Iranian Carnival (aka "elections") Redux
The Basij -- the radical thugs who beat up Iranians for violations of the dress code and other sins against the official version of Islam -- will be voting early and often in Iran on Friday. Groups of them have been organized to go from polling place to polling place, "voting" en bloc in accordance with the foreordained results decided by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's Politburo. The official numbers will claim a very large turnout, which the tyrants will interpret as a ringing endorsement of the Islamic Republic.
Totalitarian regimes love elections. Stalin loved them, Hitler organized boffo movies about them, Mussolini stood in the blazing sunshine of Piazza Venezia to rally the faithful, Fidel's campaign speeches famously droned on for hours and hours. Saddam used to win upwards of 90%. To be sure, referenda are more popular with supreme leaders than actual elections of candidates, because the whole thing is reduced to a simple "Do you love me, or do you love me not?" instead of having to sort out scores of would-be members of the ruling class. But the totalitarians solve this fairly neatly by ensuring that no maverick makes it onto the lists. That way, it doesn't matter who "wins," since the voting doesn't matter anyway. Everything is top-down.
The Iranian regime, given its remarkable capacity to screw up most everything (above all the country itself, which vies with the Soviet Union at its worst for a wrecked system), every now and then fails to get it right and some real votes get counted. That's what happened in June 2009, when Mir Hossein Mousavi -- the leader of the Green Movement -- got more votes than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the regime had to scramble to produce results that gave the victory to Ahmadinejad. They did it so ham-handedly that everybody saw what was happening, and months of demonstrations followed.
The regime is palpably worried about tomorrow's events, to the point where the supreme leader's son Mojtaba Khamenei quietly visited Mousavi -- held for over a year along with his firebrand wife in solitary confinement in a house in Tehran -- to try to strike a deal by which Mousavi would somehow come to terms with the regime. Mousavi refused, and this was followed by an amazing telephone conversation between Mousavi and his kids, beginning with the Green leader's announcement that he wasn't changing his mind and that the upcoming carnival should be boycotted.
Lots of people will be compelled to vote -- government workers and military employees, for example, will be accompanied to the voting booths by overseers -- and it will be a while before "real numbers" on turnout become known. But it's already clear to anyone who cares to see that this carnival demonstrates that the Iranian people don't like this regime and that the regime knows it.
Can't wait to hear the Obama administration's "take" on its sought-after negotiating partner's behavior. Of late there's been a huge disinformation campaign in Washington, designed to convince us that a) there really isn't the slightest chance of Iran getting The Bomb in the near future, and b) anything the Israelis might do to attack the nuclear-weapons-program-you-know-the-one-nobody-should-worry-about would only make things worse.
In other words, the White House wants to be left alone to make its glorious deal with a regime that kills Americans every day. And stages carnivals for its own amusement.