News from Iran continues to dominate the papers this morning, as riots erupted for a second day in Tehran and several other cities. Security forces cracked down on protesters, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended his supposed landslide victory. The main opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, called on his supporters to continue protesting. A large rally is planned this afternoon, although it’s unclear whether security forces will allow it to go forward. The Washington Postreports that gunshots were “heard in several locations in Tehran” yesterday. The Los Angeles Timespoints out that it’s unclear whether Mousavi was under house arrest yesterday. The Wall Street Journalcalls the clashes “the biggest domestic unrest since authorities put down student riots at Tehran University a decade ago.” The New York Timespoints out that while dismissing the opposition’s complaints about the elections, Ahmadinejad criticized Mousavi “in a veiled statement that many here saw as a threat.”
USA Todaygoes high with the news out of Iran but devotes its traditional lead space to a look at how NASA’s delays in launching space missions can end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars. The space shuttle Endeavour was supposed to launch Saturday but was delayed until Wednesday, the same day an unmanned satellite to the moon was supposed to be launched. When there’s a delay, NASA must continue to pay contract workers who are in charge of the project, and the costs quickly add up.
Mousavi and another opposition candidate appealed to the Guardian Council—a 12-member commission made up of appointed clerics that supervises the government and must certify the election—to nullify the election results due to widespread fraud. The LAT says it’s highly unlikely the appeal will be successful, considering that the council is appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The NYT points out that a moderate clerical body, the Association of Combatant Clergy, also called for the vote to be annulled. While it’s hard to say what kind of effect the statement will have “in Iran’s complex and opaque power structure,” Ayatollah Khamenei “is sensitive to clerical opinion.”
Early-morning wire stories report that Khamenei has ordered the Guardian Council to look into allegations of election fraud. This marks a “stunning turnaround” for the supreme leader, who had urged Iranians to get behind Ahmadinejad and called the result a “divine assessment.”
By all accounts, the clashes between police and demonstrators were often brutal. At least 160 demonstrators have been detained. The WSJ describes a vivid scene at Tehran University in which police ran toward a group of students who were exchanging stories, “threw one man to the ground and began beating him as he screamed.” Close by, Ahmadinejad held his victory rally, where “the smell of tear gas and smoke drifted over the cheering crowds,” notes the NYT, pointing out that only a few blocks away, “bloodied and screaming” protesters “could be seen running from police officers armed with clubs.” Supporters of the president characterized the protesters as “sore losers,” as one 23-year-old woman put it. Cell phone service continued to be cut on Sunday. But at 9 p.m., Mousavi supporters found a way to connect with one another by going to rooftops and balconies and shouting “God is great! Death to the dictator!” which was the rallying cry used in the weeks leading up to the 1979 revolution.
Some Western leaders expressed concern over the election result, but the Obama administration “remained cautious, worried that their words could taint the opposition as American stooges,” notes the LAT. Vice President Joe Biden said there appeared to be “some real doubt” about the election results but the administration would “wait and see” before making any definitive statements. “The Obama administration has handled this pretty well,” an Iran expert tells USAT. “There’s nothing we can do in a proactive way that is going to improve things.”
In a front-page analysis, the WP notes that the “cautious response” from the White House illustrates “the balance that the Obama administration is seeking between condemning what increasingly appears to be a fraudulent election and the likelihood that it will be dealing with Ahmadinejad after the dust settles.” But even as Biden pointed out that negotiations with Iran should be pursued regardless of who is declared the winner, it’s clear that many more are likely to push for isolating Iran if the election is largely seen as a fraud. “How the Iranian electorate responds will probably shape the Obama administration’s next steps,” notes the Post. “For now, as Biden indicated, the administration is watching.”
