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Statistical Suspicions In Iran's Election 512

Posted by kdawson
from the funny-smell dept.
hoytak writes "An expert in electoral fraud, professor Walter Melbane, has released a detailed analysis (PDF) of available data in Iran's controversial election (summary here). While he did not find significant indications of fraud, he does note that all the deviations from the predicted model are in Ahmadinejad's favor: 'In general, combining the 2005 and 2009 data conveys the impression that a substantial core of the 2009 results reflected natural political process... [These] stand in contrast to the unusual pattern in which all of the notable discrepancies between the support Ahmadinejad actually received and the support the model predicts are always negative. This pattern needs to be explained before one can have confidence that natural election processes were not supplemented with artificial manipulations.'" In related news, EsonLinji notes reports in the Seattle PI and other sources that the US State Department has asked Twitter to delay system maintenance to prevent cutting off Iranians who have been relying on the service during the post-election crisis. And if you would like to help ease the communication crunch, reader RCulpepper tips a blog post detailing how to set up a proxy server for users with Iranian IP addresses.
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Statistical Suspicions In Iran's Election

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  • The problem of time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:30PM (#28355303) Homepage
    There are a lot of issues with the data. But even before one gets to the statistical anomalies one has the basic problem of time. Iran uses paper ballots. In the past elections it has taken at least three days for Iran to count the votes. In this case, if the results are to be believed it took a matter of hours. That's just not plausible. Even if there were zero apparent stat problems, this would still be a massive red flag.
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:32PM (#28355329) Homepage Journal

    the US State Department has asked Twitter to delay system maintenance to prevent cutting off Iranians who have been relying on the service during the post-election crisis

    What does the US State Department have to do with an election in Iran? By all means they should use their normal channels to express their views. But for me, asking twitter to keep operating for this reason is a minor example of the way other countries have long been interfering in Iranian politics.

  • by Drakin020 (980931) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:45PM (#28355467)

    I'm proud to see these young people stand up for their rights and for what they believe in. It's good to see these kids fighting the good fight. (Morgan Freedman anyone?)

    I'm hoping this will come to a peaceful end, but any government that steals an election should be punished, and it seems the people of Iran will have none of it.

    Keep fighting guys, I only wish I could help fro way over here.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:45PM (#28355473) Journal
    The Washington Post did an independent poll [washingtonpost.com] before the election showing that the majority of the public DID support Ahmadinejad by nearly two thirds, even among Mousavi's native ethnic group, the Azeri. It seems that the only group that DIDN'T support Ahmadinejad was the internet connected (a small minority of the country), which explains why they feel the election was stolen: when everyone you talk to agrees with you, it is easy to believe that the whole world agrees with you, not just the people you talk to.

    Other interesting points: most people don't agree with Ahmadinejad's policies. Quote:

    more than 70 percent of Iranians also expressed support for providing full access to weapons inspectors and a guarantee that Iran will not develop or possess nuclear weapons, in return for outside aid and investment

    That warms my heart. I really don't want Iran to get nuclear weapons (for purely selfish, self-preservation reasons. Don't respond to this saying, 'it is their right' because I don't care). Apparently most people voted for Ahmadinejad not because they agree with his policies, but because they consider him to be a stronger negotiator, and more capable of getting favorable concessions from the US, China, and Russia.

    If these results do turn out to be accurate, Obama should call and congratulate Ahmadinejad. After all, there are things we can agree on: we want Iran to be a strong, capable, functioning member of international society, not one that tries to destroy it (of course, our views on how they should reach that goal are different, but we can work on that).

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:52PM (#28355533) Homepage Journal

    What? The US wants to make it easier for the protesters to organize. How is that interfering with Iranian politics?

    By making it easier for protesters to organize. Consider the impact on public opinion towards protesters in Iran if they find out the protesters are being in any way aided by the US.

  • by radtea (464814) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:55PM (#28355559)

    Keep fighting guys, I only wish I could help fro way over here.

    You can help: by keeping out of it.

