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Question & Answer on the Iran Crisis

Question & Answer on the Iran Crisis
By Stephen R. Shalom, Thomas Harrison, Joanne Landy and Jesse Lemisch | Campaign for Peace and Democracy | July 7, 2009

Right after the June 12 elections in Iran, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy issued a statement expressing our strong support for the masses of Iranians protesting electoral fraud and our horror at the ferocious response of the government. Our statement concluded: "We express our deep concern for their well-being in the face of brutal repression and our fervent wishes for the strengthening and deepening of the movement for justice and democracy in Iran." Since the elections, some on the left, and others as well, have questioned the legitimacy of and the need for solidarity with the anti-Ahmadinejad movement. The Campaign's position of solidarity with the Iranian protesters has not changed, but we think those questions need to be squarely addressed.

Below are the questions we take up. Questions three, four and five deal with the issue of electoral fraud; readers who are not interested in this rather technical discussion are invited to go on to question six. And we should say at the outset that our support for the protest movement is not determined by the technicalities of electoral manipulation, as important as they are. What is decisive is that huge masses of Iranians are convinced that the election was rigged and that they went into the streets, at great personal risk, to demand democracy and an end to theocratic repression. The full Q and A, including the answers, is on the Campaign for Peace and Democracy website.

  1. Was the June 12, 2009 election fair?
  2. Isn't it true that the Guardian Council is indirectly elected by the Iranian people?
  3. Was there fraud, and was it on a scale to alter the outcome?
  4. Didn't a poll conducted by U.S.-based organizations conclude that Ahmadinejad won the election?
  5. Didn't Ahmadinejad get lots of votes from conservative religious Iranians among the rural population and the urban poor? Might not these votes have been enough to overwhelm his opponents?
  6. Hasn't the U.S. (and Israel) been interfering in Iran and promoting regime change, including by means of supporting all sorts of "pro-democracy" groups?
  7. Has the Western media been biased against the Iranian government?
  8. Is Mousavi a leftist? A neoliberal? What is the relation between Mousavi and the demonstrators in the streets?
  9. Is Ahmadinejad good for world anti-imperialism?
  10. Is Ahmadinejad more progressive than his opponents in terms of social and economic policy? Is he a champion of the Iranian poor?
  11. What do we want the U.S. government to do about the current situation in Iran?
  12. What should we do about the current situation in Iran?
  13. Is it right to advocate a different form of government in Iran?

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I scarcely know where to begin, but I will comment on just a few of the assertions.

1. Was the June 12, 2009 election fair?
“Even if every vote was counted fairly, this was not a fair election. 475 people wished to run for president, but the un-elected Guardian Council, which vets all candidates for supposed conformity to Islamic principles, rejected all but 4.
Free elections also require free press, free expression, and freedom to organize, all of which have been severely curtailed.”
I don’t know if it was fair or free from my vantage point and I don’t believe it is my business to dictate to people halfway across the globe my views on their elections. I do know that our own elections in the U.S. are neither fair nor free and this is something I do not hesitate to speak out on every chance I get.

3. OK, but was there fraud? And was it on a scale to alter the outcome?

“There was certainly fraud:…”
You don’t know this. You think this and might very well be right, but your thoughts are based more on the emotions of supporting one over the other. If 89% of the people voted and they can vote anywhere they want to, it does not surprise me that some cities had more voters voting than resided there.

You said that text messaging was shut down so Moussavi supporters could not keep track of vote tallies. Were they not allowed to participate in the vote counting? Perhaps the government didn’t want them to keep count via text messaging and then come up with a different number from the official tally and claim fraud. Which is what they did, just without the text messaging info. After all it is the official policy of the U.S. government to effect regime change in Iran and last year we spent $400 million doing just that.

4. Didn't a poll conducted by U.S.-based organizations conclude that Ahmadinejad won the election?

The poll was 2 to 1 for Ahmadinejad with an expected 89% turnout and that is what the actual published results were. Sure there were roughly ½ who didn’t give a preference, but why would you assume they would break for Moussavi? Just because of his TV performance in the debates? I don’t know he did any better that Ahmadinejad, how do you? Perhaps, the common people of Iran just naturally voted for a common person who supported government programs benefitting the majority of Iranians and weren’t interested in Moussavi privatizing there country U.S. style. Is that a least a possibility? That maybe Iranians really like Ahmadinejad.
Instead of continuing this exercise longer than readers can bear, I would suggest scrolling down to the following article which seems to me to be a very informed account from someone who has actually visited Iran recently.
Nick Egnatz

An Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement; How should we react to the events in Iran
by Phil Wilayto

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