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No Schadenfreude Over Ahmadinejad's Re-election But No Self-deception Either

I wish I could harbor even a smidgen of the confidence the vice president has that Dr. Ahmadinejad's sweep was really a fraud. In the Times on-line, Roger Cohen also harbors the belief that the balloting results were a fraud. And he came away with what for him must have been a desolating wish:

Majir Mirpour grabbed me.  A purple bruise disfigured his arm.  He raised his shirt to show a red wound across his back.       
'They beat me like a pig,' he said, breathless. They beat me as I tried to help a woman in tears.  I don't care about the physical pain.  It's the pain in my heart that hurts.
He looked at me and the rage in his eyes made me want to toss away my notebook.

Well, yes, Roger, you and your little notebook have been misleading people on Iran for a long time. You can actually stop doing that without throwing away your notebook. The journalism profession does need one more unemployed.

My impression is that the incumbent's margin of victory was too big to have been fraudulent and the loser's numbers also too big. Tyrannies don't play around with the numbers like this. A dictator usually wants 99% of the voters to have been for him. But in Iran we were seeing the remnants of a true civil society, the last expressions of which were during the time of the Shah. It would be a blessing if this were to be the beginnings of a renaissance.

Maybe the regime fiddled around a bit with the numbers at the polls and after the polling. Still, the outcome had a sense of authenticity.  A vast majority in the country is poor, and there is where the backing for Ahmadinejad and his ayatollah patrons is deepest. Mir Hussein Moussavi's support was most solid, among the economic and intellectual elites in northern Tehran and in other big cities and among students of which there are millions, many of them discontented and pro-western, at least in style-of-life and aspirations to openness to the world. Moussavi, however, is an old hack who drew closer to his backers once they seemed to have become a critical mass. And it was there, in these precincts, that the delusion of a coming victory was born.

It is a critical mass that terrifies regimes like the one in power. That is why the real brutality came after the elections and after the protests. And the brutality will continue. Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi report in the Times that more than 100 opposition members of parliament have been detained today, Sunday. Yes, there are many brave Persians in the country.  But they should not be demonstrating against A'jad. This election was structurally already half a fraud.  They should be demonstrating against the Supreme Leader, Ali Khameinei, who really sets the laws in the country. (You might want to read his hilarious disquisition on masturbation, doubtless only in the male expression.)

None of this deflected the Omaba administration, through the voice of Joe Biden, from reassuring whoever is reassured by such sentiments that American engagement with the criminal and war-making class in power will continue. But why in fact did the vice president rush on the very morrow of the election to hearten those he thought stole the process? Was he actually trying to demoralize the opposition? Maybe it is true that Biden talks before he thinks.

The fact is that, if Sa'ad Hariri's partial victory in Lebanon was also a partial victory for Barack Obama's tenets at Cairo, the triumph of the mullahs in Persia is an utter rejection of the president's words, his tone and his very message to the Muslim world. I suppose that's too bad. But it does clarify something, doesn't it? And please don't tell me that there was no relationship between the balloting and the speech. Had Moussavi won the tally the press would have credited the Cairo inspirational with the results.

Pace the vice president's eagerness to assuage Tehran, there will presumably still be an internal struggle in the administration over U.S. positions vis-a-vis Iran. One of the tout va bien crowd, Reza Aslan (a friend of my son's and someone I like), has just been appointed to Dennis Ross' Iran staff. Do not be put off by the fact that he is assistant professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside and has held the Truman Capote Fellowship in Fiction. His latest gig is as a writer for the Puffington Host. Still, Aslan may yet be able to recognize a fact. Now is a good time to see.