    Even my progressive American friends are all flag-waving and drum-beating over this. The last thing the world needs is for anyone in the United States to do anything other than say, "We really hope the Iranian constitutional democratic process works this out. As a fellow-democracy we understand that elections can be contentious, but we also understand that the Iranian people and the Iranian people alone need to decide the outcome here, without interference by any other sovereign power."

    Imperialism has taken such deep root in the American mind that even the progressives take it for granted that whatever happens anywhere Americans should be taking a hand. Do you think the Swiss--a much older democracy--are doing so? I doubt it. They are probably shaking their heads and saying, "Yes, it was like that here in 1500, but we got over it and so will they."

  • by V50 (248015) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:57PM (#28355585) Journal

    As a PoliSci student, I've spent a ton of time looking at election data for many countries, over the past hundred years or so. I see a lot of people jumping to conclusions based on some evidence, and not all necessarily means the election was tampered with.

    Oddly, I've found a lot of people take the demonstrations in the street to be indication of fraud. What it is is indication of the belief in fraud. I'm pretty sure some people protested after Kerry lost the 2004 US election, that doesn't mean the election was tampered with (and yeah, I know I'll get some conspiracy nut reply to that with an essay.)

    Several other stuff looks at odd vote shifting patterns, specifically the almost total abandonment of this one candidate in favor of the President. That is unusual, and calls to be looked into, but it's far from unprecedented. Quebec, in particular, has a history of some pretty wild swings from one party to another.

    Another thing is the "rule" that as turnout goes up, the reformers do better. I've seen countless "rules" made in politics, only to be broken, because voters can act weird sometimes. It would be bucking the trend, but again, not definitive proof.

    Overall, there is some evidence to suggest there may have been fraud, but as of yet, I've yet to see any "smoking gun". I saw similar analysis "prove" Kerry really won in 2004, and that didn't really amount to anything.

    Looking at the whole situation, my gut tells me that there probably was some tampering, either deliberate or systematic, most likely in the process of actually voting. Basically, I think the strange results are most likely, if anything, the result of intimidation, either direct (guy waving around AK-47) or indirect (ie, Ahmed the voter chose the president because of a climate of fear).

    It's very possible that Ahmadinejad won legit, even if his vote total was padded due to intimidation or result tampering. It's also very possible that there's a climate of fear in Iran, that essentially prevents a truly fair and free election from occurring. I honestly don't know much about Iran, so these are just my thoughts from being a (mostly Canadian) politics geek.

    In case it's not clear, I'm not defending the Iranian results, only suggesting that I've not seen any "smoking gun" type proof, only "unusual" results, which can still happen in a free and fair election.

  • by bersl2 (689221) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:59PM (#28355597) Journal

    The point is that enough of the people of Iran find the results incredible and are in general angry enough about their present conditions that they have lost faith in the current government and desire significant reforms. This won't go away, ever. Even if a complete do-over of the election is performed, the fact that peaceful assembly was denied and communications have been disrupted, among many other things, makes this a moot point.

  • Re:It happens (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:02PM (#28355635) Journal
    Why do you say it is unlikely? Are you guessing, or hoping, or do you have an objective reason to believe this? In this independent poll (warning: PDF) [terrorfreetomorrow.org] conducted by the Washington Post, only 16% of Azeri Iranians favored Moussavi (Moussavi is Iranian). Upon closer inspection, there are reasons to believe the election results are reasonably accurate.
  • Modammad Asgari knew (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fsiefken (912606) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:05PM (#28355661)
    tweet: unconfirmed: Mohammad Asgari,a system administrator in the interior ministry (in charge of securing election LAN) was killed #iranelection
  • Proxy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scarolan (644274) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:07PM (#28355687) Homepage

    I did go ahead and set up a squid proxy - how do I get the IP address to Iranians who need it without the government seeing it? I've asked this question on twitter several times over the last day, and my messages seem to just get drowned out by all the other information flooding in. Is there a trusted source who can pass the server address on to Iranian users who need it?

