Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gov. Richardson on Engaging Iran

At a speech before the Center for National Policy, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson called for engaging Iran without preconditions and without illusions.

According to Richardson:

"We need to stop threatening the Iranians and talking about regime change. Instead, we need to start applying meaningful pressure, while working with them to change their behavior. We also must dialogue with moderate and pragmatic elements in both the Iranian political class and in the broader society, including business people and students who have supported moderate politicians in the past, and may do so again in the future."

His prescription for proceeding:

"As you know, US government representatives have met recently with Iranian officials to discuss Iraq, and there have also been US-Iranian meetings to talk about Afghanistan and our shared interest in preventing a return to power by the Taliban. These are all steps in the right direction, but the US needs to go further and propose broad, bilateral, unconditional negotiations with Iran -- with all subjects open for discussion. Support for such talks has come from many figures in the US foreign policy establishment, including Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

We need to end the taboo on open-ended talks, so that we can begin serious, continuing, and senior-level negotiations on the full range of nuclear, Middle East security, and economic issues. Only in the context of intensifying dialogue can we start to communicate better with Iran, and to find ways to reconcile our differences.

Our message to Iran must always have two components:

1) We must respect their legitimate right to peaceful nuclear energy, and we must let them know that gestures toward peace and reconciliation will be reciprocated with meaningful economic benefits and security guarantees;

2) We must stand absolutely firm with our international partners in letting the Iranians know that we will never allow them to acquire nuclear weapons, and that they will pay a high price if they continue to support international terrorists.

In short the message to the Iranians must be clear: work with the international community and you will be safe and prosperous. Continue to defy the international community and you will suffer and economically- and politically-damaging international sanctions."

He also stressed the need for a "more intelligent and effective American policy towards the entire Middle East":

"I have said before that there is a civil war within Islam between extremists and moderates. We must open an ideological front in the war against violent Jihadism, which is the single biggest threat our country faces.

To do that, we must do everything we can to isolate the extremists and to strengthen moderates across the Islamic world. And a good place to begin is with Iran -- where pragmatists and moderates are waiting in the wings as hard-line policies fail and as President Amadenejad’s popularity continues to slide.

We need urgently to re-engage the Middle East peace process with a high-level permanent envoy tasked with building the bases for a just peace. Continued deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will only provide aid and comfort to our enemies in the Islamic world. We must use all our sticks and carrots to strengthen Palestinian moderates and to promote a two-state solution that guarantees Israel’s security.

In the Persian Gulf, we need to work constructively with both Sunni Arabs and Shia Iranians on a wide range of security, economic, and energy initiatives that will promote stability in that crucial part of the world.

In the Levant, we need to talk directly to Syria in order to foster political stability in Lebanon and to encourage an Israeli-Syrian agreement on the Golan Heights."

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.”

H.R. 1400 Passes House Foreign Affairs Committee

On June 26, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed H.R. 1400 by a vote of 37-1. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) was the lone voice voting against the measure in committee, but Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) remained silent on the measure. Below are some of my thoughts about H.R. 1400 (and S. 970, the Senate companion bill).

A section in the bill essentially threatens Russia to end nuclear and missile cooperation with Iran or the US will not enter into any 123 Agreement with Russia, which it has long sought from the US. It has actually been the long-standing policy of both the Clinton and Bush administrations to withold the 123 Agreement as a bargaining chip to gain leverage with Russia regarding the issue of Iran.

A Section 123 Agreement is the necessary agreement for the US to enter into nuclear cooperation with another country, as stipulated originally in the US Atomic Energy Act. It provides and outlines the "terms, conditions, duration, nature, scope, and other requirements of proposed agreements for cooperation; Presidential exemptions; negotiations; Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement."

In July, 2006, Bush and Putin announced they were open to negotiations on an agreement that would permit full nuclear cooperation between the two countries. Russia has long sought a 123 Agreement with the US.

