Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Intervention and Iran

Just when the media was starting to get bored of the US-Israel tension, Iran holds elections. It's extremely difficult to assess the situation in Iran because of the limitations on foreign media outlet coverage. Additionally, information is being posted on social networking sites is often unreliable and is difficult to confirm.

One interesting component of the elections is the US' relative silence on the elections. While France's President Nicolas Sarkozy has termed the elections 'a fraud' and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has 'called for a full and transparent investigation into electoral fraud and discrepancies," President Obama has said only "
I think that the world has deep concerns about the election," but adds, "It's not productive given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling."

The relative silence is a move to strengthen the US' position vis-a-vis negotiations with Iran. A perception of US intervention would potentially have a rallying effect in Iran which would slow the downward spiral of disunity which is not necessarily good for Iran but with is most likely good for the US. The US has no interest in stopping the unfolding events because they make Ahmedinejad look weaker and thus easier to manipulate in negotiations.

In the past five months, there have been elections in Israel, Lebanon, and now Iran.* As with the Israeli elections, the Obama administration has been cautiously silent on their favored candidate for Iranian elections. But when Vice President Biden visited Lebanon May 22 2009, Hizbullah claimed his visit was an attempt to skew the vote towards the more moderate March 14th coalition. Upon a successful showing by March 14, several journalists also referred to an "Obama Effect" having played a role in voters' choices.

With only three examples, it is hard to classify Lebanon as a true outlier. It is also unclear to what extent the US intended Biden's speech to be intervention. It's likely that the administration is weighing intervention on a case to case basis with presumption being against it. That being said, it will be interesting in 30 years to read about what role, if any, clandestine US agents have played or are playing in the elections in Iran.

What's happening in Iran is historic and unpredictable. The most accurate answer to "What will happen in Iran?" at this point is probably "I don't know."

* On May 16, Kuwait also held parliamentary elections. The analysis is therefore is not completely comprehensive. Should further research into the Obama administration's response prove fruitful, it will be added to the analysis in the post.


1) "Iran Bars Foreign Media From Reporting on Streets,"
Associated Press, June 16, 2009.

2) "Sarkozy Says Iran Elections a Fraud,"
Press TV, June 17, 2009.

3) Mike Blanchfield, "Canada Joins Chorus of Protest Over Iran Election, Violence,"
The Gazette (Montreal) , June 15, 2009.

4) "U.S. Denies Interference in Iran Elections,"
Xinhua News Agency, June 17, 2009.

5) Brian Montopoli, "Obama Congratulates Israeli Leader Netanyahu,"
CBS News, April 1, 2009.

6) "Biden's Lebanon Trip Sparks Charge of Interference,"
Associated Press, May 22, 2009.

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