Wednesday, June 22, 2005

In recent days, President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and numerous members of Congress have denounced as invalid Iran’s presidential election, in particular the fact that Tehran arbitrarily disqualified more than 1,000 of the 1,014 candidates who attempted to run. Unfortunately, thus far, Congress and the administration seem unaware of the fact that the regime has conducted the election in the United States, possibly in violation of U.S. law.

The United States has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1979 hostage crisis. As a result, Iranian officials cannot travel more than 25 miles from Washington (where Iran has an interests section in the Pakistani Embassy) or 12 miles from New York (where Iran’s U.N. delegation is based). On the other hand, Iranian law requires that voting be overseen by election officials representing the government — people who would appear to have no lawful right to be present at any of the polling places that were held last week in mosques, hotels and other buildings across the United States. Last week, the Iranian government did not publicize the location of the polling places until right before the voting began in order to lessen the likelihood of protests by Iranian dissidents. That appears to be the case with tomorrow’s presidential runoff.

But the dissidents have their own informal intelligence networks that gather information about where the voting will take place, a fact that displeases the regime and its supporters. On Friday, a clash occurred at one of the polling places, located at the Commerce Hotel in Los Angeles, between security guards working for the Iranian government and anti-regime activists. Aryo Pirouznia, coordinator for the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, tells us he was attacked, sprayed with pepper gas and sent to the hospital by the guards. In Tucson, Ariz., freelance journalist Robert Mayer visited a site at a local school for the visually impaired, where voting officials prepared to count the ballots, phone the results in to Tehran and mail the votes to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. Mr. Mayer interviewed the poll monitor, a visiting scholar at the University of Arizona, who treated him to a bizarre lecture explaining how Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are CIA agents. In Houston, Will Franklin, who blogs on the site WILLisms, posted photos showing how he was nearly arrested by the Houston Police Department when he attempted to write a story and take pictures of the polling place.

If the voting is being run by Iranian government agents, it may be unlawful. Federal authorities would do well to take action to prevent a repetition tomorrow.

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