Sunday, June 14, 2009

Biden Doubts If Iran Election Was Legitimate; Protests Grow in Iran Over Results

There is still confusion over the election results in Iran, some of it coming from the United States.

Officially, the United States is recognizing the election results. Unofficially, Vice President Joe Biden didn't get the memo.

Biden said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he had doubts about whether Iran's presidential election was free and fair, though the United States must accept Teheran's claim that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a resounding re-election.

U.S. officials are trying to understand whether the vote accurately reflected Iranians' response to President Barack Obama's effort to open a dialogue after a nearly 30-year diplomatic freeze, Biden said. "That's the question," Biden said, adding: "Is this the result of the Iranian people's wishes? The hope is that the Iranian people all their votes have been counted, they've been counted fairly. But look, we just don't know enough" since Friday's vote.

While Ahmadinejad insisted the results showing his landslide victory were fair and legitimate, Biden simply said, "You know I have doubts."

"It sure looks like the way they're suppressing speech, the way they're suppressing crowds, the way in which people are being treated, that there's some real doubt about that," Biden said.

Despite the fact that the vice president said the United States for now recognizes the election results, Major Garrett, reporting for FOX News, reports that an administration official, who did not want to be named, is more cautious:

A senior official, speaking without attribution, said the Obama administration would not describe the announced outcome of the Iranian election as legitimate or illegitimate.

It would also not describe a victory by Mir Hossein Mousavi as necessarily better than a victory - now claimed and endorsed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - by reigning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad.

"We're not going to characterize what would have been a better or worse scenario," the official said. "We will deal with this as it is, not as we wish it to be. We have very serious foreign policy and national security issues at play here. That was the case yesterday. It is the case today."

The official said the White House and State Department will "follow closely" reports of voting irregularities and called the public statement by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on irregularities a "straight-forward" signal to the world about US concerns.

"We are continuing to follow and monitor developments, but we are not going to get ahead of the facts."

The senior official said there was legitimate reason to study complaints from Mousavi's camp that the former prime minister even lost in his own political base to Ahmadinejad, that cell phones and text messaging appeared to have been blocked, and that shortages in ballots may have denied millions a chance to vote.

Andrew Sullivan, writing on The Daily Dish for The Atlantic, reports that one ayatollah is protesting the results.

Grand Ayatollah Sanei in Iran has declared Ahmadinejad's presidency illegitimate and cooperating with his government against Islam. There are strong rumors that his house and office are surrounded by the police and his website is filtered. He had previously issued a fatwa, against rigging of the elections in any form or shape, calling it a mortal sin.

On the streets, protests are continuing. Here is recent video of riot cops riding motorcycles directly into a crowd of protesters.

When asked about reports of arrests and the detention of opposition leaders, including that of his challenger Mir Hussein Moussavi, Ahmadinejad gave a cryptic response during a news conference. Here is CNN's translation:

"The situation in the country is in a very good condition. Iran is the most stable country in the world, and there's the rule of law in this country, and all the people are equal before the law. And the presidential election has witnessed people's massive turnout. As I said, even in a soccer match, people may become excited and that may lead to a confrontation between them and the police force. This is something natural. A person coming out of a stadium may violate the traffic regulations. He will be fined by the police no matter who he is, an ordinary person or even a minister.

"So these are not problems for the people of Iran. 40 million people have participated in the election and these 40 million people will safeguard the elections, based on the Iranian culture. There is no partisanship based on the Western concept. In fact, the people are friends with one another, and they're going to cast their votes in favor of any candidate they like, and of course, such a voting process will not lead to any hostility among the people. And you go to the streets you see that people are friends with one another, and in Iran, no one asks the other whom you're going to vote for.

"The situation is very good, and Iran is on the threshold of making considerable progress. And definitely in the next four years, the status of Iran in the world will be further promoted.

Here is video of the CNN's Christian Amanpour pressing Ahamdinejad for answers concerning the challenger's safety:

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