Regardless of whether Obama or McCain won last year’s US presidential elections, today’s event would have taken place either way. Today, Iraq is celebrating “National Sovereignty Day.” The date for today’s US combat troop withdrawal from all Iraqi cities, towns and villages was agreed upon by the Bush administration and the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was overly eager to see US combat troops leave (and take credit for it).
In the wake of a vehemently challenged election in Iran last Friday, the blogosphere and mainstream media outlets are on fire today.
With talk of a totally rigged election (and we’re not talking some lost ballots here), complete with rigged software counting the ‘votes’ of children and dead people, locals, bloggers and journalists are all weighing in on what happened in Iran and where we might go from here. The wildest, and to many the only acceptable, scenario involves the re-scheduling of the entire election due to massive fraud. But how likely is the hardline leadership in Iran to admit its mistake (or rather its crime) and allow for a rerun of the whole process? What happens if the results are allowed to stand? Are we witnessing a hardline ‘soft coup’, as our Tehran correspondent argued in an article published on 11 June, or is there still enough fire in the opposition movement to put the hardline plans under such pressure that they will have to cave in, one way or the other?
Here are some of the best sources for information and opinions on the topic:
- Our Tehran correspondent, Kamal Nazer Yasin, has written an update, titled Days of Rage for the ISN, detailing the aftermath and likely outcomes of the current stand-off between Ahmadinejad and the opposition forces. The article gives unparalleled insight into the mood, news and events in Tehran as they unfold on the ground.
- A blogger on Global Voices has posted Youtube videos of the protests as they unfolded last Friday and Saturday. This gives more insight into how the protests proceeded on the streets of Tehran. The chanting is loud and passionate and the crowds are massive.
- Michael Tomasky, head of the Guardian’s America bureau has posted an impassioned blog on the election, detailing reasons for why he believes that the elections were rigged. In the Analysis section, the Guardian has also provided some more insights, showing just how muddy the statistics are in terms of vote counts.
- Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty of the Washington Post urge caution and remind us that opinion polls three weeks before the election gave a 2 to 1 margin for Ahmadinejad, indicating that the results could be correct.
- The Meedan site provides more information on the debate over the election results- both a case for and a case against, as well as supporting sources and links.
- Some striking pictures, courtesy of the Foreign Policy Passport blog, from Tehran on Monday. The opposition forces, it seems, are still alive and well (and growing).
- Alan Taylor of the Boston Globe has put together a fascinating slideshow on the protests. Please be warned that the last three images contain graphic content.
What do you think?
The people of Iran will vote for a new president on Friday, 12 June.
The race is tight. Two of the candidates have good chances of winning. Former Prime Minister Mousavi relies on a broad base of supporters, but polls show that the incumbent Ahmadinejad is the leader in Iran’s presidential elections.
According to this insightful article by ISN correspondent Kamal Nazer Yasin, the developments in Iran in the next few days will be critical. Today, the police have forbidden further displays of political loyalty in the streets. With several million people having experienced the joys of freedom in the streets of Tehran and other cities, it will be interesting to see how the government can contain popular anger once Ahmadinejad is announced the winner.
Kamal Nazer Yasin is the pseudonym of the Iran correspondent for ISN Security Watch. With deep knowledge of the Iranian political environment and 50 Security Watch articles under his name, Yasin has provided the ISN with extensive coverage of Iranian politics and its regional implications.
Having returned from the UK for a short break and being bombarded with increasingly extraordinary claims by our MPs for expenses I thought the ISN blog would benefit from some insights into the worst, most ridiculous and decidedly unfortunate examples.
- Former Conservative MP Derek Conway paid his sons Henry and Freddie £80,000, and although after investigation he paid back £16,860, further enquires found that he made payments totaling £260,000 to his immediate family over a six year period.
- Five Sinn Fein MPs who refuse to sit in Westminster because they will not swear an allegiance to the Queen claimed over £500,000 in expenses for renting three properties in Westminster at three times the market rate according to local estate agents.
- Labour MPs Alan and Ann Keen took out a joint life insurance policy worth £430,000 and then claimed back the £867.57 monthly premiums on their expenses.
The most ridiculous:
- An unnamed Conservative MP claimed £380 for more than 500 bags of horse manure.
- Another Conservative MP, David Willets, claimed £115 to have 25 light bulbs changed by an electrician for his second property.
- Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne claimed £82.35 for the mounting, framing and inscription of a photo of himself – not for his constituency office but for one of his seven homes.
And the rather unfortunate:
- Labour immigration minister Phil Woolas claimed £2.67 for feminine hygiene products and £15 for a lady’s blouse. Arguably his worst mistake was not realizing that he could have tagged these ‘personal costs’ onto his £400 monthly food allowance and saved himself the embarrassment. That was an error carefully avoided by many MPs who make the full food allowance claim even during recess when they are unlikely to be away from their main homes.
- Labour MP Jacqui Smith’s husband claimed two blue movies on her expenses and expected the taxpayer to foot the bill.
Should MPs be able to claim thousands of pounds for televisions, stereo equipment and swimming pool cleaning, and be able to submit claims for sundry expenses up to the value of £250 without receipts? I don’t think so. Is an MPs ability to do his job enhanced by having a 42 inch Sony TV rather than one from a less ‘prestigious’ manufacturer? Again it is hard to argue that brand names contribute to productivity.
But it is the ways in which MPs have managed to subvert the rules for their own advantage which grates most strongly with me. The Telegraph has published an overview of the ways MPs have played the system – for instance by renovating properties with taxpayer money and selling them at a profit.
Here is what other bloggers are saying about this issue: