Leveretts see it as a joke. I'm sure they cite Majd to back up their claims, esp. re: Iran's nuclear program, where Majd has shown many times that most Iranians support Iran having nuclear technology (but not weapons), but I doubt that Majd agrees with them about the Greens having no popular backing.

Few thoughts:

1. The Leverett's have never called the Green Movement a joke with no backing.

2. They have actually made the same claims as Majd wrt civil rights, not regime change.

3. Strange to assail the Leveretts perpsective, yet laud Majd's (whose most recent book I also enjoyed immensely).

@Eric Martin:
Strange to assail the Leveretts perpsective, yet laud Majd's (whose most recent book I also enjoyed immensely).

Easy, Majd grew up in Iran, and is friends with Muhammad Khatami (I believe the two are even related by marriage). I have no idea what background the Leveretts have in Iranian studies (yeah I know they worked for various intelligence agencies as analysts - those analysts have a pretty strong track record of being wrong).

I've been meaning to read his latest book for a while now too. I don't agree with him all the time - I believe he purposefully stakes out positions that are more pro-regime just to shock his Western readers, and he makes the really annoying error of listening to cab drivers and ascribing to them the views of "average Iranian Joe" - but he definitely seems to know what he's talking about, and doesn't have the monarchist or communist or other baggage a lot of Iranian Americans have.

Weird how the Republicans react so differently to a student lead protest movement in Iran than a similar movement in the US during the 60s.

Lots of them still think the Kent state kids had it coming.

the voices who claimed they want to see democracy take root in Iran were vastly more concerned with the foreign policy of a free Turkey than an unfree Saudi Arabia

No question that Iran hawks are idiots over this whole thing. However, I would question whether it is fair to say that it is fair to describe "the voices" who said one thing about Iran as now saying something else about Turkey and Saudi Arabia, given the diversity of support in the West for the green movement, including substantial support among left/anti-war/liberal types. It might have been a more muted support than the (counter-)revolutionary fantasies of right-wingers but it was support all the same.

Western admirers imputed their own hopes to the movement and thereby did some significant political damage to the movement by portraying it as a subversive, anti-regime force

Where is the evidence for this "significant damage"? Is it plausible to think that significant numbers of Iranians were making their decision about the aims and goals of the green movement based on what American sympathizers said about it, instead of based on what the leaders of that movement were themselves saying in Iran?

demonstrating empty solidarity with a movement most Westerners misunderstood

Solidarity is never empty. Perhaps an article of faith, but I believe it. I think that expressing sympathy for an indigenous Iranian movement towards certain liberalizations is not an empty gesture. I think that young Iranians will remember that Americans paid attention to them, did not treat them like terrorists, expressed their solidarity. I think that is part of a process of reconciliation that will continue for the next several decades, and in that process, every step that takes us closer is useful.

I don't think that we have "nothing to do with one another". This is a small planet and getting smaller. The luxury of being able to completely ignore other countries is not really affordable.

I said at the time that I thought the mild official US statements were probably the right move. I don't think that the US would benefit from attempts to "punish" the regime for failing to heed the green movement or to directly support it. But I do think that on a personal level, it is a good thing when large parts of the population of two countries plagued by mutual misunderstandings and hostility learn a little bit about one another, and I think that's what happened. Larison may think that's worthless, but I don't.

I've been meaning to read his latest book for a while now too. I don't agree with him all the time - I believe he purposefully stakes out positions that are more pro-regime just to shock his Western readers, and he makes the really annoying error of listening to cab drivers and ascribing to them the views of "average Iranian Joe" - but he definitely seems to know what he's talking about, and doesn't have the monarchist or communist or other baggage a lot of Iranian Americans have.

You know, that's pretty accurate. No objection there, other than to add as a side point that he's a pretty good writer to boot.

But I do think that on a personal level, it is a good thing when large parts of the population of two countries plagued by mutual misunderstandings and hostility learn a little bit about one another, and I think that's what happened. Larison may think that's worthless, but I don't.

Well, I think he's complaining about the tendency of some to, rather than learn, project their own worldview on to the protesters. But, speaking for myself, I think learning more about Iran and the Iranian people is a definite positive.

Incidentally, JD, could you send me an email when you get a chance, I have a question.

Jacob, I appreciate your comment; it's a nuance that's welcome in the midst of a bout of (fully understandable) "I was proved fvcking right" analysis.

Thanks. Eric, I emailed the kitty, but in any case my address is [email protected] (I doubt there is a spambot on the planet that doesn't have that address after 15 years...)

For the record, I don't get the kitty mail. It goes to the dreaded publius. I think my address is in the about section FWIW.

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