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Admissions In Interest - Flynt Leverett And Our Sorry-Ass Commentariat

| 5 Comments

There's an old legal term - "admissions against interest" which is something a witness reports that is 'an admission of the truth of a fact by any person, but especially by the parties to a lawsuit, when a statement obviously would do that person harm, be embarrassing, or be against his/her personal or business interests.' In other words, something that undermines you. One thing I look for in commentators is an occasional admission against interest; it tells me someone is honest, and gives their words more credibility.

So today, over on Politico, the New America Foundation's Flynt Leverett rehashes his Spiegel interview and flatly states "Ahmadinejad won. Get over it."

Now, personally, I know for a fact that I don't know enough about the Iranian elections to state any position with certitude. I do know a few things, though, and one of them is that the US commentariat's dance around this issue is only slightly less complex than the actual politics within Iran itself. Second-intention positions seem to be commonplace, and I'm spending way too much effort trying to read through the actual words and understand what the commentator is really doing.

In Leverett's case, I did a fast Google, and came up with a list of his articles, and read them.

Let's see what he has to say about the North Korean missile and nuke tests:
As for Iran, the leadership's motives may be more mixed. U.S. foreign policy expert Flynt Leverett says Washington needs to do more to reassure Iran, because despite President Obama's calls for improved relations, Tehran believes the U.S. is still pursuing the policy track of former President Bush.

"What I'm concerned about is that the promise of this early rhetoric will be undermined by this lack of new initiatives, and particularly if the administration continues to try and use its professed willingness to engage Iran, to muster more international support for intensified sanctions, I think that's going to undermine the credibility of any diplomatic initiative," he explained.
Let's see what he has to say about Bush's policies:
We got into this dilemma because we essentially don't have a strategy for dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue. By "we" I mean the United States and the Bush administration. The Bush administration has deliberately ruled out direct negotiations with Iran either over the nuclear issue or over the broad range of strategic issues that you would need to talk to Iran about if you were going to get a real diplomatic settlement on the nuclear issue.

The administration has, literally for years, ruled out that kind of strategic dialogue with Iran. In the absence of that sort of approach, that sort of channel, the administration is left with two options, one of which is to try and get something done in the Security Council. It has been foreseeable literally for months, if not for longer, that Russia and China at a minimum were not going to be prepared to support serious multilateral sanctions or other serious multilateral punitive measures on Iran. This is not a surprise. As I said, it's been foreseeable literally for months, but the administration, without a strategy, is going down this feckless road anyway.
(He goes on in this interview to extol the apparently fraudulent Swiss Memo)

And what does he have to say about the Obama Administration?
President Obama...should not be excused for [his] failure to learn the lessons of recent history in the Middle East - that the prospect of strategic cooperation with Israel is profoundly unpopular with Arab publics and that even moderate Arab regimes cannot sustain such cooperation. The notion of an Israeli-moderate Arab coalition united to contain Iran is not only delusional, it would leave the Palestinian and Syrian-Lebanese tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict unresolved and prospects for their resolution in free fall. These tracks cannot be resolved without meaningful American interaction with Iran and its regional allies, Hamas and Hezbollah.

...What is hard about the Iran problem is not periodic inflammatory statements from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or episodes like Ms. Saberi's detention. What is really hard is that getting America's Iran policy "right" would require a president to take positions that some allies and domestic constituencies won't like.

To fix our Iran policy, the president would have to commit not to use force to change the borders or the form of government of the Islamic Republic. He would also have to accept that Iran will continue enriching uranium, and that the only realistic potential resolution to the nuclear issue would leave Iran in effect like Japan - a nation with an increasingly sophisticated nuclear fuel-cycle program that is carefully safeguarded to manage proliferation risks. Additionally, the president would have to accept that Iran's relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah will continue, and be willing to work with Tehran to integrate these groups into lasting settlements of the Middle East's core political conflicts.

