Iran Election Guide

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Entries in Washington Post (3)


Today's Inside Line: Iraq's New "Surge" of Bombs and Politics

IRAQ FLAGIraq is back.

Having dropped off Page 1 --- in part because of the narrative of US surge success, in part because of George W. Bush's departure, and in part because internal politics rather than violence is so much harder to cover --- Iraq has been pushed back into the news because of a series of deadly bombings. Since Monday, more than 200 people have died in the attacks, including 65 in yesterday's motorcycle bomb in the Sadr City section of Baghdad.

The violence still isn't enough to merit Page 1 in The New York Times or Washington Post; however, Anthony Shadid has an excellent in-depth article on political manoeuvres: "In Iraq, a Different Struggle for Power - Maliki's Message on January Election Is Clear: Cooperate or Risk His Wrath". Building on interviews with council members who have faced intimidation, Shadid moves to a battle that goes beyond the old Shi'a v. Sunni storyline to highlight the tension between the national and the local, "Everyone seems to be looking for an angle, in pursuit of the coalition they think can triumph in the January elections. Everyone has a grievance no less pronounced."

How Not to Cover Iran's Elections: The Awards Ceremony

iran-rally3On Tuesday, we profiled our first entry in the competition to write the worst story about Iran's Presidential election: Colin Freeman's effort, for The Daily Telegraph of London to turn the campaign into a "a rock gig moshpit" and "a World Wrestling Federation grudge match" and to make over President Ahmadinejad as a member of The Sex Pistols.

We could not have anticipated the flood of entries that would follow. Each time, we thought the bottom had been reached, an intrepid reporter or commentator would take the bar lower. So, without further ado, the ultimate in Bad Election Journalism:


The Washington Post: Any Label Will Do

Friday's piece by Thomas Erdbrink is OK in its profile of the campaigns of President Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi. That is, until he and his headline writers try to put the voters and their candidates into easy-to-open boxes: "[This] is a confrontation not just between Iran's haves and have-nots, but between the old revolutionaries who seized power from the shah and a new cadre of radicals seeking to dislodge them."

All right, who are "the old revolutionaries" here? Mousavi? Former President Rafsanjani? And who is the "new radical"? Ahmadinejad? But wait --- Ahmadinejad is already in power. So is he seeking to dislodge himself?

And the people on the streets? If they support Ahmadinejad, are they automatically "have-nots"? A student wearing green for Mousavi becomes a "have"?

Hours later, we can't decide if this entry is Zen-like or just Lost in Confusion.


Assorted Newspapers: Iran's Michelle Obama

Apparently it's not enough to put Tehran under the spell of "The Obama Effect". You have to carry out a metaphormosis into the Great Man, or at least his nearest and dearest.

So in the last 72 hours Zahra Rahnavard suddenly became, in The Boston Globe, Der Spiegel, The Huffington Post,  "a no-nonsense university dean who has been compared to Michelle Obama".

So who in Iran had anointed Professor Rahnavard as the American First Lady of the country? Well, no one actually. That is, apart from Reza Sayah of CNN, who topped a profile of Rahnavard "Iran's Michelle Obama".

Unfortunately for "the Obama effect/transformation", Rahnavard refused to play along at a press conference on Sunday: ""I am not Iran's Michelle Obama...I am a follower of Zahra (the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad)."

Which makes us wonder: if Mousavi becomes President of Iran, will someone be bold enough to call Michelle Obama's "America's Zahra Rahnavard"?


The New York Times: Release the Bush Hounds

It is one thing for the editors of The Wall Street Journal, seeking the Mother of all Counter-Revolutions, to feature John Bolton's call for the Israeli bomb to replace the ballot. It's another for the flagship of US newspapers to wheel out Elliott Abrams, years after he tried and failed as a George W. Bush Administration official to knock off the Iranian Government:
The Lebanese had a chance to vote against Hezbollah, and took the opportunity. Iranians, unfortunately, are being given no similar chance to decide who they really want to govern them.


The Daily Telegraph's Colin Freeman: It's All Rubbish Anyway

Still, at the end of the day, you can't keep a bad journalist down, or rather raise him up. The World's Worst Tehran Correspondent followed his initial entry with this content-free "profile" of the campaign:
Instead of being seen as a respected statesman and upholder of the Islamic regime, the man rubbing shoulders with the Supreme Leader may be known popularly as either "Ahmadinejad the Liar", "Karoubi the Corrupt", or "Mousavi the Illiterate US Stooge" – epithets endorsed by their own colleagues. Those, surely, are not the kind of people a regime that brooks no real opposition would ideally want as figureheads.

Which I guess means that, at least, we won't be calling the eventual winner of this contest --- be he "old revolutionary" or "new radical" --- "Iran's Barack Obama".

Lebanon and Iran Elections: It's All About (The) US

Related Post: Lebanon’s Elections - From Global “Showdown” to Local Reality

lebanon-flagiran-flag11This piece started as an update on our main analysis of the results of Lebanon's elections, but with the US and British media's misreading, simplifications, and exaggerations spreading like kudzu, a separate entry is needed.

For Michael Slackman of The New York Times, it's not just a question of Washington shaping the Lebanese outcome: "Political analysts...attribute it in part to President Obama’s campaign of outreach to the Arab and Muslim world." You can slap the Obama model on top of any election to get the right result: "Lebanon’s election could be a harbinger of Friday’s presidential race in Iran, where a hard-line anti-American president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may be losing ground to his main moderate challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi."

Simon Tisdall, normally a shrewd observer of international affairs, trots out the same simplicities in The Guardian of London: "It's possible that watching Iranians will be encouraged in their turn to go out and vote for reformist, west-friendly candidates in Friday's presidential election. Lebanon may be just the beginning of the 'Obama effect'."

Juan Cole has posted a more thoughtful assessment, even as he opens with the reductionist and sensationalist declaration, "President Obama's hopes for progress on the Arab-Israeli peace process would have been sunk if Hezbollah had won the Lebanese elections." And Howard Schneider of The Washington Post, although premature in his anointing of Saad Hariri as Lebanon's next and primary leader (setting aside not only President Suleiman but also presuming that Hariri will be chosen as PM), sets out "the choice...between a showdown with his supporters, a showdown with Hezbollah or -- the more likely outcome -- a continued stalemate over the very issues voters hoped they were addressing in Sunday's balloting".

But if there is to be a simplification, in light of the internal political issues that follow the election, I would like it to come from Robert Fisk in The Independent of London:
What stands out internationally is that the Lebanese still believe in parliamentary democracy and President Obama, so soon after his Cairo lecture, will recognise that this tiny country still believes in free speech and free elections. Another victory for Lebanon, in other words, beneath the swords of its neighbours.