Tuesday, June 30, 2009

'It's hard for the West to believe Ahmadinejad won'

Benjamin Jofe-Walt: "The electoral system is computerized, each voter's identification is in a computerized database and their fingerprints are on the stubs of the ballots," Dr Marandi added. "Even independent Western-based polls prior to the elections put Ahmadinejad well ahead."

Kourosh Ziabari, a political correspondent with the Foreign Policy Journal, agreed. "Even if we take into account the possibility of electoral fraud, which I categorically think should be investigated, it is still realistic to believe that Ahmadinejad was the winner," he told The Media Line.

"As a self proclaimed reformist journalist I am trying to be unbiased and objective, and whether the elections have been rigged or not, Mr. Ahmadinejad enjoys high popularity, especially in the countryside and among low income city dwellers. His victory was not such a surprise, even to reformists."

Iran's Guardian Council said Tuesday that there was "no major fraud" in the disputed June 12 elections and ruled out setting aside the results - less than 24 hours after conceding that there had been voting irregularities in 50 Iranian cities.

The council, Iran's highest legislative body responsible for overseeing controversial elections, rejected calls to annul and repeat the elections despite over a week of the worst protests Iran has seen in decades.

Conversazione con Noam Chomsky

Non c’è bisogno di alcuna nota biografica per presentare Noam Chomsky. Egli è senza dubbio l’analista e il conferenziere di sociologia politica più importante del periodo contemporaneo. Come scrive il Guardian, «fa parte delle dieci fonti più citate nel campo delle lettere insieme a Marx, Shakespeare e la Bibbia, ed è il solo vivente tra gli autori di tali fonti».

Alle Nazioni Unite, il presidente venezuelano Hugo Chavez ha accennato a Egemonia o sopravvivenza. I rischi del dominio globale americano [Milano: Marco Tropea Editore, 2005, ISBN 88-438-0460-X] in questi termini: «Vorrei rispettosamente invitare quelli tra voi che non l’hanno ancora letto a farlo».
Nel 2006, in risposta a una domanda rivoltagli da un corrispondente del New Statesman, Andrew Stephen, a proposito di ciò che avrebbe fatto se fosse stato presidente degli Stati Uniti, Chomsky ha suggerito: «metterei in piedi un tribunale di guerra per processare i miei stessi crimini, perché se mi assumessi l’impegno di questa posizione, dovrei poi occuparmi della struttura e della cultura delle istituzioni, nonché della cultura intellettuale. E la cultura deve essere guarita». 
Nel corso di questo colloquio con il professor Chomsky si è parlato di Iran, della questione nucleare, delle relazioni tra Washington e Teheran e dell’impatto globale delle lobby sioniste. Un estratto di questa conversazione è stato pubblicato sul Teheran Times, il principale giornale iraniano in lingua inglese.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Iran's Crisis: What the Youth Think

Kourosh Ziabari - Islam Online: Perhaps the voices of protestors on Iran’s streets are not as loud as they were last week, but the political stalemate in the Islamic Republic is still the subject of debate both domestically and internationally. With both the government and the opposition refusing to make compromises, Iran’s crisis is far from over. IslamOnline.net talked to a number of young Iranians about the ongoing unrest in their country.

Mostafa, 20

“The Friday sermon of the Supreme Leader was a warning to Mirhossein Mousavi and his supporters…Mousavi who called for adherence to the law…before the elections and criticized the incumbent president for breaching the law, is breaching the law now by calling for illegal rallies and demonstrations.

“The words of the Supreme Leader were clear and precise…Now the violators of the law will face the consequences of their actions.

“Our system is not weak and fragile to rig the votes of 11 million people to help a certain candidate to win the election.”


'The Barrier is Broken and Women are Throwing Rocks'



The Media Line - Benjamin Joffe-Walt: The iconic images of Iran's elections: a young woman in full hijab hurling stones at riot police, the wives of reformist candidates actively and aggressively campaigning and a shot woman named Neda bleeding profusely out of her mouth, slowly dying on video.

For a male-dominated political event - an election between four men, in a poll controlled by a Guardian Council of 12 men, in a country run by a male supreme leader, women have played an eye-catching, almost dramatic role both in the Iranian elections and the succeeding unrest.

"The sheer number of females that have either been hurt or killed show that women were in the front line of the recent demonstrations," Kianoosh Sanjari, an influential Iranian blogger, told The Media Line. "For the first time since the Islamic revolution, women felt they could make a difference and have their voices heard without stepping outside of the Islamic boundaries."

