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The Mugabe precedent?

Granted, we don't yet know exactly what happened in the Iranian election, but the question is almost certainly of how much, not whether, fraud occurred (see this great Juan Cole post for some analysis of the, er, irregularities). The vote certainly seems to fall into the "crude and patently contrived" category, which would give it the same qualities as the farce that eventually certified the reelection of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe last year. That Ahmadinejad's camp had to stoop to the level of a tinpot dictator is revealing, for it demonstrates that he -- and more significantly, the Ayatollah and clerics who abetted and hastily certified his stolen victory -- is far more interested in maintaining power than in advancing any of the goals for the Iranian people that he claims to support.

Of course, this should not be too surprising. It was very clear that Ahmadinejad very much wished to remain in power, and the cryptic threats he issued toward the end of the campaign, combined with already existing undemocratic processes and the voter intimidation and irregularities that occurred at the polls, made a free and fair election ultimately unlikely. Ayatollah Khamenei had seemed to have tipped his hand to the incumbent (a position that has practically guaranteed victory in Iranian electoral history), and the lingering animosity between the Supreme Leader and opposition candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, stemming from 1980's clashes when both were in government, may have had an outsized effect on the result.

But to rig an election in a a way so, again, "patently contrived" as to rival Mr. Mugabe's? Iran's leaders are either supremely out-of-touch or chillingly desperate. They've certainly observed how various strongmen around the world -- Mugabe, Kenya's Mwai Kibaki, Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin -- have clung to power recently, and seem to have introduced a similarly reactionary strategy into Iran's bizarre "managed democracy."

In the Zimbabwe case, for instance, the United States could have refused to recognize Mugabe's government and pushed harder to ensure that Morgan Tsvangirai, who almost certainly won even the corrupt election that did occur, by a sizeable margin, was seated as president. There would have been pitfalls to doing so, of course, but with Iran, unlike Zimbabwe, national security concerns make an aggressive democracy promotion project entirely unfeasible and unwise. This is the frustrating thing about other countries' elections -- they are other countries'. The victims of electoral fraud are chiefly the Iranian people, and they very much know it. Reversing policy and refusing to talk to Iran's leaders -- even illegitimately elected ones -- will neither advance U.S. interests nor help Iranians' democratic desires.

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Iran election protests turn violent

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Moving U.S. and international climate legislation in tandem

Guest posting at Opinio Juris, climate expert Nigel Purvis answers a very tricky question -- indeed, what may prove to be the trickiest -- about U.S. efforts to slow climate change. Here's the problem in a nutshell:

U.S. domestic legislation must contribute to a genuine global solution but global arrangements must also fit or alter domestic political realities.

Every country, in fact, is going to have to align what is practically achievable in their domestic political systems to what is needed to stop global warming. It's just particularly tough in the United States, both because segments of our political system are so vehemently opposed to action on climate change and because our impact on the global environment has dwarfed that of any other country. Purvis' solution? It gets wonky, but the point is to synch up U.S. domestic and international legislation. Both are going to be tinkered, and the ultimate effectiveness of both will depend on future commitments and the rest of the world meeting its end of the bargain. An all-encompassing treaty, therefore -- which would also require a 2/3 vote in the Senate, rather than a simple majority in both houses -- would be more difficult to pass, less likely to match U.S. legislation, and possibly less effective.

It’s unrealistic to think Congress has the time and attention to take up domestic legislation and an international agreement separately (in whatever order). It is even more unrealistic to assume that an international treaty would be consistent with U.S. legislation and congressional wishes unless Congress has created in advance a process that helps ensure this alignment. In twenty years of climate diplomacy neither Congress nor the Senate has given the President of the World a clear blueprint for U.S. global leadership on climate change...America needs a well-defined plan for climate cooperation and that plan should have the force of law.

I encourage you to read the whole post.

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This dude abides…

Having trouble putting together the two ideas of "cap" and "trade"? Check out this NPR segment, replete with a clip from Dude, Where's My Car?, that compares cap and trade with a hypothetical system for limiting the usage of the word "dude."  I'm not really sure this simplifies the concept, nor that it even needs simplification.

As far as dude examples go, I much prefer...well, the Dude, not the millionaire, duder, his dudeness, or el duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

Regarding the below, this is really the better video, but the title is not family friendly.

