It’s way too early to tell what the ultimate outcome of the Iranian election will be. After everyone there has voted, we’ll have to allow some time for the Islamist government and its supreme council of mullahs to ratify or fix the results more to their liking.
That said, it may well be that the Iranians have decided that they want a more presentable front man for their revolutionary cause and thus threw out Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in favor of “reformer,” Mir Hussein Moussavi. The New York Times blog, the Lede, tells us that Britain’s Channel 4 News has broadcast a story in which: “Lindsey Hilsum says that a source in Tehran has told her that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has had his own private opinion poll conducted and the results suggest that Mir Hussein Moussavi could be on the verge of a broad victory.”
If so, the main problem will be, as Elliott Abrams writes admirably on today’s Times op-ed page, that we will mistake the victory of Iranian “reformers” for a real change in the nature of the regime. The bet here is that, if he wins, Moussavi (who was Iran’s prime minister during the fanatical Islamic Republic’s war with Iraq) will get kid-glove treatment from the international press and be given the sort of deference and understanding that Benjamin Netanyahu, who won a real democratic election in Israel in February (where the candidates were not vetted by a supreme religious council to ensure that no dissent from its absolute rule is tolerated) never gets.
With Netanyahu slated to deliver a major address on foreign policy on Sunday, during which he will give his response to President Obama’s peace overtures, the contrast between the coverage given his peace proposals and the line taken by Moussavi will be significant. After all, why shouldn’t the leader (albeit a more moderate one than his predecessor) of a theocracy bent on nuclear domination of the region be treated better than the democratically-elected leader of a U.S. ally whose existence is threatened by said theocracy?