|About the Book|
On June 12, 2009, following a heated campaign between reformist candidate Mir Hussein Musavi and incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranians turned out in record numbers to vote in the presidential election. Shortly after the polls closed, the Interior Minister announced that President Ahmadinejad had been reelected by a 62% margin. The announcement was followed by allegations of vote rigging and election fraud and prompted supporters of leading reformist candidate Mir Hussein Musavi and others to hold public demonstrations in several major cities of a size and intensity unprecedented since the Iranian Revolution of 1979.Despite a government ban on unauthorized public gatherings, protests reportedly have continued since the election. Restrictions on foreign and domestic journalists, reported disruptions of mobile phone networks, limited accessibility of some internet sites, mass arrests, and clashes between civilian protestors and Basij forces have garnered international attention and increased concerns about the Iranian government’s apparent disregard for human rights and basic civil liberties.Regardless of the actual election results, the Supreme Leader Khamenei, along with the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij, appear determined to impose the election outcome by force. The government crackdown on protestors appears to be effective, even as smaller gatherings have continued in Tehran and other major cities. Attention has now focused on the potential long-term effects of the post-election unrest on Iranian government and society, and what the outcome might mean for U.S. efforts to resolve the issues of Iran’s nuclear program, its support for terrorism, and other national security concerns.The Obama Administration’s response has been cautious, but somewhat has hardened as reports of deaths, injuries, and mass arrests of Iranian citizens have increased. Many observers believe that President Obama is attempting to balance the need to condemn the violence against the protestors with the need to avoid the perception of U.S. interference, which some worry could prompt the Iranian government to clamp down further on freedom of expression or jeopardize U.S. efforts to engage Iran on the issue of its nuclear program.For more information and background on Iran, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.