It was not easy for President Richard Nixon to discard a quarter-century of failed policy toward the People's Republic of China and to reorient America's posture toward Beijing in ways that have served America's interests extremely well for more than 30 years. That took strategic vision, political ruthlessness and personal determination. We hope that President Obama - contrary to his record so far - will soon begin to demonstrate those same qualities in forging a new approach toward Iran.
So, basically, he's all about giving the Iranian regime whatever they want. OK, that's fine - but let's weigh that as we look at his somewhat sketchy claims about the election.

First, to the poll. Flynt says:
But the one poll conducted before Friday's election by a Western organization that was transparent about its methodology - a telephone poll carried out by the Washington-based Terror-Free Tomorrow [A.L. - his employer ,which he doesn't mention] from May 11 to 20 - found Ahmadinejad running 20 points ahead of Mousavi. This poll was conducted before the televised debates in which, as noted above, Ahmadinejad was perceived to have done well while Mousavi did poorly.
Then go read the ABC demolition:
An outfit called Terror Free Tomorrow claims in an op-ed in today's Washington Post that the contested Iranian elections likely were not fraudulent, since a pre-election poll it sponsored showed the declared winner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with a big lead.

TFT's own data, though, tell a different story - as, oddly, did its own previous polling analysis.

The poll, done by telephone last month, found 34 percent support for Ahmadinejad vs. 14 percent for Mir Hossein Mousavi. The incumbent led by "a more than 2 to 1 margin - greater than his actual margin of apparent victory in Friday's election," today's op-ed says. "Our scientific sampling from across all 30 of Iran's provinces showed Ahmadinejad well ahead."

Strange, then, that TFT's analysis of these same data last month predicted a runoff.
Then he claims that the result - 60+% for Ahmadinejad - is almost exactly what he got in the last election:
They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejad's 62.6 percent of the vote in this year's election is essentially the same as the 61.69 percent he received in the final count of the 2005 presidential election, when he trounced former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Um, he got 61.69% of the vote in a two person runoff, after getting something like 20% of the vote in the preliminary, multiparty election - the one like this one.

Look we could go on, and in reality all of the evidence we're talking about is indirect, circumstantial and incomplete. And none of us - not even the vaunted Juan Cole - really understand the pre-Copernican insane complexity of Iranian politics.

I do know about one subject that's close to this issue, and that's counting votes.

And the claim that tens of millions of hand-written paper ballots were counted in three hours is, like Leverett's flimsy arguments above - simply bullshit.

There are doubtless good arguments made by legitimate commentators supporting the legitimacy of the election outcome. This wasn't one of them.
-

5 Comments

Christopher Hitchens made an important point in his latest column- we are focusing on the wrong thing. These elections were illegitimate and illiberal before the first ballot was ever cast. No matter what the outcome, its still a sham election.

How can an unelected theocracy handpick candidates and we be concerned which one of them 'stole' the election? It had already been stolen. By arguing over the authenticity of a process that a priori illegitimate, we lend credence to it. We should be condemning this entire process from front to back.

Stratfor shares the opinion that Ahmadinejad may have won the election in reality.

Saw that, but it doesn't have a lot of data to back the assertions.

It's certainly possible that he won, but I remain doubtful about the votecounting - which means it's possible that he didn't either.

Marc

Exactly. I thought it was a pretty poorly thought out piece for Stratfor. The premise is important (that outsiders will tend to hear certain types of voices exclusively and may miss many others), but the logic is rather circular. Taken to its extreme you could just about claim that a totally closed society like North Korea really did elect KJI with 100% of the vote honestly.

I think its plenty enough to say we just don't know what the real pulse of the Iranian people is, and can't know. That is endemic to a fascist society. What would be surprising is if we DID know. We can't even predict our own elections very precisely (if at all).

I do think its important to keep reiterating that this Iranian farce is illegitimate regardless of the outcome and regardless of if its fixed.

It would be nice to know what is really going on there. Too bad this disgusting regime, like many others, has fooled too many into believing this was a legit election.

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