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What are we learning from Iran’s election?

Think you know something about Iran? Think again, says Fareed Zakaria in the latest issue of Newsweek: In an interview last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as "a messianic, apocalyptic cult." In fact, Iran has tended to behave in a shrewd, calculating manner, advancing its interests when possible, retreating when ...

Think you know something about Iran? Think again, says Fareed Zakaria in the latest issue of Newsweek:

In an interview last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as "a messianic, apocalyptic cult." In fact, Iran has tended to behave in a shrewd, calculating manner, advancing its interests when possible, retreating when necessary … The regime jails opponents, closes down magazines and tolerates few challenges to its authority. But neither is it a monolithic dictatorship.

Zakaria’s observations were upheld yesterday as supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad publicly (and peacefully) confronted those of his rival, moderate Mir Hossein Musavi. Musavi is challenging Ahmedinejad in the current round of presidential elections in Iran.

It’s a little premature to make sweeping generalizations, but the fact that this demonstration of political freedom occurred at all suggests the United States deeply misunderstands its rival. Just as it’s becoming clear now that Ahmedinejad doesn’t represent "a monolithic dictatorship," it should be equally evident that vilifying Iran as an undemocratic, irrational power is neither accurate nor helpful.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

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