Monday, June 15, 2009

Iranian Election cont. -- Why the ideas matter

"Man is by nature a political animal." - Aristotle, Politics
-- meaning, in part, that he is a social animal. What creates social cohesion?
"Evils draw men together." - Aristotle, Rhetoric
"The true mark of success in Iran will be an election that follows due process. Politicians come and go--but a healthy, functioning and fair legal system is the people's long-term guarantee for greater human rights." – Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s Human Rights Test Washington Post, 11 June 2009

Stratfor has a decent insta-analysis on the Leader of the Revolution's [LOTR] Ayatollah Khamenei's decision to call on the Guardian Council to investigate the complaints made by the opposition candidates that the election count was falsified.
"There is precedence for such intervention by the Supreme Leader. In 2004, when the Guardian Council rejected the applications of 3,600 out of nearly 8,200 people seeking candidacy in Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections in a blow to Khatami’s presidency, Khatami used the same language as Mousavi and his supporters are using today, calling the move a 'silent coup d’etat' by the state. Khatami and then speaker of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) Karroubi demanded a full review of the candidate screening, and the Supreme Leader responded by ordering the Council to look into the matter and reconsider some of its decisions."
Although this is the case, there may be another reason the Guardian Council has been chosen--additional legitimacy. I say this because Iran's constitution suggests that the proper venue of inquiry into such matters would be the Judiciary, led by Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who is appointed by the LOTR and has already ruled the election valid.
Article 156
The judiciary is an independent power, the protector of the rights of the individual and society, responsible for the implementation of justice, and entrusted with the following duties:
1. investigating and passing judgment on grievances, violations of rights, and complaints; the resolving of litigation; the settling of disputes; and the taking of all necessary decisions and measures in probate matters as the law may determine;
2. restoring public rights and promoting justice and legitimate freedoms;
3. supervising the proper enforcement of laws; ... †
Perhaps the most proper institution for examining the validity could be the National Inspectorate General, though I do not have access to the legislation which established its powers:
"Article 174
In accordance with the right of the judiciary to supervise the proper conducting of affairs and the correct implementation of laws by the administrative organs of the government, an organization will be constituted under the supervision of the head of the judiciary branch to be known as the National General Inspectorate. The powers and duties of this organization will be determined by law."
Either way, election fraud, or the perception of it, does much to undermine the regime--and just now entrusting the head of the Judiciary with the job would probably be viewed as stacking the deck. Although half of the Guardian Council is appointed directly by the LOTR, the other half is nominated by the Majlis and as such is at least somewhat representative.

And the importance of representation to the Islamic Republic of Iran can be understated. It is worth remembering that the broad participation of the population was heralded by none other than the head of the Judiciary himself, who said on the 13th per Tehran Times:
"[The people's] participation shows the unity between the people and the system, and the people’s belief in the revolution after 30 years."
The LOTR said,
"Thank God, the people’s enthusiasm to take part in the election is very great."
Speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani said,
"The people’s participation is due to their awareness and shows the people’s strong loyalty to the revolution."
Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli said,
"The enemies of our nation sought to reduce the participation of the people by spreading rumors that the election would not be fair. However, through their enthusiastic participation in the election, the people showed that they have complete trust in the election (process)."
And, obviously, the opposition--members of the establishment themselves--were looking to the turnout as a mandate. Mir-Hossein Mousavi said
"The unity which has been created among the people provides a golden opportunity for us, and we should not regard it as a threat."
Ayatollah Rafsanjani himself said,
"In my opinion, this election is one of the country’s most fateful elections."
And the government is by law a Republic:
"Article 6
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the affairs of the country must be administered on the basis of public opinion expressed by the means of elections, including the election of the President, the representatives of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and the members of councils, or by means of referenda in matters specified in other articles of this Constitution."
If the LOTR allows the results to be honored without a thorough and convincing report demonstrating that the numbers were not, in fact, cooked, then the regime loses its Constitutional basis.

Why would the LOTR, basically given nearly total power by Constitution, allow himself to be seen as a party to stealing an election and thus throwing out the basis of his rule?

It's the same question I posed a few days ago. I don't know the answer, but I suspect that a real and thorough effort will be made to legitimize this election--and should that prove impossible, the Guardian Council will rule it invalid. If that does not take place, then I suspect that we have indeed seen a coup, where the establishment has been overturned by a coalition of hard right forces.

I would add that should that prove the case, the legitimacy of the government will likely continue to be challenged unless the powers that be can truly convince a sizable plurality of the security forces and people in general to murder their countrymen with impunity. There has been footage of security forces shooting into the crowds, but that does not mean that sufficient people have been convinced to act like jackboots in defense of a totally new government structure.

Some analysts believe that the Iranian Constitution is but a farce, a shadow play behind which the real maneuvering of the political elite hides. But I suspect that the promises made in the Constitution, though compromised by the political facts on the ground in some ways, may prove to be similar to the American Declaration of Independence, which has no true legal standing, but the ideas behind which--specifically that all men are created equal--ended up leading the country to civil war, and overturning some of those compromises.

Indeed, if this is, and I believe it is, a battle between competing members of the establishment, it may resemble a civil war more so than a revolution. After all, President Ahmadinejad has Constitutional responsibilities that inform his rhetoric against corruption:
"Article 49
The government has the responsibility of confiscating all wealth accumulated through usury, usurpation, bribery, embezzlement, theft, gambling, misuse of endowments, misuse of government contracts and transactions, the sale of uncultivated lands and other resources subject to public ownership, the operation of centers of corruption, and other illicit means and sources, and restoring it to its legitimate owner; and if no such owner can be identified, it must be entrusted to the public treasury. This rule must be executed by the government with due care, after investigation and furnishing necessary evidence in accordance with the law of Islam."
And the fact that the color of the protesters is green, though it is meant to allude to the color revolutions, also happens to be the color of Islam may indicate that what the people are out in the street demonstrating for is not for a revolution, but for the implementation of the revolution ... for realizing the promise of the Constitution. Indeed, that is the key message of Shirin Ebadi's piece in the Washington Post excerpted from above--that she believes that the Constitution properly executed provides for the human rights of the people. Peruse, for example, the following rights enumerated by Iran's Constitution:
"Article 19
All people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; and color, race, language, and the like, do not bestow any privilege.

Article 23
The investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.

Article 26
Political parties, societies, political and craft associations, and Islamic or recognized minority religious associations may be freely brought into being, provided that no violation is involved of the principles of independence, freedom, national unity, Islamic standards, and the foundations of the Islamic Republic. No person may be prevented from joining, or compelled to join, one of the above.

Article 27
Unarmed assemblies and marches may be freely organized, provided that no violation of the foundations of Islam is involved.

Article 32
No person may be arrested except according to and in the manner laid down in the law. If someone is detained, the subject matter of the charge, with reasons (for bringing it), must immediately be communicated and explained in writing to the accused. Within at most 24 hours the file on the case and preliminary documentation must be referred to the competent legal authority. Legal procedures must be initiated as early as possible. Anyone infringing this principle will be punished in accordance with the law.

Article 34
To ask for justice is the unquestioned right of every individual Everyone may refer to the competent courts in search of justice. All members of the nation are entitled to have recourse to such courts within their reach. No one may be prevented from recourse to any court to which the law entitles him to refer

Article 35
In all courts, both parties to the claim are entitled to select a lawyer for themselves. If they do not have the capacity to do this, the means of a lawyer being appointed to act for them must be made available to them.

Article 36
A sentence to punishment and its execution must only be by the decision of a competent court, and by virtue of law

Article 37
Innocence is the basic principle No person is considered legally guilty, except in cases where his guilt is established in a competent court."
And as Borzou Daragahi at the Los Angeles Times reports a protester said: "Your rights are something you take,not something you're given." (The LA Times tends to have the best big paper reporting on Iran.)

That said, every revolutionary and military thinker knows that a key step in any revolution or establishing dominance an area is to hold broadcasting, TV and radio, as well as the key transportation hubs and any armories. Times have changed from the times when you could just occupy the broadcasting towers and train station ... information dissemination has become decentralized. It is not easy to control communications in the internet age.

Not that folks aren't trying. For example, try going to ... note that it's running off a changed address and looks awful different. I am of the understanding that internet attacks have similarly taken place against government web pages. James Cowie at renesys blog has a breakdown on service disruptions in the communications infrastructure:
"There's no question that something large happened in the Iranian telecom space, and that the timing aligns with the close of voting and the emerging controversy. Iran typically has a fairly high baseline level of sporadic route instability, due to the country's highly centralized incumbent transit through DCI (Data Communications Iran, AS12880) and DCI's somewhat peripheral connectivity to the main east-west conduits for data. Even so, we started seeing spikes of route instability (changes in the paths to Iranian IP space) starting around 08:05 UTC on Saturday (just after noon in Tehran) that were significantly larger than normally expected. These bursts affected as many as 400 prefixes (blocks of IP addresses)--the majority of Iran's Internet presence."

So it does look like this political contest could spiral out of control. And you may think my quotes from Aristotle at the top are a tad precious, but Aristotle is well-known to all senior Islamic clerics, because he forms the basis of discussion of the most important Islamic philosophers in the history of that religion. Indeed, if I understand correctly, all must learn formal Aristotelean logic. And both sides know that the ideas incorporated in their Constitution are enough to spawn a revolution. It already has.

I would hypothesize that both sides would decide that allowing an all out confrontation to emerge would not be in their interests, as both have extensive interests in the prevailing system. Thus my suspicion that we will see a real investigation and real concessions regarding the election, perhaps a recall, but you never know--perhaps the genie has left the bottle.

More footage of protests:

From Twitpic:

Best depiction of today's protest in Tehran on Twitpic

Tehranbureau is live blogging from Iran here.

The National Iranian American Council is also hosting translations of twitter, email, facebook, etc. accounts from Iran.

Nico Pitney at the Huffington Post is live blogging about the events.

Andrew Sullivan is as well at the Atlantic.

† I am using the translation of the IRI's Constitution hosted by the Tehran law firm--Dr. Alexander Aghayan & Associates, Inc.--here.

UPDATE: More footage via Michael Totten's blog (h/t T. Greer at the Scholar's Stage, who also had some awful nice words to say about my own efforts.)

as Totten notes, folks so far appear to be facing down threats from the security forces ... & on that note:


T. Greer said...

FB, I do think this is the best post I have seen on the election yet. Please continue with the good work!

freude bud said...

Thanks TG ... there's not much more to say I guess ... it's mostly just watching to see how it plays out ... Cheers, -- FB

Anonymous said...

Nice commentary and I like aristotle

Sujan Patricia said...

The 'theft' of the Iranian election. The big news of the moment. The Western media immediately jumped on board, calling the election a "fraud," "theft," and "a crime scene". The US, for whatever reason, supported the opposition in this election – probably with money and CIA. There was more objective evidence that George W. Bush stole his two elections than there is at this time of election theft in Iran.