We need Russia’s support within the UN Security Council to maintain and increase international pressure on Iran, which is more meaningful and will have better results than US unilateral sanctions and pressure alone. If in fact this section of H.R. 1400/S. 970 becomes law, Russia could feel threatened and would not have any incentive to continue to help foster support for ramping up pressure in the Security Council. In addition, Russia could renege on its agreement to accept Iranian nuclear waste from Buhsher, but rather let the waste stay in Iran, a move that would provide more fissionable material for the Iranian nuclear program.

I also want to point out that Russian missile/air defenses supplied or to be supplied to Iran would not threaten U.S. security. This provision is a direct result of a perceived Israeli security threat.

H.R. 1400 & S. 970 are unlikely to come to a vote on the House or Senate floor before Fall, possibly even before October, simply because of everything facing Congress. S. 970 has been stalled in the Senate and H.R. 1400 still must go through Financial Services and Ways and Means. Leg. Affairs at State Department also does not approve of H.R. 1400 as is, though we could see it amended to administration liking as we did with the Iran Sanctions Act (Iran Freedom and Support Act) in the wee hours of the morning on the last day of the Senate session before October recess last year.

Meanwhile, another bill, H.R. 957 (expanding and clarifying sanctions from aforementioned bill) is moving rapidly and we could see a vote on it this summer.

Bolton Worries About Israel

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said in a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post that sanctions and diplomacy have failed and it may be too late for internal opposition to oust the Islamist regime, leaving only military intervention to stop Iran's drive to nuclear weapons.

According to Bolton in the interview with the Jerusalem Post:

"The current approach of the Europeans and the Americans is not just doomed to failure, but dangerous," he said. "Dealing with [the Iranians] just gives them what they want, which is more time...

"We have fiddled away four years, in which Europe tried to persuade Iran to give up voluntarily," he complained. "Iran in those four years mastered uranium conversion from solid to gas and now enrichment to weapons grade... We lost four years to feckless European diplomacy and our options are very limited."

Bolton said flatly that "diplomacy and sanctions have failed... [So] we have to look at: 1, overthrowing the regime and getting in a new one that won't pursue nuclear weapons; 2, a last-resort use of force."

However, he added a caution as to the viability of the first of those remaining options: While "the regime is more susceptible to overthrow from within than people think," he said, such a process "may take more time than we have."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

State of the Student Movement in Iran

Roula Khalaf has a new article in the Finacial Times on the state of the student movement in Iran. This paragraph is good sum-up, but I suggest reading the whole article.

"Amini-Zadeh, the 'starred' former student leader, tells me such protests show students still have a voice. 'It’s the students who raise violations of human rights and defend the rights of political prisoners. Ahmadi-Nejad was told ’no’ in the most blatant way and it was the first direct challenge to him.' But Amini-Zadeh acknowledges that students need a new cause. 'During the Khatami period the strategy was clear: you have to win elections and try to reform parts of the system. But that turned into a failed strategy. The problem we have now is that we don’t have an alternative. Ahmadi-Nejad is rejected at Amir Kabir but no one says what the alternative is. It’s not just the problem of the student movement but the problem of the whole political system.'"

Freedom House Newly Created Position

Freedom House is seeking a Senior Program Manager for the Global Human Rights Defender Emergency Fund.

According to the job description, "it is a newly created position which will report to the Director of Rule of Law and Human Rights Programs. The Global Human Rights Defender Emergency Fund will provide assistance, including emergency funds and services, to human rights defenders who are under threat, attack, detention, prosecution, or otherwise at immediate risk due to government repression. As well, the project will seek to mobilize international, regional and local support for human rights defenders and support the development of strategic responses to on-going government repression of human rights defenders."

The job entails "establishing and maintaining strong relationships with select indigenous partners human rights organizations around the world, forming and maintaining close coordination with a referral group of international organizations and assistance providers, developing and overseeing strategic operational discussions related to fund recipients and mode of assistance, and troubleshooting all obstacles impeding the fund."

