A reader writes:

I just saw your post requesting input from voting Iranians, and I’ve lived most of my life abroad and go to an American university, I will vote tomorrow at an Iranian embassy.  My family’s four votes will go to Mousavi.

I’m not voting for Mousavi because I’m a fan of his politics, although I haven’t read anything GREENREVMajid:Getty objectionable among his stances yet.  The vast majority of Iranians sincerely believe in Iran’s right to nuclear power (not weaponry), and think Iran should have good relations with the US but want to have their grievances aired.  Much as you and I may disagree with these notions, Mousavi can’t go against them yet.  Karroubi is more of a reformist candidate, and of course, some of the hundreds of candidates who got left on the cutting room floor would have been better choices, but you play with the hand you have.

I agree with you that something is happening in Iran.  Although I haven’t been there this election season, what I hear from my cousins is that people are really into this election.  There has been street fighting and non-stop political debates on university campuses.  In a secretive society where having your political opinion too well-known can get you in trouble, tens of thousands of people are showing up every day at rallies that brazenly call the incumbent a liar and a thief.  Mousavi’s supporters aren’t just among the young, middle class, and female either – plenty of people in the smaller cities and provincial capitals are flocking to him. 

Part of me feels like this might be a make or break moment for reformists.  If Mousavi wins, the conservatives will do everything they can to undermine him, the way they did wit Khatami.  But if he loses, the situation becomes far worse, because, as Ahmadinejad has indicated in widely publicized private comments, there’s no way he’ll win and NOT try to make himself president-for-life.  Iranians seem to have two paths: they can either elect a Gorbachev, make some sacrifices, and hopefully get an improved political system in a couple of decades, or they can elect a Saddam and watch as their country goes down the road of Iraq.

One more thing: do not discount the power of vote rigging.  I expect the vote to be close, but anything that gives Ahmadinejad more than 60% of the vote has definitely been rigged.  Of course, there are also more subtle ways of modifying the outcome: bussing his supporters to the booths with state funds, running out of ballot paper in the voting booths of Tehran, voter intimidation by armed thugs, and so on.

Anyway, the main reason I’m writing to you is to thank you for your attention to this very important issue.  I know Iran isn’t the most important country in the world by any metric, and is always in the news for the wrong reasons, but it does surprise me that so many American politicos, on both sides of the political aisle, who claim to have the best intentions of the Iranian people at heart are totally ignoring this important election.  God bless you and Josh Marshall.  If the worst does indeed happen tomorrow, at least there will be some record of the nation’s resistance in the mainstream American political dialogue.

Regardless of the final count tomorrow, I think this will be a huge milestone of democracy in the Middle East.  While Iranians have in the past made bad choices, they are WAY ahead of their peers in the Muslim World when it comes to democracy.  In 1905, before the vast majority of Muslim states even declared independence, Iran already had a constitution and the right to vote given to all men.  Iran had an actual revolution the year after, where people fought the monarch’s men in the streets so they could protect their new rights.  From 1940 to 1952, Iran actually had an almost functional democracy, while most of its neighbors either had dictators or monarchs.  Iranians brought about another revolution for expanded political rights in 1979, before most of the Eastern European nations threw off the yoke of Communism.  Let’s hope they teach a thing or two to their neighbors again tomorrow.

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