  • by Liquidrage (640463) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:10PM (#28355715)
    "We really hope the Iranian constitutional democratic process works this out. As a fellow-democracy we understand that elections can be contentious, but we also understand that the Iranian people and the Iranian people alone need to decide the outcome here, without interference by any other sovereign power."

    Why would the US pretend that Iran is a democracy? The US has, and accurately so, been on the record as noting that the President has no real authority in Iran and is a hand picked figured head. Iran is anything but a democracy.

    I remember before the US election the US military saying it would put down any attempt at "change". Oh, wait, no that was Iran and that was last week. The only reason the clerics even allow anything resembling freedom in Iran is because they have to to empower the scientific community in hopes of gaining military and economic power. Hey, look, it's not like power is bad. It's just all these good intentions in posts like yours disappear when asked the question of whether you would be OK if the US and Iran switch places in regards to military power? I'm sure the world would be just swell in that case. I know I'd love to be forced to turn to Mecca a few times a day.
    For all the hate the US gets I still can't recall a single nation having as much power (and let's be fair, compare nations to peers of the time) and wielding it so fairly. Sure, you can bitch about the current Iraq war, and some support and aid for some overthrows you might now agree with. Boo hoo! It's all-n-all pretty damn good. And still trying to get better.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:13PM (#28355755) Homepage

    "Precedent" really has very little to do with it. Quebec isn't Iran. So something happening there for understandable reasons isn't validation of something odd happening elsewhere.

    Explain how Ahmadinejad won areas that have never voted for anyone but their local ethnic candidate, with the same percentage of the votes as Ahmadinejad got everywhere else.

    "Doesn't necessarily mean" and "doesn't prove" is a cop-out. Nothing necessarily means anything and nothing definitively proves anything because our basic axioms of the universe could be wrong. We can't prove that there is a universe at all.

    This is nothing like Kerry in 04. We're not talking about some counties shifting a couple percentage points one way or the other in an election decided by fractions of a percent. We're talking about areas going from essentially zero support for the President to handing him a landslide victory. You can't just waive your hands and say it doesn't necessarily mean anything. That needs to be explained.

    We can't get a "smoking gun" because the only possible "smoking gun" proof would be held by the Iranian government, and I would think their reaction after the election indicates how willing they would be to hand said proof over.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:13PM (#28355757)

    Negative results are still results.

  • Re:What if they are? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Parthian (1535117) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:25PM (#28355869)
    It seems like we have a lot of happy westerns in the western world who have absolutely no idea what is going on and still act as if they are helping to make a "change" by setting up proxies, twitter accounts and such. You western people, please tell me, why you are supporting people, who are supporting Mousavi, who have murdered thousands of Iranians during his time as prime minister in Iran when Khamenie was president and the "supreme leader" was Khomeini?. Please tell me, why you support this thief who spent BILLIONS in election campaigns? Let's say the people riot, who is going to take control? Mousavi? Who was approved to candidate for presidency by Khamenie? They are all the same shit. People are being fooled. Regime change is the only solution, go away Islamic Republic. Please come democracy or/and constitutional monarchy.
  • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:33PM (#28355951) Homepage
    It would be a lot easier for protesters to organize if U.S. export law didn't prohibit exporting cryptography software to Iran.
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:47PM (#28356073) Journal

    Take out a chess board. Starting with the bottom left, and in any order you please, place a mustard seed in the first square. Then two in the next square. Then double that in the next square. Keep going until you get to a little less than half the board (25 squares I should think). Those are your voters. If each of the inhabitants of the next lower square sums the ones above them and passes the count down to the first seed, you can see that it shouldn't take very long at all to count any number of votes.

    Note: this scheme implies that all the seeds are capable of counting votes. But if you're not capable of counting votes, then maybe you shouldn't be allowed to vote.

  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:52PM (#28356109) Homepage Journal

    Why is this so hard to understand? So long as Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons, the US will be thinking about how to invade them. The Iranians are not thinking of invading the US and won't ever be. As such, the greatest threat to the life of Americans is when Iran does not have nuclear weapons.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:56PM (#28356145) Journal
    Yes, I agree, the protests on TV can look impressive.

