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Western Media Misread Iran Elections

New America Media, News Analysis, Video, Jalal Ghazi Posted: Jun 17, 2009

Reports on the Iranian elections by Western media have been misleading.

They portray the election battle as a struggle between conservative Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and moderate Mir Hussein Moussavi. The election battle, however, is actually a struggle over power and money, not democracy.

Ahmadinejad is cast as unpopular, and most coverage presumes that he stole the elections from Moussavi. Many Western journalists compare Moussavi with Pres. Barack Obama and broadcast news show frequent images of bloody demonstrations as evidence that Iranians like Moussavi because he represents change. The truth, however, is completely the opposite.

Western media have failed to answer the question: Why did the majority of Iranians vote for Ahmadinejad? The answer is simple: because he, not Moussavi, is their Obama. This may be difficult for a westerner to understand. Yes, Ahmadinejad has been accused of wanting to wipe Israel off the map and developing a nuclear weapon and quoted denying the Holocaust. However, from the perspective of ordinary Iranians who voted for him, these things are not important. What is important is the fact that he is the only president who has been courageous enough to stand up to millionaire mullahs headed by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the main supporter of Moussavi.

After the establishment of the Islamic republic in 1979, the countrys wealth was transformed into charity organizations headed by mullahs. Since then, these organizations, which are not audited, have become corrupt. There is also widespread corruption among the mullahs who exploit their power to accumulate wealth.

During his first term in office, Ahamdinejad clashed with these millionaire mullahs when he launched a campaign to rid Iran of corruption. His goal is to scrutinize the charity organizations, which means that they would be subjected to auditing. This has made these mullahs very nervous.

Political analyst Mehadad Khonry told Al Jazeera English that Rafsanjani, Moussavi's chief supporter, is now in Qum, Iran. He is there to rally the support of certain leading ayotallahs and to make sure that his position will be secure in the post-election era.

During the televised debates between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi, the president singled out Rafsanjani and asked, What are his [Rafsanjanis] sons doing in the country? Name one of my ministers who has become a billionaire during their tenure, or received properties? The Rafsanjani family is known to have used its powerful position to amass huge wealth like many other mullahs.

Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, is well known for his humble family background. This was pointed out by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called on Iran to vote for the candidate whose life is not corrupt.

Ahmadinejad is the son of a blacksmith from South Tehran. This is extremely important for Iranians who resent the widening gap between the haves and have nots. According to Al Jazeera English, this gap has increased during the past decades and is visible in the extreme poverty in south Tehran and extreme wealth in the citys north.

Those who carried out the Islamic revolution vowed to end corruption and the disparity between rich and poor. This works to Ahmadinejads advantage. Many voted for him because of his concerns about corruption and inequalities, which in their view are counter to true Islam. This means that Iranian society, which tends to be religious, sees him as a better candidate. One should not underestimate the power of mosques in Iran.

Having said that, one should not ignore the role of young Iranians who simply want more freedom. Moussavi does have the support of many of them, but his lethal mistake is his strange alliance with conservative and rich Mullah Rafsanjani. During the televised debates, Ahmadinejad stressed these strange relations and used them link Moussavi to corruption.

Once the votes are recounted, and the riots end, it will be interesting to see where the struggle between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjai will lead. Will Ahmadinejad continue to receive the backing of Supreme Leader Khamenei, or will Rafsanjani, the second most powerful man, manage to stop Ahmadinejad? Time will tell, but the Western media wont get the story right if it cannot transcend its current script.

Related Articles:

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