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Could Ratko Mladic playing ping-pong hurt Serbia’s EU chances?

Wednesday night, the Bosnian television program "60 Minutes" broadcast videos of former Serb general Ratko Mladic, who has been indicted to join his former political leader, Radovan Karadzic, at the International Criminal Tribunal for the forme Yugoslavia in The Hague. Unlike Karadzic, whose elaborate disguise was finally found out last year, Mladic is widely believed to have been living in the open and with the collusion of Serb authorities for the past decade-plus. This allegation would seem to be supported by the videos, some of which the "60 Minutes" producer claims are less than two years old.

Serbia, though, denies that any of them could be "less than eight years old." At particular issue, among videos showing Mladic dancing, toasting at a wedding, and getting in a snowball fight, is one depicting him playing table tennis at an army barracks, which is one of the locations he is reputed to have been spending time in the past few years. This was confirmed a couple days ago, when one of Mladic's former bodyguards attested to have been protecting him at the barracks, under Serb government orders, between 1997 and 2002.

The court in The Hague says that it already has the videos that were shown on Bosnian television. And the broadcast does seem suspiciously timed; on Monday, EU foreign ministers are scheduled to discuss Serbia's cooperation with the Hague tribunal and the search for Mladic, which has been an important condition in Serbia's push for EU membership.

Could Bosnia be seeking to cast doubt on Serbia's commitment to finding Mladic, in hopes of undermining its EU bid? It's entirely possible. But it was also widey -- and reasonably -- suspected, even before his former bodyguard's recent testimony, that Mladic has spent a long time living under at least quasi-government protection. This Serb government is more committed to joining the EU than its predecessors, but it faces the same quandary, in that Mladic, unfortunately, remains a popular figure among segments of the Serb population. Mladic should be even easier to arrest than the heavily disguised Karadzic, though, so Serbia should make sure that he is not spending his days playing ping-pong in army barracks.

(image from flickr user leasing2008 under a Creative Commons license)
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Iranians go to the polls

Today's the big day, and turnout seems to be high (which experts have emphasized would likely be a boon to Ahmadinejad's opponent, Mir Hossein Moussavi):
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Linked Up: Bugs Bunny in Africa, Iran’s human rights, Trees for $$, and Ban halfway

Why we shouldn't be surprised that a kid in Africa in the 1980's grew up watching The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show.

Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi makes the worthwhile point that, while attention is focused on the Iranian elections, the country's human rights record remains far below par.

Conserving trees for money can be a messy business.

Again from The Economist, a pretty even-handed report card marking the halfway point of Ban Ki-moon's tenure.

(image from flickr user Steve Rhodes under a Creative Commons license)

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About three hours ago the World Health Organization declared that the H1N1 Flu is now a global pandemic. And in so doing, the world is now at the beginning stages of the first global flu pandemic in 41 years.

What does this mean? First, if like me you live in a developed country, don't panic. There have been about 30,000 confirmed cases of H1N1 in 74 (mostly developed) countries resulting and 141 deaths. And while each of these deaths is tragic, this is not considered all that deadly. (Regular influenza is much worse.) Also, about two thirds of those who have succumbed to H1N1 have had other underlying medical conditions. Second, the WHO does not recommend any travel restrictions. I'm still planning on attending that wedding in Puerto Vallarta in October.

Still, there are some reasons to be concerned. So far, the virus has popped in places with decent health infrastructures. It has not - and this is only a matter of time - hit the developing world.  And this, says WHO director Margaret Chan "is of gravest concern."

We do not know how this virus will behave under conditions typically found in the developing world. To date, the vast majority of cases have been detected and investigated in comparatively well-off countries.

Let me underscore two of many reasons for this concern. First, more than 99% of maternal deaths, which are a marker of poor quality care during pregnancy and childbirth, occurs in the developing world.

Second, around 85% of the burden of chronic diseases is concentrated in low- and middle-income countries.

Although the pandemic appears to have moderate severity in comparatively well-off countries, it is prudent to anticipate a bleaker picture as the virus spreads to areas with limited resources, poor health care, and a high prevalence of underlying medical problems.

Bottom line: brace yourself, global south.