Yet, to read the leading American newspapers, one would assume that Iran was the only dangerous country operating in that part of the world.
Bias on the Election
There also the curious issue of the Iranian election last June 12.
The New York Times and the Washington Post editorialists routinely describe the election as "fraudulent," without any qualification or factual substantiation. This is similar to how Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt pronounced in 2002 and early 2003 that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Only later, after the U.S. invasion and the discovery of no caches of WMD did Hiatt concede that maybe the Post should not have been so categorical.
"If you look at the editorials we write running up [to the war], we state as flat fact that he [Hussein] has weapons of mass destruction," Hiatt said in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review. "If that's not true, it would have been better not to say it." [CJR, March/April 2004]
Yes, there was a time in American journalism when it was considered serious business to state as fact something that was not true. However, in Hiatt's case despite the deaths of more than 4,300 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis there has been no change in the leadership of the Post's editorial pages.
Hiatt, like his counterparts at the New York Times, is now certain that the Iranian election was "fraudulent" without equivocation. The evidence, however, points in a much more uncertain direction.
Many of the assumptions of the U.S. and Western press about election fraud turned out to be false, such as the belief that Azeris would have voted heavily for one of their own, Mir Hossein Mousavi, instead of for Ahmadinejad.
But a pre-election poll, sponsored by the New America Foundation, found a 2-to-1 breakdown for Ahmadinejad among Azeris. Part of the reason appeared to be that Ahmadinejad had poured government resources into that area.
Another frequent complaint from the Western press was that Ahmadinejad's claim of victory came too fast, but that ignored the fact that Mousavi was out with a declaration of victory before any votes were counted. The first partial results, showing Ahmadinejad in the lead, came out hours later.
The reason why Ahmadinejad might have really won the election was that his support was concentrated among the urban and rural poor who benefited from government food giveaways and jobs programs and who tend to listen more to conservative clerics in the mosques.
Mousavi seemed to acknowledge this point when he released his supposed proof of the rigged election, accusing Ahmadinejad of buying votes by providing food and higher wages for the poor. At some Mousavi rallies, his supporters reportedly would chant "death to the potatoes!" in a joking reference to Ahmadinejad's food distributions.
Yet, while passing out food and raising pay levels may be a sign of "machine politics," such tactics are not normally associated with election fraud.
Generally speaking, Mousavi had the backing of the urban middle class and the well-educated, especially in the more cosmopolitan capital of Tehran where universities became a center for protests against Ahmadinejad. The president's policies and his offensive comments questioning the Holocaust have created hardships for this voting bloc, which has found it hard to travel and do business in the face of Western sanctions and restrictions.
So, the election outcome could have been explained simply by Iran's middle class and intellectuals voting heavily for Mousavi, while larger numbers of poor and conservative Muslims might have broken for Ahmandinejad.