    As for people being afraid to talk on the phone, you might be right, but the pollsters addressed that claim:

    Some might argue that the professed support for Ahmadinejad we found simply reflected fearful respondents' reluctance to provide honest answers to pollsters. Yet the integrity of our results is confirmed by the politically risky responses Iranians were willing to give to a host of questions. For instance, nearly four in five Iranians -- including most Ahmadinejad supporters -- said they wanted to change the political system to give them the right to elect Iran's supreme leader, who is not currently subject to popular vote. Similarly, Iranians chose free elections and a free press as their most important priorities for their government, virtually tied with improving the national economy. These were hardly "politically correct" responses to voice publicly in a largely authoritarian society.

    Also, they were only able to ask people who had telephones, which may have skewed the results.

    Regardless, it shows that the results shouldn't have been completely unexpected, for people who were paying attention.

  • by tksh (816129) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:57PM (#28356157)
    There's a serious omission in that op-ed that misrepresents that 2:1 ratio.

    Namely, that Ahmadinejad only had the vote of 34% of the those polled while Mousavi had 14%. So yes, technically that's 2:1 where the the sum total of both figures is less than 50%. Read the actual report [terrorfreetomorrow.org] linked to in the article, they highlight this rather important qualifying information by the big red text on page 3.

    And if you look at the actual tallies for that question on page 52, question 27, you will see it's 34% for Ahmadinejad, 14% for Mousavi, 27% (!) don't know and 15% (!!) who refused to answer. Both of those are non-trivial percentages that can swing either candidate for a landslide win. This undermines the implication that there is strong support for Ahmadinejad, by a ratio of 2:1 to his closest rival. Seriously, that's an incredulous omission to make, nevermind the fact that the poll itself was conducted a month ago. It is in these past two weeks that voter's opinion would better reflect their voting preferences, you know, after the actual presidential debates.

    Fivethirtyeight.com has a good write up [fivethirtyeight.com] of these points, explaining why the opinion expressed in the editorial is not supported by the report it cites. Juan Cole [juancole.com] has another good explanation as well.

    (The most interesting question on the survey for me BTW, was the question that asked about developing nuclear energy. A full 83% responded with 'strongly favour' while 11% said 'somewhat favour'. That's 94% combined.)
  • Re:What if they are? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eli Gottlieb (917758) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <beilttogile>> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @09:27PM (#28356397) Homepage Journal

    Actually, from what I've heard the rioters aren't just for Mousavi anymore. Their list of demands includes revising the Iranian constitution to grant religious freedom (not so much that they love their minorities as that they've discovered that Muslim theocracy oppresses Muslims too), dissolving all "organs of repression", and release of all political prisoners. All sounds like big, good changes to me.

  • by fractoid (1076465) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @09:30PM (#28356421) Homepage
    What's really stupid is when people assume that fudged election numbers are only off by a few percent, and that only a few key results are fudged. That's the way an idiot would do it, but anyone remotely intelligent (or remotely smart enough to hire someone who WAS intelligent) would tweak all the results. Especially in the case of electronic voting, where there's no physical record of the votes. Start with current polls, and just nudge the numbers to give small, statistically probable swings across the board.

    If the election was properly rigged, you wouldn't be able to tell via this kind of statistical analysis.
  • No problem of time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Capsaicin (412918) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:38PM (#28356983)

    Iran uses paper ballots. In the past elections it has taken at least three days for Iran to count the votes. In this case, if the results are to be believed it took a matter of hours. That's just not plausible.

    As someone who lives in a country which uses paper ballots, I find no lack of plausibility in the speed of the result. We usually know the result of the election within 4-6 hours of the booths closing. Although it takes longer to get final figures (especially if recounts are triggered) it would have to be an extremely close election to have to wait for the final figure to know who won (and indeed for the loser to conceed).