"Women have even taken the step of asking reformist clerics for advice on how their rights can be protected while remaining within the boundaries of Islam," Sanjari continued. "The barrier is broken; women now feel empowered not only to throw rocks, but to make an impact on society as a whole."

Sanjari argued that it was the shooting of a woman - Neda Soltan - during the demonstrations that sparked international outrage about the protests. "Her death and strength also pushed and forced world leaders, such as Obama, to discuss the human rights violations that the people, including the women, were facing."

Symbols of transformation in Iranian gender relations were apparent early in the election campaigns, as presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi openly asserted the need for greater rights for women: he called for an end to legalized gender discrimination, an increase in women's participation in Iranian workplaces and politics and a curb in the powers of religious police.

To differing degrees, the other opposition candidates followed suit and for the first time since the Islamic revolution, women's rights entered public discourse.

Many analysts have credited defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard with spearheading the gender change.

"Many compared the role of Rahnavard with Michelle Obama," Sanjari said, referring to the United States First Lady. "She has become a symbol for the women's rights movement.

Kourosh Ziabari, an Iranian journalist and the political correspondent at Foreign Policy Journal, agreed. "Zahra Rahnavard has played a significant role in persuading and encouraging the young women of Iran to take part in the elections," Ziabari said. "Zahnavard's coalition with one of the most prominent female political activists of Iran, Masoumeh Ebtekar, who was the first female vice-president of Iran under Mr. Khatami, created a vigorous enthusiasm and zealousness among the young women in Iran."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Has the U.S. Played a Role in Fomenting Unrest During Iran’s Election?

Jeremy R. Hammond - Foreign Policy Journal / Global Research: ... The popularity of the latter claim was in no small part due to a post by Andrew Sullivan in his popular blog “The Daily Dish” at The Atlantic. Sullivan reported, “Yes, the president of Iran’s own election monitoring commission has declared the result invalid and called for a do-over. That is huge news: when a regime’s own electoral monitors beak [sic] ranks, what chance does the regime have of persuading anyone in the world or Iran that it has democratic legitimacy?”[61]

Sullivan linked to a Farsi language website as his source, Peykeiran.com,[62] but Sullivan admittedly cannot read Farsi, so he was clearly merely relaying information he saw elsewhere, perhaps on Twitter, without attribution. Sullivan’s relayed claim, whatever its true origin, was promptly repeated in blogs across the net following his posting it at The Daily Dish.

But when shown the post and the linked-to page in Farsi, Kourosh Ziabari, an Iranian journalist and correspondent for Foreign Policy Journal, replied, “Actually, Andrew Sullivan has made a mistake, as far as I see. The one who asserted that the election results were invalid was Ali-Akbar Mohtashami, the Administrator for the Committee of Votes Preservation at the national campaign of Mir-Hossein Mousavi.”[63] This is hardly the same “huge news” Sullivan claimed it to be.

Continues Here

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Protesters Seek Inventiveness on the Streets of Tehran


Media Line - Benjamin Joffe-Walt: For a few days, it seemed as though Iran might fall.

Millions of disaffected voters rose up in mammoth demonstrations. Students painted ‘Where is my vote’ on their faces; young women clenched raised fists; chanting was heard throughout the capital; the streets were painted in green.

Less than 10 days later, the streets are quiet. The calls of opposition leaders—to head out with black candles, to drive during the day with headlights on and to flood the public bazaars—have all fallen on deaf ears. The streets are once again abuzz with day-to-day commerce, the average person hasn't come across protesters with black candles and the students are busy studying for university entrance exams.

“It's dying down quite a bit. A lot of people have just quit,” Dr Mohammad Marandi, a lecturer at Tehran University, told The Media Line. “I didn't see anyone holding candles. I haven't seen a single shop that has been closed, and car headlights? That was a flop. All three of these strategies have failed.”

“We have the national university entrance exam tomorrow and Friday, and everyone is really tired of the whole thing to be honest,” Dr Marandi added. “That's the mood right now. Even talking about it now makes me tired.”

“Moussavi has been ill advised,” Marandi explained, arguing that the abrupt death of the demonstrations has been the upshot of the protesters’ approach rather than the crackdown by the government. “Moussavi never even gave the legal process a chance. Had he tried to legally protest the elections and then staged protests he would have had a lot more sympathy.”

