Was it Daniel Pipes’ endorsement of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that put the Holocaust-denying hard-liner over the top in Iran’s recent presidential "election"? Or was it the massive — and fairly obvious — fraud committed by the Ahmadinejad camp?
Joking aside, at least for the moment, one has to wonder: what else did anybody expect? Iranian elections have hardly been models of democratic governance in the past. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, prefigured the probable upshot of all this when he announced that a victory for leading opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi would amount to a repudiation of him personally — and the crackdown we are witnessing could only have come about as a direct result of Khamenei’s order.
The U.S. government — or, at least, one branch of it — didn’t help matters much. Their fast-tracking of draconian new sanctions on Iran right before Iranians went to the polls could only have helped Ahmadinejad. How’s that for timing?
In any case, the Mousavi challenge was a frontal assault on the legitimacy of the current regime, and they have responded just as tyrannical elites have always responded, with deadly force and brazen fraud.
Ahmadinejad has led his country into an economic dead end, with record unemployment, gas shortages, and a high inflation rate. That, combined with U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarkable outreach to the Iranians — a video message of friendship, an offer to negotiate with Iranian leaders without preconditions, and an unprecedented acknowledgment of the U.S. government’s role in overthrowing Mohammed Mossadegh’s democratically elected government in 1953 — would have sounded the death knell of the current gang if the election had been allowed to proceed unobstructed. As it was, the hard-liners sealed off Iran from the rest of the world as Mousavi’s overwhelming victory became apparent, placed the candidate under house arrest (or so it seems from numerous unconfirmed news reports), shut down the Internet, and unleashed their "Revolutionary Guards" on student-led protest demonstrations.
The swiftness of the hard-liner response, however, can be deceiving. Apparently, there was confusion in the Ahmadinejad camp as Mousavi’s victory loomed large. We are getting reports that the authorities informed Mousavi of his impending election victory before the polls had even closed, and he was advised to "moderate" his victory speech for fear of provoking a violent response from Ahmadinejad’s supporters, many of whom are members of the "revolutionary" militias. The reformist newspapers, too, were told they were not allowed to use the word "victory" in reference to Mousavi when reporting election results — but at least they were allowed to report it. Or so they thought.
Shortly afterward, however, these same newspapers were taken over by armed assailants, Mousavi’s election headquarters were surrounded by military forces under the hard-liners’ command, and the regime’s thugs were called out into the streets — where they met Mousavi’s mostly youthful supporters in bloody clashes throughout the country.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.