Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Realities of the Democracy Promotion Funding

The June 24, 2007 edition of the New York Times has a great piece on Iran democracy assistance funding.

One particularly interesting quote comes from Suzanne Maloney who was on the policy-planning staff at the State Department for two years. Regarding the democracy assistance funds, she says:

“I was worried about the safety of those on the receiving end of the funds. But I also just wondered if this was feasible. I don’t see how a U.S. government that has been absent from Tehran for 30 years is capable of formulating a program that will have a positive effect.” She continued: “You had to wonder where this money was going to go and what’s going to happen when you don’t have the time to sit down and sift through the more questionable proposals. There’s just not enough oversight. Of the 100 or more preliminary proposals I saw under the first call, it was an enormous challenge to find anything viable. This may have been a very high profile, sexy project, but the likelihood of real impact was minimal.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Mann Leverett, former director for Iran and Persian Gulf affairs at the National Security Council, "considers the democracy fund a concession to those who were keen on regime change but, for timing reasons — particularly with the U.S. bogged down in Iraq — couldn’t have their way. 'There was a strong push for policy toward U.S.-style democracy from the White House and the N.S.C. the entire time I was in the administration...'

“They were looking to undermine the Iranian government any way they could, from military strikes and sanctions to funding U.S.-style democracy activists. The compromise was among the regime-change advocates; some of them believed that all they could have gotten then was the democracy funding. But at least it would set the U.S. government on a course for regime change.”

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