I find the announcement of the position quite interesting. The SPM will certainly have a challenging time, to say the least, trying to manage funds given to Freedom House through the State Department's Iran Democracy Assistance program and trying to get any credibility working with organizations on the ground in Iran for reasons cited in the INW post linked above.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Watch Republicans Go Boom

Here is a new video entitled "Watch Republicans Go Boom" from the Council for a Livable World on Republican Presidential candidates position on dealing with Iran.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

US Will Not Release Five Iranians Captured in Irbil

Robin Wright has a new story on the Washington Post website which reports that the US will not release the five Iranians captured in Irbil, Iraq in January until at least this coming October. Wright says, "The delay is as much due to miscommunication within the U.S. government as a policy decision, they said. " The decision could have negative ramifications for the four Iranian Americans who have been detained in Iran since May.

According to Wright, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari appealed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to free the five Iranians during a visit to Washington June 18-19.

"Zebari told U.S. officials that the release would promote progress in the new U.S.-Iran dialogue on Iraq, which brought diplomats from the two nations together last month in Baghdad at their first public meeting in almost three decades. Iran has become pivotal to U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, since Tehran now has greater influence in Iraq with a wider cross section of parties than any other country. It has also armed, funded and trained many of the militant groups.

"Zebari warned that Tehran either might not attend a second session or not be cooperative unless the five Iranians are released, according to the sources."

Iran in the Foreign Ops Bill

On June 18, the House Committee on Appropriations released its Committee Report for “State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill, 2008,” also known simply as the Foreign Ops. bill. Here are some highlights on Iran:

Intelligence and research, Page 8

“The Committee recommendation includes the full request of $58,175,000 for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which is $6,300,000 and 8 positions above the fiscal year 2007 level. The increase is provided to augment the Bureau’s analytic staff in key areas such as terrorism, China, and Iran…”
Translation: increased money for Intelligence and Research staff positions within Department of State.

Anti-jamming efforts, page 40
“Further, the Committee supports efforts to counter internet censorship imposed by China and Iran.”
Economic Support Fund
, page 75-76
“The Committee recommendation includes $25,000,000 for programs in Iran, which is $50,000,000 below the request. The Committee is concerned that of the $25,000,000 appropriated for democracy programs in Iran in fiscal year 2006,
less than $2,000,000 had been expended as of the end of May 2007. The Committee is further concerned at the lack of adequate justification for the funds that have been requested in fiscal year 2008. The Committee urges that within the
amount provided, $5,000,000 be provided for women’s rights and support programs with a particular focus on minority communities. The Committee is aware of the work of the National Endowment for Democracy on these issues and encourages support for such programs.

“The Committee encourages the Department of State to assess and report back within 90 days of enactment of this Act on the feasibility, the cost and impact of implementing efforts to restrict the supply of refined gasoline to Iran to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran under cover of its nuclear program and provide a plan to implement such actions if deemed necessary by the Executive branch with approval from Congress.”
Economic Support Fund
, page 89
“The Committee has carried for several years language restricting assistance for the government of Russia due to its support for the Iranian nuclear program. Russian cooperation with Iran has, at the minimum, contributed to Iran’s uranium enrichment capability. In addition, Russia’s continued support for Iran’s ballistic missile capacity has directly contributed to increasing regional instability.

“The Committee continues its restrictions on funding for the Russian government again this year.”
The Committee also recommended the following new General Provision on Iran on page 142:
“Sec. 699C. ‘Programs to Improve Democracy, the Rule of Law, and Governance in Iran’ is a new section which provides that $50,000,000 should be available for democracy, rule of law and governance programs in Iran.”

Of related interest on Iran is report language calling for a GAO report on the effectiveness of democracy programs. Colleagues have suggested that this GAO report give particular scrutiny to Iran funds. Also, since it is going to be difficult to get the State Department to disclose who and what it is funding under Iran democracy promotion funds, perhaps the GAO could recommend that organizations that receive this funding self-identify.

