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Jewish World Review Feb. 24, 2004 / 2 Adar, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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The Great Iranian Election Fiasco: What actually happened; what we must do | Even for a regime that excels in deception, the announcement by the Iranian government that nearly half the eligible voters cast their ballots in Friday's election is an extraordinary bit of effrontery. And even those Western "news" outlets that decided to pronounce the turnout "low" (the BBC, of course, echoed the party line by talking about a large turnout), did so by comparing the official numbers with those of the last parliamentary election, when more than 60 percent voted for the toothless "reformers."

The real numbers are a tiny fragment of the official ones. The overall turnout came in at about twelve percent, with Tehran a bit lower, and places like Isfahan and Qom (of all places, the headquarters of the Shiite religious elite) closer to five percent. The only major city with a substantially higher turnout was Kerman, due to a local factor: A widely hated hardliner was running, and many people judged it more important to demonstrate their contempt for him personally by voting for others than to show their rejection of the regime en bloc by abstaining.

It shouldn't have been hard to get this story right, at least in its broad outlines. A leading member of the old parliament, Mehdi Karoubi, was asked why he did badly, and he replied, publicly: "because the people boycotted the election."

Keep in mind that the reporters knew full well that all but a handful of polling sites in Tehran — the only place they were able to observe, thanks to the usual clampdown on information — were virtually dead. They knew, or should have known, that the regime had trotted out more than 10,000 "mobile voting booths," that is to say, trucks driving around inviting people to vote. They surely heard the stories — widely repeated on Iranian web sites — of thousands of phony ballots, and of citizens being forced to turn over their identity cards, thus making it possible for others to pose as legitimate voters. They must also have heard that high-school students were warned that if they did not vote they would never get into the universities.

But they did not report any of this. The Washington Post's Karl Vick wrote an upbeat report, as if the hardliners had won a normal election, and CNN's legendary Ms. Amanpour stressed that Iran was changing for the better since the dress code for women had loosened a bit in the past few years. Neither seemed to know that there were violent protests throughout the country, that several people had been killed and scores wounded by the regime's thugs, and that highways were blocked because the regime was afraid the protests would spread. There was enough electoral fraud to fill any Western news report, had the correspondents wished to do so. As the website reported, "In Firoozabad, Fars, people clashed with the Law Enforcement Forces when a cleric by the name of Yunesi-Sarcheshmeyi was declared the winner. In Miando-ab, West Azerbijan, some of the cheaters have publicly confessed how they were taught by a cleric to remove the voting stamp from their ID cards and vote again. In Malekan in East Azerbijan, people were told that 45,000 are eligible to vote, yet the number of declared votes for candidates totaled 50,000! Everyone including children and old people have poured into the streets of Malekan and there is non-stop running battles with the Law Enforcement Forces." The Student Movement Coordinating Committee for Democracy in Iran recorded violent clashes in Izeh, a southern city where a local politician was murdered by security forces when he protested his exclusion from the electoral list. Other protests were reported from Khorram-Abad, Firoozabad, and Dehdasht in the south, in Isfahan, and near the Afghan border in Mashad, Sabze-war, Nelshaboor, and Tchenaran.

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Instead of this important information, we get the usual election-day analysis, as if a real election had been conducted, and one could understand something important about Iranian public opinion from the official numbers.

Oddly, the wild distortion of the real results does show something that the mullahs do not want us to know. They fear the Iranian people, knowing how deeply the people hate them, and they believe they must continue to tell a big lie about popular support for the regime. But the people know better. Thus, the demonstrations.

The regime clearly intends to clamp down even harder in the immediate future. Hints of this were seen in the run-up to the election, when Internet sites and foreign broadcasts were jammed, the few remaining opposition newspapers shut down, and thousands of security forces poured into the major cities. One wonders whether any Western government is prepared to speak the truth about Iran, or whether they are so determined to arrive at make-believe deals — for terrorists that are never delivered, for promises to stop the nuclear program, that are broken within minutes of their announcement, or for help fighting terrorism while the regime does everything in its power to support the terrorists — that they will play along and pretend, as Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has put it, that "Iran is a democracy."

For those interested in exposing hypocrisy, it is hard to find a better example than all those noble souls who denounced Operation Iraqi Freedom as a callous operation to gain control over Iraqi oil, but who remain silent as country after country, from Europe to Japan, appeases the Iranian tyrants precisely in order to win oil concessions.

Meanwhile, the only Western leader who consistently speaks the truth about Iran is President George W. Bush, and the phony intellectuals of the West continue to call him a fool and a fascist. Meanwhile, his most likely Democrat opponent, Senator John Kerry, sends an e-mail to Tehran Times, Iran's official English-language newspaper, promising that relations between the United States and Iran would improve enormously if Kerry were to be elected next November.

Finally, perhaps our enterprising journalists could ask the administration how it can be, three years after inauguration, that we still have no Iran policy. Yes, Virginia, there is still no National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) on Iran, even though Iran is the world's leading sponsor of terrorism, and we claim to be in a war against the terror masters.

Faster, please.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.


02/20/04: Stalinist Mullahs: The Iranian regime is in open battle with its own people
02/11/04: The Jihadis' Primal Scream: Zarkawi's "Yaarrrhhh!"
02/04/04: Inelegant Lies: Making sense out of mullahs
02/03/04: Potemkin WMDs? Really?
01/27/04: The Jihad on Iraq: Bad analysis and bad policy
01/20/04: Our Moment of Vainglory: A p.c. mess
01/06/04: Aftershocks: The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran
12/02/03: Managing Iraq: We can't continue this way
11/26/03: Back to the Angleton Files
11/25/03: The Turks, Italians & us — never again
11/06/03: Regional Struggle: Fighting narrow vision in Iraq
11/04/03: Unpunished Failure: What are we waiting for?
10/21/03: Curses: Diamonds and Naples
10/15/03: Into the Quagmire: Important days ahead for Iran
09/18/03: The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
09/12/03: You can't make peace until the war is won
09/11/03: Ron Paul, dishonorable congressman
09/03/03: The Latest Horrors: Still organized
08/29/03: The Peace Trap: Back to the war, please
08/27/03: Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time
08/25/03: Iraq's terrorists have friends in high places
07/10/03: The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
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01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
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05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen