May 22, 2013
Learning to Live With the Devil We Know
Posted on Jun 16, 2009
By Scott Ritter
Was there fraud involved in Iran’s presidential election? Almost certainly. One might argue that the heavy-handed involvement of unelected clerics in determining who gets to run for office in and of itself makes a fraud of the democratic process. A similar argument, however, could be made about the exclusivity of the two-party system in the United States today, and yet very few media pundits question the viability of America’s democratic system of government. The Western media, inflamed by sentiment and prejudice coming from the politically disaffected in northern Tehran, have underscored the fact that Iran’s Ministry of Interior is run by a close ally of Ahmadinejad. Given the blatant political partisanship and cronyism which have been witnessed in every major election in the United States, such observations coming out of Iran should carry little weight. We like to judge nations like Iran, especially when their elections don’t go the way we or our political allies desire, while turning a blind eye to the corruption and other manifestations of human imperfection in the American political system. The U.S. is a country, after all, where it costs a billion dollars to become president.
The undisputable fact remains that in the lead-up to Friday’s controversial presidential elections, scientific polling conducted by Western organizations such as the New America Foundation showed Ahmadinejad with a comfortable lead over Mousavi in all 30 of Iran’s provinces. Mousavi appeared to have captured the imagination of the Western press and punditry. But it is increasingly clear that, unless findings to the contrary are brought forward, he did not capture the votes of the majority of the Iranian people. The presence of tens of thousands of Mousavi supporters in the streets of Tehran does nothing to change this reality. The Western media’s repeated citation of unnamed sources claiming a Mousavi victory represents shoddy journalism and wishful thinking, nothing more.
The world needs to collectively move past the controversy of the Iranian elections and accept the reality that, like him or not, President Ahmadinejad will be the “democratically elected” face of Iran for the next four years. Regardless, the fact remains that there are two other individuals in Iran who hold real power, and with whom the West must engage if progress on the serious issues of Iran’s nuclear program, as well as peace and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan, is to be had. These are the speaker of the Iranian Majlis, Ali Larijani, and the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Both of these men possess more constitutional power than does the Iranian president, and as such both are far more important and influential when it comes to impacting the critical issues which define Iran’s relationship with the West, Iran’s nuclear program first and foremost. America and the West need to learn to live with the devil we know—Ahmadinejad—all the while recognizing that the Iranian president, while a nuisance, does not hold the key to improved relations. Western media ought to spend more time focusing on the realities of Iran’s political system and less time facilitating the spread of increasingly partisan gossip.
The Iranian presidential election will continue to dominate the imagination—and headlines—of the Western media for the next few weeks. But unless some dramatic new information emerges which proves widespread election fraud, the reality is that the Guardian Council will, in the next 10 days, certify Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the legally elected president of Iran. After this happens, life in Iran will gradually return to normal, and the political protests so earnestly covered by the West will take on the character of a tempest in a teapot. Mir Hossein Mousavi will disappear from the front pages of the leading newspapers, replaced by far more important subjects, such as Iran’s nuclear program. The sooner this happens, the better, because from the standpoint of international peace and security, how the world manages Iran’s nuclear ambition is far more important than who claims the title of president of Iran.
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