"Ahmadinejad won. Get Over It."
That was both the headline and the theme of an astounding story written for Politico by the former foreign policy husband and wife team of Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. Their shtick while at the Bush White House was that we needed to "engage" Iran and left their jobs "with a growing sense of alarm" that we were headed towards war with that Islamic regime which, of course, never happened. And now they are continuing to run cover for the mullahs with their Politico story about how the Iranian presidential election was fair and square:
Without any evidence, many U.S. politicians and “Iran experts” have dismissed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection Friday, with 62.6 percent of the vote, as fraud.
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. The shock of the “Iran experts” over Friday’s results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking.
So how did Ahmadinejad win such a lopsided landslide in the official vote tally (hand counted in record time) despite the perception of a surge by his opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi? Simple, explain Mr. and Mrs. Leverett. Ahmadinejad happens to be a very good politician which enabled him to achieve his miraculous electoral reversal:
Like much of the Western media, most American “Iran experts” overstated Mir Hossein Mousavi’s “surge” over the campaign’s final weeks. More important, they were oblivious — as in 2005 — to Ahmadinejad’s effectiveness as a populist politician and campaigner. American “Iran experts” missed how Ahmadinejad was perceived by most Iranians as having won the nationally televised debates with his three opponents — especially his debate with Mousavi.
The Leveretts also cite a telephone poll to make their case for the fairness of the Iranian election:
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 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.
Some “Iran experts” argue that Mousavi’s Azeri background and “Azeri accent” mean that he was guaranteed to win Iran’s Azeri-majority provinces; since Ahmadinejad did better than Mousavi in these areas, fraud is the only possible explanation. But Ahmadinejad himself speaks Azeri quite fluently as a consequence of his eight years serving as a popular and successful official in two Azeri-majority provinces; during the campaign, he artfully quoted Azeri and Turkish poetry — in the original — in messages designed to appeal to Iran’s Azeri community. (And we should not forget that the supreme leader is Azeri.) The notion that Mousavi was somehow assured of victory in Azeri-majority provinces is simply not grounded in reality.
Too bad Ahmadinejad didn't read Azeri bedtime stories aloud or he would have won by an even greater landslide. Of course, the Florida 2000 presidential election is brought up by the Leveretts and compares it unfavorably with the Iran 2009 presidential election:
With regard to electoral irregularities, the specific criticisms made by Mousavi — such as running out of ballot paper in some precincts and not keeping polls open long enough (even though polls stayed open for at least three hours after the announced closing time) — could not, in themselves, have tipped the outcome so clearly in Ahmadinejad’s favor.
Moreover, these irregularities do not, in themselves, amount to electoral fraud even by American legal standards. And, compared with the U.S. presidential election in Florida in 2000, the flaws in Iran’s electoral process seem less significant.
Team Leverett concludes that we need to accept Iran's right to develop civilian nuclear technology (despite the fact they sit atop much cheaper vast oil reserves) and recognize the legitimacy of Ahmadinijad's election:
Any of the four candidates would be interested in a diplomatic opening with the United States, but that opening would need to be comprehensive, respectful of Iran’s legitimate national security interests and regional importance, accepting of Iran’s right to develop and benefit from the full range of civil nuclear technology — including pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle — and aimed at genuine rapprochement.
Such an approach would also, in our judgment, be manifestly in the interests of the United States and its allies throughout the Middle East. It is time for the Obama administration to get serious about pursuing this approach — with an Iranian administration headed by the reelected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Got that? Pay no attention to the "Iran experts" or any other evidence in plain sight. Obama must recognize "an Iranian administration headed by the reelected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."
Of course, the Leverett assertion about the fairness of the election in Iran provoked a firestorm of reaction in the Politico comments section. Here is a sampling:
Ahmadinejad won in the same way that Viktor Yanukovych won in the Ukraine in 2004. I'm sure that Ahmadinejad won some votes but it just seems suspicious that the Supreme Leader certified the results so quickly. I wouldn't doubt there would be fraud in this election.