“He also held all his protests in the heart of Tehran and a lot of people suffered. Business suffered, ordinary people couldn't go out, others who had nothing to do with the protests were shot. All this diminished his standing quite a bit.”

Kourosh Ziabari, a political correspondent with the Foreign Policy Journal, argued that the demise of the protest movement was not so much a product of failed tactics but one of overly emotive and poorly planned political organizing.

“These kinds of movements are emotional,” he told The Media Line. “They are not based on some rational political plan, and that is why they appear just as quickly as they disappear.”

“Over the first few days, there were entirely peaceful protests in which millions took part,” Ziabari continued. “We had not witnessed non-governmental, indeed anti-government, demonstrations on this level before.”

“The protesters employed every tactic available to them,” he added. “They used online social networks, held silent, peaceful protests, wrote English slogans and banners, sent letters to various organizations and developed relations with foreign embassies.”

“But then everything got mixed up,” he said. “It became difficult to distinguish between political protestors, ordinary citizens passing by and insurgents or terrorists... Protests should not pose a risk to national security or afflict average people.”

Dr. Mehrdad Khonsari, a senior research consultant at the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies, argued that while recent protest tactics may have failed, it is too early to make long-term predictions. “There are far more sophisticated tactics than those utilized so far and I think it's too soon to suggest that the protests have petered out,” he told The Media Line. “Public enthusiasm has not died down and I don't think we have seen the final curtain.”

“Civil disobedience is an art, and what the Islamic regime is really concerned about is that the protesters will improve their tactics or bring in specialists to help them come up with inventive tactics,” Dr Khonsari continued.

“For now, the fact is that the regime deploying its security forces to prevent public gatherings has even brought in some counter-velvet revolution experts from Russia to advise them,” he said. “None of this means the protesters have thrown in the towel—we simply have yet to witness the deployment of that public enthusiasm in a way that makes a larger impact.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

'It's Hard for the West to Believe Ahmadinejad Won'

Benjamin Joffe-Walt Did Ahmadinejad win? 

This seemingly simple question, discussed in coffee shops, hair dressers and public buses all over the world, goes to the core of the predicament faced by various world governments in figuring out how to respond to the unprecedented recent civilian unrest in Iran.

But despite widespread suggestions that incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 'stole' the election from his principal challenger Mir Hossein Moussavi, Iranian experts suggest it would be impossible to commit vote fraud on such a wide scale.

"It is hard for many Westerners to believe that Ahmadinejad could win," Dr. Seyyed Mohammad Marandi, a lecturer at the University of Tehran, told The Media Line. "I did not vote for him but I think it's quite clear that he's immensely popular and more and more are beginning to think that there were no major voting irregularities."

"He's a very polarizing figure; people either love him or hate him and the vote in Tehran is very divided," Dr Marandi continued. "But it would be almost impossible to rig an election on that level... Among people that I know on both sides of the political equation, few believe that it's possible to rig 11 million votes. Even my friends in the Moussavi camp don't believe that."

"The electoral system is computerized, each voter's identification is in a computerized database and their fingerprints are on the stubs of the ballots," Dr Marandi added. "Even independent Western-based polls prior to the elections put Ahmadinejad well ahead."

Kourosh Ziabari, a political correspondent with the Foreign Policy Journal, agreed. "Even if we take into account the possibility of electoral fraud, which I categorically think should be investigated, it is still realistic to believe that Ahmadinejad was the winner," he told The Media Line. 

"As a self proclaimed reformist journalist I am trying to be unbiased and objective, and whether the elections have been rigged or not, Mr. Ahmadinejad enjoys high popularity, especially in the countryside and among low income city dwellers. His victory was not such a surprise, even to reformists."

Iran's Guardian Council said Tuesday that there was "no major fraud" in the disputed June 12 elections and ruled out setting aside the results - less than 24 hours after conceding that there had been voting irregularities in 50 Iranian cities.

The council, Iran's highest legislative body responsible for overseeing controversial elections, rejected calls to annul and repeat the elections despite over a week of the worst protests Iran has seen in decades.

“If a major breach occurs in an election, the Guardian Council may annul the votes that come out of a particular affected ballot box, polling station, district, or city,” Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesperson for the Guardian Council, said. "Fortunately, in the recent presidential election we found no witness of major fraud or breach in the election. Therefore, there is no possibility of an annulment taking place.” 