The NYT’s executive editor, Bill Keller, continues his dispatches from Tehran, and in an analysis piece co-written with Michael Slackman from Cairo, they say the election only helped to cement the president’s power. “Ahmadinejad is the shrewd and ruthless front man for a clerical, military and political elite that is more unified and emboldened than at any time since the 1979 revolution.” Of course, Ayatollah Khamenei remains the country’s true leader, but Ahmadinejad has always been loyal to him, and with these elections they seem “to have neutralized for now the reform forces that they saw as a threat to their power.”
The LAT, WSJ, and NYT front a speech yesterday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he, for the first time, said he would support the idea of a Palestinian state. It was supposed to signal that his government is open to compromise, but Netanyahu put so many conditions on what kind of Palestinian state would be acceptable that Palestinian leaders immediately dismissed his supposed concession as mere theatrics. Indeed, the WSJ notes that Netanyahu’s words “don’t mark a big shift in Israeli policy, because previous prime ministers have supported Palestinian statehood.” Netanyahu also added that a Palestinian state can’t have its own military and needs to recognize Israel as a Jewish state that has Jerusalem as its capital. He also rejected calls from the White House to freeze settlement growth in the West Bank. Despite these caveats, the LAT says Netanyahu’s remarks still “marked a watershed” considering that he had previously “spent more than two decades in public life rejecting a ‘two-state solution.’ “
In a speech that was supposed to at least partly be seen as a response to Obama’s address in Cairo, Egypt, Netanyahu didn’t focus as much attention on Iran as many had expected. But he did state that the threat from a nuclear-armed Iran was “the greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race.”
Tim Geithner and Larry Summers pick the WP’s op-ed page to outline the administration’s plan to change the way financial markets are regulated. While the current financial crisis “had many causes,” it was undoubtedly “also the product of basic failures in financial supervision and regulation,” they write. Under the administration’s proposal, capital and liquidity requirements for all institutions will be increased, with a particular focus on the large firms that can create problems in the financial system as a whole. The Federal Reserve would have broad new powers to oversee the biggest financial companies, and a new council of regulators would be created to oversee the financial system. The administration also wants to increase transparency in securities markets and to reduce the importance of credit-rating agencies. In addition, the administration wants to set up a “resolution mechanism” to decide the future of any financial company that might be in trouble, so the government won’t be “forced to choose between bailouts and financial collapse” in future crises.
The WSJ fronts some more details about the administration’s plans, which it calls “the most sweeping reorganization of financial-market supervision since the 1930s.” The paper points out that along with the Fed’s new powers, the government would also have “the power to unwind and break up systematically important companies” and a new regulator would be set up to oversee consumer-oriented financial products. The plan, set to be announced Wednesday, doesn’t go as far in consolidating regulatory power as some lawmakers and administration officials wanted, but, at the very least, it should make it more difficult “for large companies to be so overleveraged that they threaten the broader economy,” notes the WSJ. Of course, lawmakers would have to approve these changes and some parts of the plan are likely to create controversy.
Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty write in the WP’s op-ed page that despite the eagerness of many to call the Iranian election results a fraud, Ahmadinejad’s victory may actually “reflect the will of the Iranian people.” In a public-opinion survey they carried out three weeks before the vote, Ahmadinejad was leading “by a more than 2 to 1 margin.” Their polling found that the only people with whom Mousavi was even competitive were students and the upper classes. Before Western countries isolate Iran even further, “they should consider all independent information.”
For his part, Mehdi Khalaji isn’t buying it and goes as far as to claim that Ayatollah Khamenei decided to carry out a “military coup.” Khalaji writes that in the final two weeks before the election “all reputable polls” showed that “Ahmadinejad’s popularity had decreased significantly.” By declaring Ahmadinejad the winner before the official count by the Interior Ministry was released, Khamenei, “conveyed a clear message to the West: Iran is digging in on its nuclear program, its support to Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas, and its defiant regional policies.” The Western world can’t just sit back and watch as events unfold, and the United States in particular needs to condemn the election: “Iranian society will not forget this historic moment and is watching to see how the free world reacts.”