    Given no significant statistical problem has been identified, and given that independant telephone polling prior to the election indicated that A'jad enjoyed a 2:1 lead over his rival, the most parsimonious explanation might simply be that A'jad actaully does enjoy the overwhelming support of the Iranian population.

    Until such time that some plausible evidence of irregularities is presented, that should be the presumption we work on. The question of whether we personally want A'jad to have won or not, ought not to colour our intepretation of the results.

  • by V50 (248015) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:41PM (#28357015) Journal

    I actually pretty much agree with what you've said. My post was pretty much a jumbled collection of my thoughts. The basic idea that I was saying is that there's a lot of circumstantial evidence of tampering, but nothing I haven't seen in legit elections. I think there was some degree of tampering, either in outright fraud, or intimidation, but I hate jumping to conclusions, and (even with Iran) I prefer to take an "innocent until proven guilty" approach.

    I'm not speaking as an expert on Iran. I don't know a heck of a lot about Iran. I think there was probably some tampering, but I would leave the ultimate call on that for someone who has great experience with Iranian issues, and especially politics and political outcomes. Jumping to conclusions based on circumstantial evidence is usually not a good idea.

    Gods, I am terrible at getting my ideas out concisely. TLDR: I largely agree with you, but like caution.

  • by thedonger (1317951) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:04PM (#28357163)

    While I don't like your implication with the

    under-educated rural religiouly conservative masses

    comment, I agree in general with your premise. Another way to look at it is: after the 2008 US election, 40 million people could have taken to the streets in protest of the result. That's a shitload of people, and would look like something really underhanded happened in the election.

    Similarly, the expected outcome of the 2004 election was "President John Kerry," yet he lost decidedly amidst gasps of democrat horror.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:27PM (#28357303) Journal

    It's amazing how easily people are manipulated by the media. I'm going to paste some accurate analysis from Stratfor about the reality of politics in Iran, and why as Westerners we are getting a distorted picture (above and beyond the fact that the CIA would like to see the government of Iran overthrown).

    ----

    Stratfor

    WESTERN MISCONCEPTIONS MEET IRANIAN REALITY

    By George Friedman

    In 1979, when we were still young and starry-eyed, a revolution took place in Iran. When I asked experts what would happen, they divided into two camps.

    The first group of Iran experts argued that the Shah of Iran would certainly survive, that the unrest was simply a cyclical event readily manageable by his security, and that the Iranian people were united behind the Iranian monarch's modernization program. These experts developed this view by talking to the same Iranian officials and businessmen they had been talking to for years -- Iranians who had grown wealthy and powerful under the shah and who spoke English, since Iran experts frequently didn't speak Farsi all that well.

    The second group of Iran experts regarded the shah as a repressive brute, and saw the revolution as aimed at liberalizing the country. Their sources were the professionals and academics who supported the uprising -- Iranians who knew what former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini believed, but didn't think he had much popular support. They thought the revolution would result in an increase in human rights and liberty. The experts in this group spoke even less Farsi than the those in the first group.

    Misreading Sentiment in Iran

    Limited to information on Iran from English-speaking opponents of the regime, both groups of Iran experts got a very misleading vision of where the revolution was heading -- because the Iranian revolution was not brought about by the people who spoke English. It was made by merchants in city bazaars, by rural peasants, by the clergy -- people Americans didn't speak to because they couldn't. This demographic was unsure of the virtues of modernization and not at all clear on the virtues of liberalism. From the time they were born, its members knew the virtue of Islam, and that the Iranian state must be an Islamic state.

    Americans and Europeans have been misreading Iran for 30 years. Even after the shah fell, the myth has survived that a mass movement of people exists demanding liberalization -- a movement that if encouraged by the West eventually would form a majority and rule the country. We call this outlook "iPod liberalism," the idea that anyone who listens to rock 'n' roll on an iPod, writes blogs and knows what it means to Twitter must be an enthusiastic supporter of Western liberalism. Even more significantly, this outlook fails to recognize that iPod owners represent a small minority in Iran -- a country that is poor, pious and content on the whole with the revolution forged 30 years ago.