The statement came one day after the body had acknowledged voting irregularities in 50 Iranian districts, most notably that the number of votes collected was more than the number of eligible voters.

"Statistics provided by the candidates, who claim more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 80-170 cities are not accurate," the spokesperson told a state broadcaster. "The incident has happened in only 50 cities."

The Guardian Council depicted the questionable votes as a run-of-the-mill irregularity resulting from the lack of a legal prohibition on voters casting a ballot twice in two different districts. While the phenomenon may have affected three million votes, the council maintained that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would have won by a landslide in any case.

Official results place Ahmadinejad at 63% of the vote, almost double that of Mir Hossein Moussavi, his principal challenger.

The Guardian Council is an appointed body of 12 clerics and Islamic law experts close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Many opposition leaders and senior Iranian clerics have claimed the council is ‘cherry-picked’ by Khamenei loyalists and have called for an independent probe. 

Protests continued in the streets of Tehran on Tuesday despite warnings from Iran's Revolutionary Guards, an elite armed force, and the Basij volunteer militia. At least 19 people have been killed in daily protests since the elections.

"The real question is whether the security forces that are loyal to the regime will have the stomach to do what it takes to repress protests," Dr Emanuele Ottolenghi, Executive Director of the Transatlantic Institute and author of Under a Mushroom Cloud - Europe, Iran and the Bomb, told The Media Line. 

The size of street demonstrations has slowly dwindled since a climax last week, but as the government cracks down, protests have become more confrontational and violent. Police in Tehran have utilized tear gas, live ammunition and helicopters to break up small groups from gathering in the streets.

Independent verification of protests and casualties has been almost impossible due to severe government restrictions on media over the past week. Even the number of reporters detained, said by  Reporters Without Borders to be 34, has been difficult to verify.

The Iranian government, and even some reformists, have said the upheaval is largely a result of Western meddling.

"A majority of people are dissatisfied with the current situation, with President Ahmadinejad and his policies, and a number of other issues," Ziabari said. "But at the same time, we believe faithfully that our domestic problems are 'none of their business', and even if we hold rallies and massive protests, we want the domestic authorities to hear our call."

"The West is just inflaming the unrest with outrageous media coverage and political comments," the reformist correspondent continued. "Democracy is not an absolute concept, it's relative and Iran is moving towards democracy." 

"If Western governments and western media really care about democracy in our region, why don't they take steps to democratize Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Pakistan - all their staunch allies? The way that the West - both governments and media - approach Iran is not about promoting democracy, it's about Iran not being an ally of the West."

Another Iranian Revolution?

Kourosh Ziabari - Foreign Policy Journal: From the most ardent enemies to the most cordial friends, everybody is now monitoring and commenting on Iran’s 2009 Presidential Elections, which resulted to the reelection of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the extension of his mission for another four-year term.

The enemies confirmed their credulousness and myopia by garnering the hopes for a possible overthrow of the Islamic government after groups of frustrated people poured into the streets for some 6 days to protest what they called the “widespread fraud and manipulation” in the electoral results, while Iran’s traditional and long-time friends , including Lebanon, China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, Azerbaijan, and Qatar, demonstrated their loyalty by dispatching the immediate congratulatory messages.

Everything was started when the Interior Ministry announced on the night of Saturday, June 13, that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected to office for another four years as he won a categorical majority of 63% of the votes, blowing a heavy defeat to the reformist hopeful Mir-Hossein Mousavi by a margin of 11 million votes.

According to this official stats, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be the most popular president of Iran since the beginning of Islamic Revolution, surpassing even the victory of ex-President Mohammad Khatami in 1997, when he won 21 million votes.

The Interior Ministry declared the landslide victory for Mr. Ahmadinejad with 24.5 million votes whereas the majority of pre-election polls and surveys had indicated a narrow and close rivalry between the two main contenders, even expecting the likelihood of a second run-off round to determine the ultimate result. The National Election Commission also announced an infinitesimal minority of 330,000 votes to the other reformist candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, whose votes didn’t exceed the total of 460,000 invalid blank votes also cast.

The members at national Electoral Campaign of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who were apprehensive about the possible ballot-rigging in favor of the incumbent president since the commencement of campaigns and advertisements, held several rounds of emergency meetings to finds solutions, and the only answer they could find was to spearhead street demonstrations and rallies to protest.