Democracy programs, page78
“The Committee is concerned about the effectiveness of the democracy programs funded in this Act and the continued fragmentation of the administration of such programs across United States Government entities. The Committee therefore directs the Government Accountability Office to initiate a comprehensive assessment of the capacity of the United States Government to effectively administer democracy programs worldwide. This shall include a review of the respective capacities of the following entities with respect to their ability to effectively administer grants and/or contracts and provide effective strategic direction and support to such programs: the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID; the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the Department of State; the Middle East Partnership Initiative at the Department of State; and the National Endowment for Democracy. The report should be delivered to the Committees on Appropriations no later than 180 days following enactment of this Act.”

New York Vigil for Detained Iranian American Scholars

In May the government of Iran arrested four Iranian–Americans: prominent U.S. scholars Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, journalist Parnaz Azima and activist Ali Shakeri. Esfandiari, Tajbakhsh and Shakeri remain in detention without being able to see family, lawyers, or the ICRC. All four face serious charges stemming from their efforts to promote an Iranian–American dialogue and scholarly work and could be sentenced to long prison terms.

Amnesty International, the American-Islamic Congress, Human Rights Watch, Vital Voices Global Partnership, the Near Eastern Studies Department of Princeton University, and several other organizations will hold a vigil in New York on Wednesday, June 27. The purpose of the vigil is two-fold: to urge that all charges against Haleh Esfandiari and the other 3 Iranian-Americans be dropped, and that the Iranian government immediately release Dr. Esfandiari and the other three Iranian-American detainees. It will take place across from the United Nations headquarters in New York City at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, from 12 – 1 p.m.

For more information contact Sharon McCarter 202-691-4016 or Amnesty International USA 202-675-8755.

Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board Rejects Divestment Plans

The Washington Post is reporting today that the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board has approved in a 4 to 0 vote a resolution objecting to any efforts that would "introduce political or social considerations into TSP [Thrift Savings Plan] investment policy."

According to the Washington Post article:

"The TSP, a program that functions like a 401(k) for the civil service, postal and military personnel, has practiced neutrality on political and social issues since its start 20 years ago.

However, bills pending in Congress would pressure the TSP to stop investing in companies that do business with Iran or support, directly or indirectly, the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan, which the United States has called a genocide.

While the legislation would 'address various meritorious causes,' the board objected to any effort to tamper with the TSP, which uses funds that mirror the ups and downs of stock and bond markets rather than a particular industry or individual companies."

President Bush on Iran

Below is an excerpt from a White House Press Conference yesterday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. President Bush reiterated that all options are on the table in regards to Iran's nuclear program.

Q "Mr. President, question. Regarding the ongoing attempts by Iran to acquire nuclear capability of atom bomb, would you -- are you willing to say at this time that a military action against Iran is no longer an option in light of the situation?"

PRESIDENT BUSH: "I will tell you this, that my position hasn't changed, and that is all options are on the table. I would hope that we could solve this diplomatically. And that's why the United States -- first of all, we take the threat very seriously. And I fully understand the concerns of any Israeli when they hear the voice of the man in Iran saying, on the one hand, we want to acquire the technologies and know-how to build a -- enrich uranium, which could then be converted into a nuclear weapon, and on the other hand, we want to destroy Israel. Look, if I were an Israeli citizen I would view that as a serious threat to my security. And as a strong ally of Israel, I view that as a serious threat to its security -- not only the security of Israel, but the security of the Middle East.

