Politics & Policy

When Is An Election Not An Election?

Iranian farce.

It’s symptomatic of the failure of strategic vision from which our chatterers and leaders currently suffer, that so many words and so much energy are being wasted on the immense charade that goes under the name of Iranian “elections.” Any normal person familiar with the Islamic republic knows that these are not elections at all, and for extras have nothing to do with the future of the Iranian nation. They are a mise en scene, an entertainment, a comic opera staged for our benefit. The purpose of the charade, pure and simple, is to deter us from supporting the forces of democratic revolution in Iran.

Ask yourself two simple questions. Does the president of Iran hold any real power? Has any “candidate” (of which there are eight) been chosen by anyone other than the supreme leader and his cronies?

No, and no. Whoever is “elected” (and you can be sure that the outcome is already known, millions of “officially cast” ballots having been manufactured weeks ago, to ensure the right guy wins and that enough votes will have been cast) will be an instrument of the mullahcracy. The sole “issue” in the farce is how best to convince George W. Bush that it would be wrong for the United States to press on with support for the forces of freedom in Iran, because that would “force” the mullahs to crack down (which they are doing already). The slogan for the post-electoral period will be “give reform a chance.” And you can be sure that the useful idiots among us, from the Amanpour woman at CNN to the Haass man at the Council on Foreign Relations, have already prepared their sermons and their slogans, ranging from “hopes for a new relationship” to “a rare opportunity for an historic dialogue,” and other such slogans.

We have heard these slogans before, applied to other tyrannies shortly before they attacked democratic societies. When Stalin ruled the Soviet empire, great attention was paid to elections to the Politburo, as if the Molotovs and the Berias were independent actors, capable of moderating or liberalizing or reforming the Soviet Union. When the Fuhrer ruled the Third Reich, even British diplomats confidently announced that Hitler had “no further territorial ambitions,” and was, after all, surrounded by reasonable industrialist types like Goehring. And who can forget–actually, who can remember–the surge of empathy when it was announced that comrade Andropov–until yesterday the boss of the KGB and now the new Soviet dictator–liked jazz?

Sensible folks have learned that it isn’t about personality, it’s about freedom and tyranny. All the totalitarian regimes of the last century staged elections, and they were all meaningless, because the structure of the state concentrated power in the two hands of the dictator, and exercised through the single party.

The president has had this right for a long time, and I’m delighted to report that, three days ago, the State Department spokesman delivered an eloquent condemnation of the fraudulent exercise about to take place in Tehran. And I am also pleased that Human Rights Watch has started to pay attention to the grave condition of dissident journalist Akbar Ganji. Perhaps the editorialists at the New York Times and the Washington Post could tear themselves away from the imagined horrors of Guantanamo and denounce the systematic oppression of nearly 70 million Iranians.

It is unlikely this will happen, both because any journalist in Iran who reports fully on the nature of the regime risks expulsion or–as in the celebrated case of the female Canadian journalist who got too close to the truth–death. And because anything that makes the Iranian regime “look bad” automatically makes W “look good,” and most journalists don’t want that.

Who’s going to win, you ask? I don’t know. For months I have assumed that Rafsanjani would walk away with it. But when Supreme Leader Khamenei ostentatiously overruled his henchmen, permitting a nasty pseudo reformer by the name of Moein to run, I have wondered if Khamenei knew something I didn’t. Rafsanjani’s sins–from gross corruption to mass murder–are fairly well known, and there are probably limits beyond which even a British foreign secretary or a French foreign minister will not go to make nice to the mullahs. President Rafsanjani would test those limits. Moein, on the other hand, isn’t so well known, he’s got that lean and hungry look instead of Rafsanjani’s portliness, and he might be more convincing as he plays that most difficult role: the moderate face of islamofascism.

I haven’t checked the morning line recently, and I certainly wouldn’t bet the family oil well on it, but a small bet on Moein might be a good hedge. On the nose, of course (have you seen the pictures?).

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.

Michael LedeenMichael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...


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