Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Iran and the blogs

I emerged from remotest Appalachia to read up on Iran. I learned far more from the blogs (especially Andrew Sullivan, Nightwatch, Juan Cole, and of course foreignpolicy.com) than I did from the newspapers. This isn’t because the bloggers are smarter (though they are no chimps) but because they can aggregate material. They also can engage ...

584784_090617_iranprotests2.jpg
584784_090617_iranprotests2.jpg

I emerged from remotest Appalachia to read up on Iran. I learned far more from the blogs (especially Andrew Sullivan, Nightwatch, Juan Cole, and of course foreignpolicy.com) than I did from the newspapers. This isn't because the bloggers are smarter (though they are no chimps) but because they can aggregate material. They also can engage in full-blown speculation without pretending they aren't.

Nightwatch thinks that if the regime cracks down, it loses its mantle of righteousness. Here is his informed commentary:

I emerged from remotest Appalachia to read up on Iran. I learned far more from the blogs (especially Andrew Sullivan, Nightwatch, Juan Cole, and of course foreignpolicy.com) than I did from the newspapers. This isn’t because the bloggers are smarter (though they are no chimps) but because they can aggregate material. They also can engage in full-blown speculation without pretending they aren’t.

Nightwatch thinks that if the regime cracks down, it loses its mantle of righteousness. Here is his informed commentary:

A massive crackdown signifies the Iranian revolution is no more righteous than the Egyptian “revolution” or the Saudi Kingdom. The crowds are not yet calling for systemic change = revolution, but for an honest vote with the existing political architecture. If the existing political structure proves sclerotic and inflexible, the next step is to replace the people at the top. The step after that is to replace the architecture itself, meaning a revolution.

Iran, then, could be on an escalating staircase, but it is too soon to make that determination. The size of the youth vote has always been a political powder keg in a country that has too few opportunities, too few jobs for so many young people and which is led by a clerisy that is out of step with modern personal technology. 

The situation is not revolutionary yet, but something is seriously flawed when the favorite son of East Azerbaijan fails to carry his own constituency: Mousavi, according to al Jazeerah. The least credible electoral outcome and most persuasive evidence of massive voter fraud is that the Azeris of Tabriz voted for Ahmadi-Nejad by four to one, instead of for Mousavi, who hails from Tabriz. Everyone knows the Azeris are ultra-clannish and always vote for an Azeri. Mousavi is one of their own.

(Read on)

Juan Cole makes the point that the hardline constituency supporting Ahmadi-Nejad never represented more than 20% of the electorate. It is inconceivable that that his appeal could swell to 63% in four years. Moreover, all analysts assessed that a large turnout would favor Mousavi, carried on the votes of women and the youth. The result supposedly is counter-intuitive.

Cole argues persuasively that the divide between the urban elite and the rural farmers is not as important as the voting pattern of the youth and the women. Cole implies that Ahmadi-Nejad and his friends in the Revolutionary Corps subverted and negated this vote in ways not yet determined, but clearly massively.

If Cole’s Holmesian inferences prove true, this election will be the greatest scandal since the fall of the Shah. Every informed observer knows something is wrong with the results. The landslide outcome is statistically impossible based on voting patterns of the past two decades. Ahmadi-Nejad is in trouble, but it might take a few weeks to sort it out.”

faramarz/Flickr

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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