"That's why we are constantly working to remind our European friends, as well as Russia and other members of the U.N., we have an obligation to see if we can't work together to solve this issue diplomatically. That means to provide consequences to the Iranian government if they continue to pursue a nuclear weapon, such as financial sanctions, or economic sanctions. We want there to be a choice. We want people to see there's -- in isolation there's got a consequence to it, that there's a price that's paid for this kind of intransigence and these threatening tones.
And it's difficult work to keep the nations bound together to help deal with this issue diplomatically, but we have done a pretty good job so far. Now, whether or not they abandon their nuclear weapons program, we'll see. But at least we got unanimity so far, speaking -- at the U.N. Security Council -- speaking pretty clearly that there will be consequences. And there are being consequences, economic consequences beginning to affect the economy.

"Look, the Iranian people don't need to live under this kind of conditions. These are proud people with a great tradition. Their government can do better for them. And threatening the world has caused there to be isolation. And these good folks could have leadership that enables them to have a better economy and a better way of life, an economy and a way of life that enriches their families, that gives them a better chance to succeed. But, no, this group of people have made a different alternative, and now our job is to make sure that we continue to keep the pressure on."


Iran appears to have responded to these most recent comments with a threat of its own. According to the Washington Times:

"Iran yesterday refused to rule out using oil supplies as a weapon in the standoff with the United States over its nuclear program, saying Washington never excluded attacks on the Islamic republic.

"'When the Americans say that using the military option against Iran regarding its nuclear issue is not off the table, then Iran can say that it will not put aside the instrument of oil,' Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, Iran's representative to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, said in an interview with the Shargh newspaper.

"Asked where Iran's 'red line' on using oil as a weapon lay, he replied: 'The red line lies where the Americans fail to say that using military means against Iran is illegal.'"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Iran's Enrichment Capability & IAEA Report on Nuclear Fuel Assurances

I want to point out two new posts regarding Iran's enrichment capabilities on ArmsControlWonk by Jeffrey Lewis and TotalWonkerr by Paul Kerr.

Also, the IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei released a new report to the agency's Board of Governors on Friday, June 15. The 90-page report offers a possible new framework for use of nuclear energy and assuring fuel supplies in the face the inherent proliferation risks associated with spreading sensitive nuclear technology as the demand for nuclear energy increases.

The report addresses several proposals that have been put forward over the last two years. According to the press release, "Some proposals call for the creation of an actual or virtual reserve fuel bank of last resort, under IAEA auspices, for the assurance of supply of nuclear fuel. This bank would operate on the basis of apolitical and non-discriminatory non-proliferation criteria. Others call for conversion of a national facility into an international enrichment centre. Still others call for the construction of a new, multinational enrichment facility under IAEA control."

"We are looking these proposals and their associated legal, technical, financial and institutional aspects," Dr. ElBaradei said. "Trends clearly point to the need for developing a new multilateral framework for the nuclear fuel cycle. And it´s clear that an incremental approach, with multiple assurances in place, is the way to move forward."

Iran-Related Bills on House Floor

There are two Iran-related bills that will come up for a vote on the House floor today:

H.R. 885 – International Nuclear Fuel for Peace and Nonproliferation Act of 2007 (Rep. Lantos – Foreign Affairs).

H.Con.Res. 21 – Calling on the United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the United Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel (Rep. Rothman – Foreign Affairs)

H.R. 885 was passed/agreed to in House on June 20: On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote. Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), the bill’s sponsor, stated that it would “call Iran’s bluff” on its nuclear program. According to Lantos, “If Tehran is true to its word, it would welcome the chance to secure a stable supply of nuclear fuel and halt its enrichment activities.” In spite of Lantos’ comments, Iran would not be eligible to participate in such a program.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.Con.Res. 21 on June 20 urging the UN Security Council to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Genocide Convention and the UN Charter by a vote of 411 to 2.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

State Department Democracy Promotion Funding Broken Down

On June 4, 2007, the US State Department released an update on "Democracy Promotion" funding for Iran. I am posting a breakdown below, but some comments first.

