Iran – what next?

The standoff in Iran between the military-theocratic regime of Ahmadenijad-Khamanei and the opposition parties led by Mir Hussein Mussavi has entered a tense phase. Having so clearly defined their positions and by putting so much at stake neither party can back down easily.

Major Newspapers are writing that predicting how the stand-off is  going to end is not easy.  New York Times has an article, “As Confrontation Deepens, Iran’s Path is Unclear.” The BBC has an article titled, “Titanic clash for Iran’s future,” which ends thus, “They may be arguing over a disputed election. But they are really arguing over the future of the country. A momentous, titanic struggle, whose outcome no-one can predict.”

The common wisdom goes that the ones who have the military and the supreme leader on their side are infallible. However, make no mistake, the hundreds of thousands who are turning out daily to protest for the opposition is not the only reason the opposition is so emboldened this time.

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Iranian Election

We in the West were fed an image of Iran as a country full of Islamic zealots and a compliant and mind-washed citizenry. A country where there was not a cry for democracy but a whimper — people were too afraid to criticize the mullahs and the right wing politicians in bed with them.  I offer a recent article, The Magic Mountain, by Roger Cohen of his conversations with Iranian youth in the New York Times as testimony. Mr. Cohen, despite being one of the most incisive journalists and a great sympathizer of the democratic movement in Iran, could hear democratic voices only in whispers.

The reaction of the Iranian citizenry to the fraud perpetrated on them blows away that myth. The young and the old alike seem to be craving for democracy, lifting of the Islamic seize, freedom of speech and connection with the rest of the world.

Some interesting facts about the current elections:

All the ballots were cast by hand, i.e. were not computerized. In all a record 40 million people (80% of the electorate) voted. Elections closed Friday evening and given the gargantuan task at hand — of counting 40 million ballots manually — it was projected that the earliest indicators available will be by Saturday evening.

However, as early as Saturday morning Ahmadinejad was announced a winner. That was the first unbelievable part of the unfolding story.

Equally unbelievable, if not worse, was the margin. Supposedly, Ahmadinejad won 62.6% and Mousavi 34%. This made Ahmadinejad’s margin greater, much greater, than the first time he won beating Rafsanjani! The reasons that is so hard to believe are obviously the fury that is there for all to witness on Tehran’s streets and all the commentary pointed to the fact that the turnout was so high due to a lot of 1st time voters coming out to vote for Mousavi.  I encourage you to visit the BBC page “Iran poll results: Your Comments.” You will read comments from a lot of Iranians who are providing the inside story.

In addition to the electoral sham, the Internet connection and cell phone service has been switched off.  Text messaging was shut down during the campaign itself since Mousavi was using text messages to arrange campaign rallies and getting his message out. And lest you think these outlandish excesses of power take place only during election times, I heard an Iranian on a show on National Public Radio mentioning that no purchases over the Internet are allowed from outside of Iran — even an Amazon.com book cannot be purchased from Iran. Of course, facebook, twitter etc. are filtered.

Despite these gross violations of people’s right, I am sure Ahmadenijad will have the gall to stand on US soil when next addressing the UN general assembly and criticize American democracy and extol his implementation of Iranian government.

One of the comments at the BBC page is rather despondent. It is written by one Milad from Mashhad, Iran, “Today I learned that the worst thing in life is to think that you have a chance while you don’t.”

While I fully understand Milad’s sentiment, I see things differently. I see that the generation born after the Iranian Revolution has not bought the lies and deceptions that the mullah regime has successfully imposed upon the pre-revolution citizens. As the current generation of mullahs and corrupt right wing politicians like Ahmadinejad gets old, I see a strong chance for true democracy in the Iran of the future.

Sonia Sotomayor

I was quite excited at the prospect of  a second woman on the Supreme Court bench, a first Hispanic, a first Supreme Court judge from the Bronx projects — an out and out American success story. I thought her confirmation will provide the right representational balance at the highest court of the land.

But then a few news items about Ms. Sotomayor’s views have dulled my enthusiasm.

One of course being her comment that resulted in the Conservatives calling her a “reverse racist.” Her comment, made back in 2001, asserts that her experiences as a Latina woman might make her judgments more sound than those of a white man. Though I am not going to call her a racist but a comment like that shows, among other things, lack of sound judgement and bias.

A piece of writing that influenced  me more was an Op-Ed article written by Ilya Somin (Assistant Professor at George Mason University School of Law) for the LA Times.

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