If you ask private-sector Iran analysts about the likelihood of Mir Hossein Mousavi becoming president--or of Ayatollah Khamenei's regime announcing a do-over of the election--a few salient points emerge:
1. This would require a major backing down by Khamenei--an admission of his own fallacy. Khamenei blessed the election as a "divine miracle" on Sunday, crediting the "miraculous hand of God" with high voter turnout. This is seen as an endorsement of the whole election--including the results--and perhaps an irreversible step for Khamenei. If the results are nullified, Khamenei's supreme authority would be questioned.
"Khamenei and the Guardian Council and the guards have to admit that's a fraudulent vote," Alireza Nader of the Rand Corporation said. "I just don't see that happening right now."
2. It's an endurance game. The revolutionary regime's announcement of a partial recount was an attempt to buy time and allow the protests to dissipate--postponing any news and partially soothing public outrage, and telling people to go home and wait in the meantime. If the protesters can keep pressure on in the meantime, Mousavi's chances will be greater.
3. Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard could, potentially, abandon Ahmadinejad if they come to see their alignment with him as a liability. "If they really felt that this was getting out of hand...they could basically leave Ahmadinejad out to dry and say, 'We'll do an investigation'" of the election, Michael Connell of CNA Strategic Studies tells me. "The only way they'd do that is if they felt they had no other choice." Such a turn is unlikely, but if there's a real popular threat to the power held by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard, there could be a shift.
If Khamenei does back off his endorsement of the results, it's more likely the regime will announce that there were irregularities on both sides, and, perhaps, hold a new election, rather than announcing new results and handing the presidency to Mousavi.
4. Mousavi is a product of the system, so it's unclear how far he's willing to push things. He came to power as a prime minister in the Islamic Revolutionary regime, and he doesn't want to see it overthrown.
From this analysis, we might be able to assume that Mousavi (though he may be more of a vessel for popular discontent) might not be willing to guide the protest movement far enough to push the Revolutionary regime into nullifying the election results--for fear of posing a real threat to the system.
5. If there's a real threat to the system, the Revolutionary Guard and Iran's paramilitary forces will begin a much harsher crackdown on the protesters. Despite the images, video, and reports of violence against protesters, there has been a consensus among Iran experts that the regime's security forces have been holding back--that they have not, despite the harshness of some of the images we've seen, unleashed their full potential to crack down, violently, on the protesters. If demonstrations escalate and Mousavi pushes things farther in his statements, there will likely be a more serious crackdown. It's been suggested this is bad for the regime; it's also been suggested that violence would crush the movement of public unrest.
6. Mousavi has his backers among the Iranian political elite--notably former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani--but they're not the hard-liners that are in power. Some of them are people who were in power, and they may the weight of elite support to Mousavi's efforts, but they're not the ones making the decisions. It's been suggested that, despite the massive protests, clashes with security forces, and fires in the streets, this is a clash among Iran's political elite.
7. Mousavi has defied the Supreme Leader by calling for continued protests, and he has perhaps crossed a line with the regime's hard-liners, Connell suggests. This could diminish Mousavi's chances, closing any hard-line minds that might be open to reconsidering the election. It's something to watch: if Mousavi is perceived as defying the Islamic regime, as opposed to challenging Ahmadinejad, it may be harder for him to become president.
and his backers will have to prove that their support base extends
beyond students and the urban middle class, into other elements in Iranian
society--and that the protest movement is genuinely national and
widespread--if they are to pressure the regime into overturning Ahmadinejad's win. There's doubt over whether Mousavi can show that kind of
support outside of Tehran.
9. These protests are unprecedented since the 1979 revolution, and, while analysts don't see Ahmadinejad's win getting overturned, it's hard to predict what will happen in such a situation. They are thoroughly skeptical of the prospects for a President Mousavi, but analysts are hesitant to make any solid forecasts, given the unprecedented nature of what's unfolding.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.