Monday, 22 June 2009

Iran's elections- a US foreign policy disaster

It is clear that Iran's elections were not free and fair. Any sensible analysis of the result such as that conducted by Ali Ansari in the Guardian this morning underline the fact that it simply beggars belief that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secured 63% of the vote.

There has been a much quoted poll by the not for profit group Terror Free Tomorrow which- on the face of it- foresaw Ahmadinejad's winning margin . However, the poll which contained 41% of respondees who 'didn't know' or 'wouldn't say' how they were going to vote has been largely discredited as an accurate predictor of the result. Nate Silver- yes he who had the most incredible polling analysis of the US presidential election- dismisses the poll thus: "Rather than giving one more confidence in the official results, the poll raises more questions than it resolves."

Is Ahmadinejad the rightful election victor? It is impossible to say. It is absolutely clear that these elections were not free and fair. Whatever the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei believes these sham elections will achieve, they will be very damaging for Iran. They have handed a propaganda victory to those who want a more hardline response to Iran.

It will be much more difficult for President Obama to pursue a more open policy towards Iran. Indeed, he has been- rightly- forced into using ever harder language in relation to the election results. Others will now be pushing harder to get him to pursue a tougher line on Iran's nuclear programme. Republicans are describing him as timid and bungling is his handling of this issue- with the clear message that a harder line has to be pursued in general towards Iran.

And yesterday, a gleeful and smug Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on Meet the Press. Iran has been 'unmasked' he said. To hear him gloat about freedom just a few months after Gaza was exceedingly difficult to stomach. The full clip is below:

So all in all, this election has been an utter disaster: for Iran, for regional stability, for US foreign policy, and for the Obama administration. The correct policy of 'engagement without preconditions' becomes difficult to sustain in this context. It also makes open criticism of Israel- such as President Obama made of the expansion of West Bank settlements- more difficult. So these elections are disastrous for democracy in Iran. The consequences will, however, go much further.

Post script: Nokia Siemens Networks are supplying the Iranian regime with an electronic surveillance system. Explain yourselves.

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