    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.

    Last Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected with about two-thirds of the vote. Supporters of his opponent, both inside and outside Iran, were stunned. A poll revealed that former Iranian Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi was beating Ahmadinejad. It is, of course, interesting to meditate on how you could conduct a poll in a country where phones are not universal, and making a call once you have found a phone can be a trial. A poll therefore would

  • Re:It happens (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:36PM (#28357373) Journal
    Did you even read it? They asked questions such as, "do you favor changing the government so that the supreme leader is elected?" or "do you favor freedom of the press?" Politically dangerous questions, and yet many people answered YES.
  • Same in France (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aepervius (535155) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @01:31AM (#28357973)
    We don't need that much time, we all hand count the ballot (actually vonlonteer are asked during the day from normal voters). By the time it closes, we have enough people to count it within 30m-1h. A few guy are there to explain us what is a blank vote/null vote, and that's it. Usually by the time I am home the result are there. And there are 60+ million people in France so probably 30/40 millions voters too... Same order of magnitude as Iran. There is nothing wrong with having results within a few hours of the closure of all polling place. Really the alughable is that some western place can need so much time (a half day!?) to gather ballot data, when hand counting can be so quick.
  • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @03:14AM (#28358517) Journal

    Ignoring the post you replied to, are you sure that the election was "stolen". On the whole, the West would really, really have liked Mousavi to have won. They would really, really have liked his defeat to be the result of fraud. But truthfully, Ahmadinejad is very popular with the common Iranian. He provided insurance for millions of women who work at home. He has carried out a lot of things that have benefited the common Iranian. And when Iranians see the US invading neighbouring countries, threatening their own country both verbally in diplomatic channels and through sending armed forces scouting through their waters, someone who is perceived as standing up to the US is, rightly or wrongly, well thought of for that.

    Mousavi is popular mainly with better off Iranians who believe they stand to benefit more from taking a more pacifying approach to the US (some would say submissive). It was, it now seems, wishful thinking that he would win and it seems that many commentators are now levelling the accusation of fraud because that suits the purposes of much of the West. But we see that the supporters of Mousavi taking to the streets aren't receiving popular support (and more blatantly, this is taking place only in the capital - the rest of the country seems content with the result which is also supports the election results) and in fact these supporters in many cases have initiated the violence. (The Independent paper in the UK gave a full page interview to one of Mousavi's supporters who, when you managed to overlook the bias, was praising her fellows for managing to have set a bus on fire and pretty much said that it didn't matter whether Ahmadinejad got more votes because he shouldn't be President and Mousavi should).

    The behaviour of the Iranian police has been brutal (predictably) and Ahmadinejad remains horrible on certain human rights issues. But as far as I can see, it looks like he won (and earlier Western reports grudgingly admitted this before they realised they could get away with overt suggestions of fraud). And so it is essentially Mousavi's supporters who are a smaller faction trying to undermine democracy with violence. If they get anywhere (and whatever you think of the GP, covert Western support or promises of support for his followers is extremely plausible), then it would just push Iran back to a more totalitarian state because they certainly wont win whatever the West would like to pretend. They don't have the support of the common people and, quite frankly, they appear to have lost the election.

    Mousavi - good or bad (and he's no angel, just more amenable to Western interests), you can't just allow democracy when it elects the people you want elected.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @04:49AM (#28358983)
    Just to clarify, by surface area, Iran is a largely [wikipedia.org] desert [wikipedia.org] country [wikipedia.org].

    While it certainly does have some beautiful forest and ski country, it does in fact have two deserts: the Kavir and Lut. These, like any desert, are desolate and basically uninhabited. It's just as fallacious to imply that it's a lush Mediterranean country [wikipedia.org] as it is to imply that it's a country of sand [wikipedia.org].

