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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Robert Baer on the Iranian elections

For too many years now, the Western media have looked at Iran through the narrow prism of Iran's liberal middle class — an intelligentsia that is addicted to the Internet and American music and is more ready to talk to the Western press, including people with money to buy tickets to Paris or Los Angeles. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a terrific book, but does it represent the real Iran?

Most of the demonstrations and rioting I've seen in the news are taking place in north Tehran, around Tehran University and in public places like Azadi Square. These are, for the most part, areas where the educated and well-off live — Iran's liberal middle class. These are also the same neighborhoods that little doubt voted for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rival, who now claims that the election was stolen. But I have yet to see any pictures from south Tehran, where the poor live. Or from other Iranian slums

Before we settle on the narrative that there has been a hard-line takeover in Iran, an illegitimate coup d'état, we need to seriously consider the possibility that there has been a popular hard-line takeover, an electoral mandate for Ahmadinejad and his policies. One of the only reliable, Western polls conducted in the run-up to the vote gave the election to Ahmadinejad — by higher percentages than the 63% he actually received. The poll even predicted that Mousavi would lose in his hometown of Tabriz, a result that many skeptics have viewed as clear evidence of fraud. The poll was taken all across Iran, not just the well-heeled parts of Tehran.

You can read the whole of Robert Baer's brilliant article on the Iranian elections, and their aftermath, here.


"Kingfish" Slaney Black said...

One of the only reliable, Western polls conducted in the run-up to the vote gave the election to Ahmadinejad — by higher percentages than the 63% he actually received.

To be fair, Don't Know/Refused/Other was at 52% in that poll...

jock mctrousers said...

Good piece by Baer. The BBC has been predictably nauseating on this, as have all the MSM, and most of the left including the Morning Star. Galloway and the SWP (both of whom I have huge reservations about) have been really pretty good.

There's an excellent piece in Counterpunch in much the same vein (but more detailed)by regular Paul Craig Roberts at

Here's the most important bit of Roberts' piece:

An independent, objective poll was conducted in Iran by American pollsters prior to the election. The pollsters, Ken Ballen of the nonprofit Center for Public Opinion and Patrick Doherty of the nonprofit New America Foundation, describe their poll results in the June 15 Washington Post. The polling was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and was conducted in Farsi “by a polling company whose work in the region for ABC News and the BBC has received an Emmy award.”*

The poll results, the only real information we have at this time, indicate that the election results reflect the will of the Iranian voters. Among the extremely interesting information revealed by the poll is the following:

“Many experts are claiming that the margin of victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the result of fraud or manipulation, but our nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin -- greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday's election.

“While Western news reports from Tehran in the days leading up to the voting portrayed an Iranian public enthusiastic about Ahmadinejad's principal opponent, Mir Hossein Moussavi, our scientific sampling from across all 30 of Iran's provinces showed Ahmadinejad well ahead.

David Lindsay said...

"Bussed in from the provinces" was how John Simpson dismissed those marching in support of Ahmadinejad, some of them carrying placards in English denouncing the interference of the BBC.

Just how much license-payers' money, taxpayers' money or both has been spent on this new "Persian Service" for no purpose except to nobble this election?

Simpson, like the rest of the Beeb, cannot imagine an election in which anyone favoured by provincial (or poor, or working-class) people stood a cat in hell's chance of winning, or was even on the ballot paper in the first place. Nor in which anyone had the effrontery to vote against the instructions of the BBC.

Al Gore didn't win Tennessee, either. Was THAT election rigged, too...?

Anonymous said...

It is indeed a reality that western media looks at iran through a narrow prism , but most don't dare to accept it , nobody denies that ahmadinejad is a hard liner but no doubt he had the nesseary public support.A good & unbiased analysis neil.

Charlie Marks said...

It's admitted that Ahmedinajad is popular amongst "the poor" and that he attacked Rafsanjani in the election campaign.

What isn't mentioned is that the poor, who have received financial assistance from the president, are probably a larger numerical grouping than the affluent residents of North Tehran - presumably this is reflected in terms of votes cast - and that Rafsanjani isn't only a political figure, he's a millionaire businessman.

It strikes me that Mousavi, a former prime minister, is more the establishment candidate than Ahmedinajad, who has always been something of an outsider.

Anonymous said...

A poll that gave a 52% (Dont Know/Refusal) rate is not the basis for calling the result of an election, particularly in a context where the bias for refusal would tend towards the opposition candidates.

Meanwhile, since when have revolutions been anything other than middle class manipulated phenomenum that have replaced one elite with another?

PJD aka phildav76 said...

It is very intersting to compare and contrast how the Iranian presidential election of 2009 is reported and commented on against the Mexican presidential election of 2006.

Anonymous said...

This seems rather relevent, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

FYI: from Mohammad of Vancouver:

This important piece by Mohammad of vancouver, and iranian canadian:

Note esp:

'This dividing of resources by Rafsanjani was done to diversify and overlap the campaigns at the same time, while Rafsanjani and his children would remain in the background by only providing funds and logistical support to the anti Ahmadinejad camps. But things started to go wrong when opinion polls from inside Moussavi’s own campaign began to show a hardening of support for Ahmadinejad. That is when the nature of his campaign changed. The color green was picked as a protest color, and the rumors of voter fraud began circulating in the Moussavi campaign so as to continue the fight beyond election day.
The culmination of this happened days before the vote. In a letter written to the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Rafsanjani threatened to start a social volcano if Moussavi was not declared the “obvious winner”. (The letter in Farsi) This suspicious move, together with Rafsanjani’s wife’s comments after casting her vote--encouraging people to pour into the streets if Moussavi was not declared the winner-- show that the plans for social disturbances and support from the outside world was the opposition’s plan B, even before the election results were announced. The public confrontation between Rafsanjani and his family from the one side and Khamenei from the other side exposed for the first time the major role played by Rafsanjani and his family in the election.
The night of the election and only two hours after closing of the polls, Moussavi, under pressure by his campaign manager, advanced his prescheduled post-election press conference, planned for Saturday morning, and declared himself the winner in front of CNN, BBC and other foreign press reporters in Iran. There is no explanation for this move. This preemptive assumption of victory was done to sow the seeds of doubts and discontent before any results were even published.
The timing of this early press conference points to the fact that Moussavi’s camps were aware of the existence of warm ears outside of Iran waiting for any kind of news of doubts in Ahmadinejad’s victory.
Otherwise, why wouldn’t Mousavi wait for the morning after to declare himself a winner?
In my opinion, the speedy announcement of results by the Interior Ministry, something that most people quote as the evidence of tampering with the votes, only took place to counterbalance Moussavi’s early declaration of victory. Had Moussavi waited, the results would have appeared more normal and acceptable. As I have already explained, the switch from plan A to plan B required the Moussavi camp to quickly dismiss Ahmadinejad’s victory and move on to challenge the results as soon as possible.