Iran | Presidential Election Thrusts Iran into Crisis
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- Khatami Attempts to Liberalize Nation
- Iran Taunts World With Nuclear Ambitions
- Ahmadinejad Elected President
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- Presidential Election Thrusts Iran into Crisis
- Leaked Cables Show Arab Countries Wary of Iran
- Experts Fear Iran Will Exploit Tumult in Middle East
- Advances in Nuclear Program Lead to Additional Sanctions
- Relationship with Israel Reaches Critical Point
- Centrist Elected President of Iran; Reaches Out to West with a Charm Offensive
- Iran Agrees to Scale Back Nuclear Program, but Deal Remains Elusive
- Iran Contributes to the Fight Against ISIS
- Historic Nuclear Deal Goes into Effect
Presidential Election Thrusts Iran into Crisis
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won his reelection campaign on June 12, 2009, by a landslide victory, taking almost 63% of the vote, while main challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, received just under 34%. Accusations of ballot tampering and fraud led to wide-scale protests in Tehran. Moussavi's campaign promises, which included plans for improved human rights and a reversal of Ahmadinejad's hard-line policies, were supported by many of the younger and less conservative generations in Iran. Ahmadinejad's victory was announced just two hours after the polls closed, an amazingly short period of time since Iran's paper ballots must be hand counted. The protests, the largest since the 1979 revolution, continued after the election. Protesters relied on social networking sites and text messaging to communicate with others around the world about Moussavi, the election, and the demonstrations. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, called the election "fair" and ruled out a recount or an annulment of the election. As many as 1,000 people were arrested during the protests and 20 were killed. There were widespread reports that prisoners were abused and some raped while in custody. In August, mass trial of 100 government critics began. The defendants, who were reportedly charged with inciting a "velvet coup," were denied access to lawyers and contact with family members.
The diplomatic situation between Iran and the West further deteriorated in September, when U.S. president Barack Obama revealed at the New York UN General Assembly meeting that American, British, and French spies have evidence that Iran has built a uranium-enrichment plant near Qum. Iranian officials acknowledged existence of the facility, but maintained it is for peaceful purposes. Then, Iran test fired medium-range missiles that are capable of hitting Israel and U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf. At talks in Geneva in early October between Iran, the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany, Iran agreed to open the plant to UN inspectors and export the enriched uranium it has declared for processing into fuel. However, Ahmadinejad quickly reneged on his offer and faced the possibility of stricter UN sanctions.
In May, as the U.S. and other members of the Security Council were negotiating the language and terms of a fourth round sanctions against Iran for continuing to enrich uranium and refusing to open its facilities to weapons inspectors, Iran agreed to send 2,640 pounds of enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for uranium enriched to 20%—a deal strikingly similar to the one Iran reneged on in October 2009. Turkey and Brazil brokered the agreement. Both countries were criticized for interfering with the sanctions process and accused of attempting to increase their presence on the world stage.
Despite the deal, Iran said it would continue to enrich uranium, and a report by International Atomic Energy Agency indicated that Iran had in fact produced enough fuel that with additional processing could make two nuclear weapons. Iran has steadfastly insisted that the fuel is for peaceful purposes. The report helped to further justify sanctions, which were passed by the UN Security Council in June. The sanctions require that countries inspect ships and planes leaving or entering Iran if they suspect banned cargo is being transported, ban Iran from investing in other countries' nuclear programs, and limit financial transactions of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The U.S. Congress and the EU followed with even tougher unilateral sanctions aimed at foreign companies that conduct business with the Revolutionary Guards or sell gas to Iran.