As I write–midday on Friday the 24th–Iranians are voting, and, as a week ago, anecdotal reports suggest a low turnout. There are also reports, from people in Tehran I have often found reliable, that a limited street war has broken out between armed guards from the Interior Ministry and people from the armed forces (probably Revolutionary Guards and the Quds forces, loyal to Ahmadinejad) and the Basij (the fanatical religious security units best known for beating, clubbing, and otherwise assaulting students, women, and anyone they don’t like at that moment). The interior-ministry guards are said to be blocking the others from voting, claiming they are preventing vote fraud.
This is kind of like the madam restricting entry to the bordello, claiming she is protecting the virtue of her employees. But there you have it.
The leading Farsi-language website, Gooya, reported widespread voter fraud shortly after the polls closed, and it is hard to doubt that. According to an Iranian blogger in Italy intriguingly named Lilit,
The site Peiknet received on June 18 an anonymous letter from a 27-year-old Basiji who declared that he voted 11 times, with 8 fake Identity cards, because the supreme Leader wanted him to do so. It is an order of war, it changes the field of battle, the leader says. It is called Operation Nasr, he said in the letter, “islam is in danger and it is necessary to save it by any means” ! Let us forget it, I can do nothing …
(Thanks to the indispensable Gary Metz at www.regimechangeiran.com
As usual, it is very difficult to comprehend what is happening from the leading media, and the regime is filtering Internet servers and warning citizens not to send text messages with political content to one another, so even the bloggers are restricted. Most of the Iranians I have spoken with during the last week–many of whom, remember, expected Moein to be in the runoff, and Moein has vanished from the political horizon–think Ahmadinejad will win, but the report about the Interior Ministry guards suggests that there is at least some resistance to that outcome, since they are blocking Ahmadinejad’s supporters. And it isn’t because they think, as Reuters amazingly claimed, that Ahmadinejad is the “secular candidate.” Indeed, he’s the ultimate Islamofascist.
I don’t know who will win, and it may well be that nobody knows. Iran today reminds me very much of the death struggle between Hitler and the SA, the brown-shirted thugs who led the Nazi “revolution.” At a certain point Hitler knew they were a potential threat to his rule, and they were violently purged. Supreme Leader Khamenei, the Islamic Republic’s Fuhrer, faces two possible outcomes: If Rafsanjani wins, he will have a certain amount of independence because of his vast wealth (accumulated in tandem with Khamenei) and his corrupt network of cronies and clients. If Ahmadinejad wins, he will have a certain amount of independence because of the support of the most fanatical killers in Iran, those from the Basij, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Quds Force, from which Ahmadinejad emerged. Khamenei may well judge that Ahmadinijad is the greater threat, and he may have ordered that Rafsanjani be declared the winner.
Please keep two basic facts in mind as this melodrama unfolds: Neither Rafsanjani nor Ahmadinejad has any intention of altering the basic structure of the Islamic Republic, nor of “liberalizing” Iranian society (the Reich was not notably more “moderate” after Hitler crushed the SA, was it?). Both are known murderers; one way of evaluating the outcome of today’s events is that the next Iranian president will be wanted for murder either in two countries (Ahmadinejad–Austria and Germany) or in just one (Rafsanjani–Germany). This is not a fight over the future of the country; it’s a power struggle within the tyrannical elite.
From our national standpoint, the outcome doesn’t matter, because Iran will continue to be the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism (did you notice, by the way, that MSNBC’s website laconically reported that the “management” of al Qaeda went to Iran after the liberation of Afghanistan?), and will continue to give its full support to the terror war in Iraq. Our leaders will still be forced, one fine day, to confront the mullahs or retreat from Iraq; there is no escape from this grim choice.
Unless, of course, the Almighty, with his infinite sense of humor, has decided the time has come for the mullahs to blow themselves up instead of blowing up their neighbors. There is some chance that the power struggle might run out of control, and that the storm troopers on both ’sides’ might start killing one another. The spat among the supreme and lesser leaders could get really ugly, and under those circumstances the Iranian people might decide that their moment had come–and, seeing the disorder among their oppressors, take to the streets themselves in numbers sufficient to dominate the situation.
Whatever happens, I will not be in Washington to watch it, nor will I be in contact with Iranians who are involved in it. I will be on safari for a couple of weeks, rewarding our youngest child for his outstanding accomplishments and graduation from high school, and being with him on a great adventure before he leaves us for college later this summer.
Godspeed, to us and the Iranians. Our destinies are intertwined, you know.
–Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.