Iran's Election

What Happened? What's Next?

On June 22, 2009 Ken Ballen, Steve Clemons, Flynt Leverett, Afshin Molavi, and Nader Mousavizadeh came together with Nicholas Schmidle at the New America Foundation to share their varied views on the current events in Iran, and how they will impact future U.S. policy toward Iran. This discussion among some of the world’s most prominent experts on the region ranged from how to interpret the riots in the streets of Tehran to the forceful debates that continue in the media, and even touched upon the information wars on Twitter.

Ken Ballen, president of Terror Free Tomorrow, began the dialogue by arguing that the Iranian government is at risk of losing its base of support based on a TFT poll that showed an overwhelming number of Iranians desire a truly democratic system. Afshin Molavi, a fellow at the New America Foundation and author of Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran, spoke of how the Iranian journey for justice began more than one hundred years ago. During his many travels through the region, Mr. Molavi said he found an “enormous amount of disenchantment and disillusion with the order of things in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

A different perspective was presented by Flynt Leverett, Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Initiative at the New America Foundation and author of an op/ed “Ahmadinejad won. Get over It,” published in Politico. Mr. Leverett discussed his belief that the western media is simply consumed by wishful thinking and contended that the Iranian system is nowhere near collapsing. After acknowledging that Mr. Leverett’s analysis may be accurate, Nader Mousavizadeh, consulting Senior Fellow for the International Institute of Strategic Studies, argued that the recent movement is meaningful and has changed the outside world’s perception of Iran. “The Iranian people have posed an unprecedented challenge to the regime’s legitimacy,” said Mr. Mousavizadeh.

Steve Clemons, Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, disagreed with Mr. Leverett’s speedy dismissal of the election protests. From Mr. Clemons’ viewpoint, something historic and extraordinary is happening, and it will ultimately be up to the Iranian people to determine when and if the election is over. Mr. Clemons also reminded the audience that Iran’s election is truly a domestic affair, and that the United States should refrain from getting involved.

--Event summary by Monica Baer, Intern, Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation


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featured speakers
Ken Ballen
President, Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion
Author, "The Iranian people speak," Washington Post, June 15, 2009

Steve Clemons
Director, American Strategy Program
New America Foundation

Flynt Leverett
Director, Geopolitics of Energy Initiative
New America Foundation
Author, "Ahmadinejad won. Get over it,", June 15, 2009

Afshin Molavi
Fellow, New America Foundation
Author, Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran

Nader Mousavizadeh
Consulting Senior Fellow, International Institute for Strategic Studies
Former Special Assistant to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan
Author, Engage Iran, Not Ahmadinejad, Washington Post, June 18, 2009

Nicholas Schmidle
Fellow, New America Foundation
Former Student, University of Tehran
Author, To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan