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No, Really. Ahmadinejad Won?

1:56 PM, Jun 15, 2009 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett have a new opinion piece up at Politico. "Ahmadinejad won. Get over it."

The piece largely recycles arguments from Flynt Leverett's post-election interview with Spiegel online and their troubling New York Times op-ed from three weeks ago that was rather generous to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (See here for a discussion of those arguments.)

In their new piece, the Leveretts do not address many of the serious, substantive, detailed charges of voter fraud that have been leveled at the Iranian regime. And while they attempt to explain why, in their view, Ahmadinejad's victory was plausible, (he "artfully quoted Azeri and Turkish poetry," among other reasons) they do not bother to answer some simple questions about the results. For instance, is it likely that Mohsen Rezai, an opposition candidate, earned one tenth of Ahmadinejad's total in Rezai's own hometown?

And there is another oddity. The Leveretts point to a pre-election poll conducted by a nonprofit called "Terror Free Tomorrow" to buttress their argument. They write: "The one poll conducted before Friday's election by a Western organization that was transparent about its methodology - a telephone poll carried out by the Washington-based Terror-Free Tomorrow (TFT) during May 11-20 - found Ahmadinejad running 20 points ahead of Mousavi."

What they fail to mention is that the poll was co-sponsored by the organization that employs Flynt Leverett, the New America Foundation. As this CBS News story reports: "The poll was conducted for Terror Free Tomorrow, a bipartisan group that tries to undermine support for terrorism, and for the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute. Both are based in Washington." (An op-ed by staffers at both TFT and the New America Foundation appears in today's Washington Post. In language that echoes the Leveretts, they argue that "Allegations of fraud and electoral manipulation will serve to further isolate Iran and are likely to increase its belligerence and intransigence against the outside world.")

Why wouldn't Leverett, who is identified as the director of the New America Foundation's Iran project, simply mention that his organization sponsored the poll?

Further, the poll itself is problematic for several reasons -- most especially because 52 percent of Iranians surveyed did not express a preference. So, as Jon Cohen of the Washington Post notes:

the poll that appears in today's op-ed shows a 2 to 1 lead in the thinnest sense: 34 percent of those polled said they'd vote for Ahmadinejad, 14 percent for Mousavi. That leaves 52 percent unaccounted for. In all, 27 percent expressed no opinion in the election, and another 15 percent refused to answer the question at all. Six Eight percent said they'd vote for none of the listed candidates; the rest for minor candidates.

What's more, he says that while the survey's methodology "passes muster" it was "conducted from May 11 to 20, well before the spike in support for Mousavi his supporters claim."

(H/T Andrew Sullivan)