Laura Secor has written a NY Times book review of the Leverett's book, "Going to Tehran," which amounts to a lot of bullshit.
The Leveretts argue that the Islamic Republic faces no significant democratic opposition. They scoff at the notion that Iran’s 2009 presidential election suffered from gross irregularities. In their view, it was President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, who tried to steal the election by inciting protests that they claim turned violent and that the country’s security forces rightly put down. They assert (without evidence) that virtually all the Iranians who took to the streets in 2009 came from one rich, irrelevant area of Tehran.
First of all, the burden of providing evidence is on the party making the assertion that the elections were fraudulent in the first place. And the Leveretts pointed out that NO ONE -- not Mousavi, and certainly not Laura Secor -- has been able to provide such evidence. And the fact that the so-called "Green Movement" was based largely on the rich areas of Iran is observable from the election turnout statistics, amongst other things.
For example, in Shemiranat – the affluent and westernized Northern section of the greater Tehran area, abounding with shopping malls and luxury cars (and where the Green movement is strongest) – Mousavi beat Ahmadinejad by almost a 2 to 1 margin, winning 200,931 votes to
And while we're on the subject of election turnout statistics, lets take a look at the figures:
Oh and as regrettable as the post-election violence was, if there was no election fraud, that puts a whole different meaning to what happened as well as to the legitimacy of the so-called "Green Movement."
UPDATE: It seems to me an interesting question of just how much proof is required in the discussion of international affairs to consider a point to have been established. The proponents of regime change and "Green Movements" in Iran have no problem making excess and unsourced claims about the popularity of their movement -- providing NO objective evidence at all and relying entirely on emotional appeals and "blood shirt waving" (literally) -- a and yet they pooh pooh multiple, independent polls of Iranian public opinion conducted by reputable and experienced organizations and demand a degree of certainty about the evidence that is far far beyond what they've provided themselves or what is generally the standard in international affairs. We're supposed to take it for granted that there was election fraud, with no evidence of any quality deemed necessary, but if anyone challenges that presumption, they have to meet a standard of evidence far beyond what is generally accepted in interntional debates, beyond even a scientific standard of proof.
I don't know much about the science of polling beyond my undergraduate statistics course, but I do know that while there are many reasons that a poll can be legitimately criticized, the fact that you simply don't like the outcome is not one of these reasons. Polls in general amount to scientific evidence of a fact, which is a standard of proof far higher than what is even generally accepted in international affairs debates.
In citing these polls, as the Leveretts or I do, we are not saying that they represent Iranian public opinion with absolute certainty, we only point out that the polls amount to very high quality and objective evidence of Iranian opinion. And this objective evidence says the people do generally support the regime. That by itself is more than enough to shift the burden of proof onto the Laura's of the world, who are now obligated to counter that view with their own objective evidence, something which the proponents of the "stolen election" myth have thus far absolutely failed to do.
So in short, are the polls perfect? No. Are they the best evidence we have? Yes. Have the critics of the polls provided any evidence of their own? No. (But don't worry, I'm sure they're cooking up a few polls of their own.)