Lebanon's Triumph, Iran's Travesty

[New York Times] Elliott Abrams - Should we celebrate the outcome in Lebanon and push for elections throughout the Middle East, or sourly note that Hizbullah has exactly as many guns now as it had when it was defeated at the polls on Sunday? Is the Iranian presidential election today a festival of freedom or a cover for theocracy? We should not idealize Lebanon's election, nor its politics. Most voters support only candidates from their own religious group, and the political talk is not of liberals and conservatives but of Armenians, Maronites, Druze, Shiites and Sunnis. Still, the majority of Lebanese have rejected Hizbullah's claim that it is not a terrorist group but a "national resistance." Unfortunately, Iran's election presents the voters with no similar opportunity. The candidates have been carefully screened to exclude anyone opposed to the ruling clerical establishment; each is part of the Islamic Revolution's old guard. Voting in Iran is a contrivance for settling certain policy disputes and personal rivalries within the ruling elite. The failed presidency of Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005 reminds us that the power of a putative reformist is illusory. The Khatami years saw increased repression inside Iran, growing support for Hizbullah and Palestinian terrorist groups, and the covert construction of the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. A victory by Ahmadinejad's main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is more likely to change Western policy toward Iran than to change Iran's own conduct. The writer, who was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration, is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

2009-06-12 06:00:00

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