When it looked certain that he would lose last weekend's rigged presidential election, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did just about everything humanly possible to rig the vote in his favor. In all there were around 40,000 polling places, however at least 14,000 of these were mobile ones there were supposed to be in independent locations such as hospitals, but instead were moved into police stations and military bases so that government forces aligned with Ahmadinejad could easily identify opponents of his regime. Further, there were no polling booths or an opportunity to cast a secret ballot, as the polling officials were aware of how each voter voted and often filled out the ballot for the voter. Further millions of voters were functionally illiterate, not able to read or write well enough to fill out their own ballots, so polling officials aligned with the Ahmadinejad regime of course filled out these ballots as well. Further, despite the complete absence of voting machines to count votes, somehow the Ahmadinejad government claimed that all 40 million ballots cast were somehow counted only two hours after the polls were closed. Ahmadinejad was also allowed to bribe many poor voters with the gift of 400,000 pounds of free potatoes that were distributed right before the vote took place, pretty much in exchange for their votes. The fact of the matter is this election was a complete farce. It is also likely that Ahmadinejad has enough political alliances among the ruling religious leaders such as Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei that he is making himself president for life of Iran, where elections are now only a mere window dressing.
Today Ahmadinejad is in Russia, seeking to strengthen his alliances there. Further, Ahmadinejad could attempt to become a player in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which has pulled together the powers of China, Russia, India and Brazil as four emerging powers to act as a counterweight to NATO or other Western political or military alliances. Ahmadinejad could be seeking the protections of this alliance to allow his regime to build a force of nuclear weapons and to resist pressures from Washington and Israel to abandon this dangerous program. Further, Iran could forge new business opportunities abroad in these nations, giving it new finances to afford a huge military buildup as well as buying off some of the frustrations of the upper class of Iran who supported the broader looking trade values of moderate candidate Mousavi.
The hardline religious leaders such as Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei recognize that Iran could be subject to some sort of military attack from Israel's hardline Netanyahu government which now has a majority backing among the Israeli population in a current poll to attack Iran if it has nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad's gestures towards Russia and China give the country more time to stall while it attempts to build better missiles and to develop some sort nuclear weapon and to make that weapons small enough to fit on those missiles.
The fact of the matter is that it looks like nothing will get in the way of removing Ahmadinejad from power. Further, it appears that nothing will prevent Ahmadinejad and his religious allies among the ruling religious council from seeking a nuclear weapons arsenal. And nothing may prevent Israel from from eventual war with Iran, even though it really lacks the conventional weapons to fight such a war, and would likely quickly be forced towards using nuclear weapons or even worse, sucking in the United States to clean up their mess that would make Iraq look like an ice cream social by comparison. Right now there are no good options to look for or to hope for. Iran is in the process of creating a huge future world crisis that a free election with a win by moderate Mousavi might could have avoided.
All of this leaves Mir-Hossein Mousavi and his supporters in an interesting position. On one hand they must appear as loyal to the religious ruling elements and the Muslim faith, while merely opposing the dictatorship of Ahmadinejad and his clearly fraudulent election. Mr. Mousavi brings together the same important elements of the youth voters, the well educated, the middle and upper classes of Iran, and this coalition needs to figure a way to wrest power from a powerful military and police machine run by Ahmadinejad, which is quick to use violence to suppress dissent.
Mr. Mousavi probably needs to look to the example of how Boris Yeltsin was able to speak for and represent the Democratic elements as they sought ways to wrest power from the Soviet ruling machine of government, military and police. Mr. Mousavi is probably as close to a true Iranian democrat as can be found at this point in Iranian society. He is also the best hope to bring some semblance of democracy and civil liberties to this nation and to possiby avoid a major war with Israel at some point in the future by lowering international tensions.
(Interestingly, the Western spelling of Mir-Hossein Mousavi's translation of his last name is a matter of some debate in the English speaking world. In a previous column, I relied on another common English spelling of Mousavi spelled yesterday as Moussavi. The spelling as "Mousavi" appears to be most commonly used, however either spelling appears to be acceptable because of the problems in translating Persian into English).