    You're certainly correct that Iran basically lacks speakers of Arabic (~1%) or people of Arab ethnicity (~3%). Arab can also be a cultural moniker, however. Consider the Arab wiki article - the infobox contains notable peoples; the first being a Roman emperor, Philip the Arab. Go to his article, and right under the infobox there's a photo of a carved relief denoting him. Where's the relief? Iran [wikipedia.org]. Similarly, as was typical for the Middle East in general, Arabic was the language of the educated, just as Latin was for the West. Iranians are, in fact, historically noted for their contributions to Arabic poetry.

    I've seen it explained that after Islam spread to Persia (Iran), Persia's golden age helped transform the rest of the Islam world - in effect, the Arab world. Iran was never Arab, it was always distinctly Persian/Turkish, but don't oversimplify it to the point it's just wrong in the opposite way.
  • Re:What if they are? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Parthian (1535117) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:30AM (#28359429)
    Apparently you have not followed the Iranian presidential debates as I have where Ahmadinejad exposed what a thief Mousavi is. Mousavi was the prime minister and ignored the executions and sometimes went as far as ordering executions. He did not resign or anything, he approved it too officially.
  • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @08:16AM (#28360035) Journal

    There's no excuse for opening fire on protestors whether they are backed by foreign powers or not. But in answer to your question of whether I believe the West is behind the protests, the answer is a detailed 'no.' That wasn't the thrust of what I was saying. I was just illustrating how extremely the West would like to see Mousavi in power, motivations for casting doubt on the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad's rule and reasons why he is popular.

    With regard to Western involvement in the protests, I was simply cautioning the GP not to dismiss such as conspiracy theories rather than saying there was such involvement this time. There are a number of proven examples of Western interference in Iran's political processes (let alone other Middle Eastern countries). The most notable of which is US and UK's very active involvement in a coup there in 1953 that deposed the democratically elected ruler in favour of a brutal dictator who would support their strategic and oil interests. A dictatorship that lasted 26 years incidentally with US support.

    In this instance I have seen no evidence of outside involvement in organising the protests. However, it's extremely naive to think that Mousavi and his allies haven't had ongoing contact with Western powers. He is a former Prime Minister of Iran - of course he has contacts and diplomatic ties abroad and will have discussed intentions should he have won the election. Iran's relationship to the USA is one of the platforms on which he campaigned. So active involvement in this instance - not that I'm aware of. My worry is that seeing the sudden media war on the legitimacy of the election (and the Western media did as they were told back in 1953, too), is that the ground may be being prepared for active involvement now and that is what we're seeing.

    So again, I never said that the West was behind the protests. As far as I can tell. the West's role so far is merely that of wealthy bridegroom that Mousavi and his followers hope to court. But it is wrong to dismiss claims of outside involvement just because it couldn't happen. And it is wrong at this point to, as the GP did, state baldly that the election was stolen because there is little reason to suppose that, the people saying so have a strong reason to want it to be so and there is good reason based on Ahmadinejad's popularity to think the results are legitimate.

    I hope that clears up what I was saying and that we now see eye to eye again.

    Regards,
    H.
  • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @08:23AM (#28360099) Journal

    Congrats.. you are my first foe, because to are a blathering idiot.. This whole situation has nothing to do with non-Iranian politics.. it is a 3 way fight between the conservative clerics (Khamenei), the conservative seculars (Ahmadinejad), and the young secular movement who wants actual democracy and who views Mousavi as the figurehead to that end. Nobody has a clue how it's going to turn out or who has the stronger stomach, but this is an extremely serious situation... and neither the US nor Europe has any sway at the moment

    Why do you want to make me your foe? The situation does have a lot to do with non-Iranian politics. One of the things that Mousavi campaigned on was closer ties with the USA and engagement with Barak Obama. This was explicitly stated as his position as part of his campaigning. A different relationship with the West is one of the things he has been selling himself to the wealthier Iranians on because a lot of them identify with the Western lifestyle and wealth. And it's very naive to think that Mousavi hasn't had some discussions with US representatives in case he won. Non-Iranian politics is a very important factor in all of this.

    I hope you'll reconsider whether you want to avoid dialogue with me in the future (presuming that foes are modded down in your filters as is default).

    Regards,
    H.

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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