Sunday, June 14, 2009

Decontructing Juan Cole's "evidence"

The Iranian election is a fraud. Now we have "proof" and that "proof" of fraud is in the open, via Juan Cole. He has not one, but six elements of "proof" listed in his latest article. Let's take a closer look.

1. It is claimed that Ahmadinejad won the city of Tabriz with 57%. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is an Azeri from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital. Mousavi, according to such polls as exist in Iran and widespread anecdotal evidence, did better in cities and is popular in Azerbaijan. Certainly, his rallies there were very well attended. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections, Azeris voted disproportionately for even minor presidential candidates who hailed from that province.

What did the polls in Iran really say? Check out here. Basically, the results are all over the place due to the lack of means to poll in depth in such a diverse and large country. But Juan Cole knows better - his polls say that an Azeri must have won. Well, jee, Ali Khamenei is an Azeri and, according to the same Juan Cole, he intensely dislikes Mousavi... just kidding, of course. Mr Cole expects Azeris to vote Azeri, regardless of class or politics. He also seems to ignore that Ahmadinejad recently made an entire speech in Azeri in front of a huge crowd, but he "knows" that this made no difference. How does he know that? "Widespread anecdotal evidence", I kid you not.... So much for proof #1

2. Ahmadinejad is claimed to have taken Tehran by over 50%. Again, he is not popular in the cities, even, as he claims, in the poor neighborhoods, in part because his policies have produced high inflation and high unemployment. That he should have won Tehran is so unlikely as to raise real questions about these numbers. [Ahmadinejad is widely thought only to have won Tehran in 2005 because the pro-reform groups were discouraged and stayed home rather than voting.)

That is a neat one. The proof that Ahmadinejad cheated is that he could not have taken Tehran since he is not popular in Tehran. How do you know that he is not popular in Tehran? Kuz he had to cheat to get Tehran since he is not popular there. QED.

3. It is claimed that cleric Mehdi Karoubi, the other reformist candidate, received 320,000 votes, and that he did poorly in Iran's western provinces, even losing in Luristan. He is a Lur and is popular in the west, including in Kurdistan. Karoubi received 17 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections in 2005. While it is possible that his support has substantially declined since then, it is hard to believe that he would get less than one percent of the vote. Moreover, he should have at least done well in the west, which he did not.

Has cleric Mehdi Karoubi made any such claims? Maybe Mr Cole knows something Karoubi does not? After all, Karoubi lost in his own province, something which is clearly evidence of fraud, at least for Mr Cole.

4. Mohsen Rezaie, who polled very badly and seems not to have been at all popular, is alleged to have received 670,000 votes, twice as much as Karoubi.

Rezaee, clearly a "bad guy", is a former Pasdaran commander (which alone should give him something of a constituency). What about the polls? Again, check out for yourself and you will see the kind of "proof" Mr Cole is relying on ("making up" is, I think, the better expression). Next,

5. Ahmadinejad's numbers were fairly standard across Iran's provinces. In past elections there have been substantial ethnic and provincial variations.

That's some rock solid proof for you: past elections were different than today's. Why organize elections to begin with, unless one accepts that trends can change, no?

6. The Electoral Commission is supposed to wait three days before certifying the results of the election, at which point they are to inform Khamenei of the results, and he signs off on the process. The three-day delay is intended to allow charges of irregularities to be adjudicated. In this case, Khamenei immediately approved the alleged results.

That is, finally, in interesting one. What Mr Cole has "overlooked" is the chronology of what actually took place. It was Mousavi who did not wait at all and announced that he had won, and then the Electoral Commission - who had access to the provisional, partial, numbers - said that it appeared that Ahmadenajad had won. That, in turn, begs the question of how Mr Musavi could be so sure of his victory, does it not?

Mr Cole brings on one more argument, though not a "proof":

As the real numbers started coming into the Interior Ministry late on Friday, it became clear that Mousavi was winning. Mousavi's spokesman abroad, filmmaker Mohsen Makhbalbaf, alleges that the ministry even contacted Mousavi's camp and said it would begin preparing the population for this victory. The ministry must have informed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has had a feud with Mousavi for over 30 years, who found this outcome unsupportable.

First, Mr Cole seems to be unaware of the simple fact that if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had a "feud" with Musawi he could have very simply barred him from running. The Supreme Leader has that power according to the Iranian Constitution. Second, who is he quoting on that? FOX News? No, but an equally credible source: Mousavi's spoksman abroad, Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Cole got his last name wrong).

Now that we are done with all this nonsense, let us look at what we should be looking for:

a) legal actions in Iranian courts alleging voting irregularities and siting concrete examples
b) an explanation, even in general terms, of how the vote was rigged. Roughly TEN MILLION votes should have been somehow "stolen" to make that happen.
c) an explanation of what anybody had to gain by rigging a presidential election in Iran (the President has no real power in this country to begin with).

So far, all we have, is one camp (Mousavi's) making allegations which so far are substantiated by exactly *nothing* and Juan Cole "proofs" which really prove one thing - that there are no real proofs of any kind, at least so far.

I am more than willing to change my mind about all this, but I will need more than this bullshit to take these accusations seriously. Mind you, even serious accusations are in no way proof of anything, but at least they can serve as the basis for an investigation. So far, all we have been shown is hot air, absurd syllogistic conclusions, and outright baloney.