Iran‘s Supreme Dalek, I mean Leader (sorry, I’ve watched too much Dr. Who), gave his final ruling on the election: the results are definitive. He asserted that the 11 million vote difference shows that there was no election fraud or tampering. He also warned folks against protesting and he also blamed the West and the Western media for the problem. For some unknown reason, he also made a reference to the Branch Davidians. I’m not sure if he was taking a shot at the US or warning protestors that they would be given that sort of Janet Reno treatment.
In the case of the 11 million vote difference, it is true that fraud normally occurs in close cases. After all, if someone has a massive lead, there is no reason to engage in fraud. However, the contention is not that a few votes here and there were miscounted or fraudulent. Rather, the contention is that there has been large scale voting fraud. Some even suspect that the entire election was rigged. Obviously, saying that Ahmadinejad won by a huge margin does nothing to show that there was not massive fraud or that the whole election was a sham. It is also hardly assuring that the people assigned to check on elections are picked by the Supreme Leader and are not independent. To use an analogy, suppose you buy a defective product and complain to the company. The company says that there is nothing wrong with the product. You persist in your complaint and they refer you to a complaint board that they appointed. That would hardly be satisfying.
As far as his warning to the protestors and potential protestors, it seems likely that he is quite serious. People have already been killed and the regime is at least as willing as any government to kill its own citizens to maintain its power. The fact that they are cracking down on communication seems to indicate that they are getting ready to do things that they would prefer that the world not see-such as soldiers and police gunning down civilians. Cell phones and the internet mean that they will not be able to act completely in the shadows, but they might decide that the cost of having their actions shown to the world is worth the gain of crushing dissent with violence.
The Supreme Leader also took a page from the American conservative movement: blame the media. He claimed that the West in general and the Western media in particular created or at least contributed to the problem. This is, of course, similar to how the Republicans claim that the media stole the election from McCain and Palin.
My thought is that although the media does have an influence, the people in Iran (just like the American voters in 2008) are not being controlled by the media. They are motivated by what has occured and their desires. True, seeing people protesting can inspire others to protest-but they still need a reason to protest. The Supreme Leader is using the West and the media as a convenient scapegoat for the failings of his own government. This approach also provides him with a handy justification for using violence-after all, the protesters are being driven by the Great Satans of the West.
This use of the West as a scapegoat does help show the danger of US involvement in the Iranian situation. We have a bit of a dilemma here. If we do nothing, then we will allow the Supreme Leader to crush dissent and oppress many of the citizens of Iran. But, if we act to support the protesters, we run the risk of handing them a justification for cracking down even more (because they would be, allegedly, fighting against those in the service of an enemy) and also of making it seem like America is off on an imperialist adventure.
So, what we need to do is meet a difficult challenge: encouraging and defending democracy in Iran while avoiding the appearance (and the reality) of being on an imperialist adventure.