The State Department says the purpose of this funding is to support programs that "assist those inside Iran who desire basic civil liberties such as freedom of expression, greater rights for women, more open political process, and broader freedom of the press." On the surface this seems like a noble goal, but there is no transparency mechanism attached to this money. The State Department has said that information regarding who receives the money and what it is used for should remain classified in order to protect those who receive it. The problem with this argument is that the Iranian government is now detaining prominent Iranian Americans, like Dr. Haleh Esfandiari and Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, precisely because there is no transparency regarding these monies. They are being accused of taking money from the US government and acting as spies.

In an Op-Ed for the International Herald Tribune on May 30, 2007, Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi (who by the way is also Dr. Esfandiari's lawyer) and Muhammed Sahimi explain the situation quite well. They write:

"The recent arrests, including the detention of Hossein Mousavian, a former nuclear negotiator and a close aid to Rafsanjani, should be viewed as Ahmadinejad's retaliation against the more moderate faction. But the most important reason has to do with President George W. Bush's policy toward Iran. Last year, the administration requested and received $75 million from Congress to 'bring' democracy to Iran.

Some of the $75 million has been devoted to the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, as well as to VOA satellite TV, which are beaming Persian programs into Iran. Other portions have been given secretly to exiled Iranian groups, political figures and nongovernmental organizations to establish contacts with Iranian opposition groups.

But Iranian reformists believe that democracy can't be imported. It must be indigenous. They believe that the best Washington can do for democracy in Iran is to leave them alone. The fact is, no truly nationalist and democratic group will accept such funds.

According to the Algiers Accord that the United States signed with Iran in 1981 to end the hostage crisis, noninterference in Iran's domestic affairs is one of Washington's legal obligations.

The secret dimension of the distribution of the $75 million has also created immense problems for Iranian reformists, democratic groups and human rights activists. Aware of their own deep unpopularity, the hard-liners in Iran are terrified by the prospects of a 'velvet revolution' and have become obsessed with preventing contacts between Iranian scholars, artists, journalists and political activists and their American counterparts.

Thus, Washington's policy of 'helping' the cause of democracy in Iran has backfired. It has made it more difficult for the more moderate factions within Iran's power hierarchy to argue for an accommodation with the West."

Despite this reality, the President's request for FY 2008 is $108.71 million. The FY 2008 request includes $75 million for Economic Support Funds (ESF) to be spent on democracy promotion projects in Iran. It also includes $28.21 million for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Voice of America - Persian and Radio Farda programs and $5.5 million in Diplomatic and Consular Program (D&CP) funds. Congress has not yet approved this FY2008 budget request.

In the regular FY 2006 Foreign Operations spending bill, Congress appropriated no less than $6.55 million (Public Law 109-102) for Iran from Democracy Funds and requested that at least $10 million be spent by the State Department on democracy and human rights programs in Iran overall.Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also requested $75 million in the FY 2006 Emergency Supplemental for Iran.

Congress only appropriated $66.1 million, allocated as follows (Public Law 109-234):
* $36.1 million for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG);
* $10.274 million in International Broadcasting Operations;
* $25.826 million in Broadcasting Capital Improvements.
* $20 million for democracy programs in Iran through the Middle East Partnership Initiative in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs;
* $5 million for Internet and other interactive programming through the Bureau of International Information Programs;
* $5 million for education and cultural exchanges through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

According to the State Department, to date, it has obligated approximately $16.05 million for Iran democracy programs from our FY06 regular and supplemental budgets, which includes $11.9 million through MEPI and $4.15 million through the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Additionally, $1.77 million has been obligated through the Bureau of International Information Programs, and $2.22 million through the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs from the FY 2006 regular and supplemental budgets.

Arab and Jewish American Attitudes on Iran

A new Zogby International Poll on Arab sponsored by the Arab American Institute and Americans for Peace reveals that approximately three in four Jewish Americans and Arab Americans think that the U.S. should engage diplomatically with Iran. Respondents expressed strong support (73% of Jewish Americans and 79% of Arab Americans) for serious U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran rather than preparing for military action (Table 6). The full poll and results are here. The poll included seven questions on various issues, but the relevant question on Iran and results are below:

Table 6: U.S. Policy toward Iran
Which of the following two statements best reflects your view regarding U.S. policy towards Iran?
Statement A: Diplomacy with Iran is a waste of time and the US needs to prepare now for military action.
Statement B: It is vital that the US engage in serious diplomacy with Iran and the international community, which could prevent another war.

Statement A
Jewish American 21
Arab American 16

Statement B
Jewish American 73
Arab American 79

Jewish American 4
Arab American 3

Not Sure
Jewish American 2
Arab American 2

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Iran in the FY2008 Senate Defense Authorization Bill

Well, after a bit of a hiatus and what seems like an eternity away, I'm back and in the thick of things, so to speak.

This week, the Senate Armed Services Committee released it's version of S. 1547, the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill. We expect a floor vote on the bill in the next couple of weeks. Below are the Iran relevant portions.

On page 32 of the bill, the bill conveys that Iran's missile threat as a justification for missile defense in Europe: "(A) The threat to Europe of ballistic missiles (including short-range, medium-range, intermediate-range, and long-range ballistic missiles) from Iran and from other nations (except Russia), including the likelihood and timing of such threats."

More importantly, on page 327 of S. 1547, reads:

"SEC. 1216. PRESIDENTIAL REPORT ON POLICY OBJECTIVES AND UNITED STATES STRATEGY REGARDING IRAN. Not more than 75 percent of the amount authorized to be appropriated by this Act and available for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy may be obligated or expended for that purpose until the President submits to Congress the report required by section 1213(b) of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (Public Law 109–364; 120 Stat. 2422)."

Last year, I blogged about Sec. 1213(b) of the FY 2007 Defense Authorization Act here. Senator Reid is credited with asking for the President to submit to Congress a report on the administration’s objectives on US policy on Iran and the strategy for achieving those objectives. You can find the full FY 2008 Defense Authorization Report here.

There are additional references to the Iranian missile threat as the rationale for US missile defenses on European soil in the full report, including on pages 141-142 (163-164 if you go by page numbers in the Adobe Acrobat pdf). There is also a mention of the potential threat of Iranian missiles on page 261 (pg. 283 in Acrobat) as means for justifying Theater High Altitude Area Defense.

The report also references the difficulty of solving the Iran and North Korea nuclear issues if Congress gives a green light to new US nuclear weapons programs, such the Reliable Replacement Warhead. Page 626 of the full report (pg. 648 in Adobe Acrobat pdf) reads: “Historically, the United States has sought to prevent the development of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear weapons states by being the world leader for nonproliferation. Many critics and skeptics of the RRW, including former Senator Sam Nunn, are deeply concerned that if Congress gives a green light to this program, such an action will be ‘misunderstood by our allies, exploited by our adversaries, complicate our work to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons . . . and make resolution of the Iran and North Korea challenges all the more difficult.’”

Free Kian

On Friday, May 11, 2007, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested in Tehran and has been held in Evin Prison since then. Kian is one of four prominent Iranian American's to be arrested in the last month.

Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh is an internationally-respected scholar, social scientist and urban planner. He is a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, and has taught at both American and Iranian universities. Dr. Tajbakhsh is also an international expert in the areas of local government reform, urban planning, public health, and social policy. He has consulted for several Iranian government organizations, including the Municipalities Organization, the Social Security Organization, and the Ministry of the Interior, and with international nongovernmental organizations such as the World Bank, the Open Society Institute, and the Netherlands Association of Municipalities. His work in Iran has included evaluating humanitarian relief and rebuilding projects in the aftermath of the devastating 2003 earthquake in Bam.

Friends of Kian have launched a petition and campaign for his release at

Here is an Op-Ed in Pakistan's Daily Times on the arrest of the prominent Iranian Americans and why these arrests are deterring reconciliation.