Monday, February 04, 2008

Iran Details in the International Affairs Budget Request

This afternoon, the U.S. Department of State posted a Summary and Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2009 International Affairs budget request (also known as Function 150).

The summary reveals details regarding Iran-related funding in the Economic Support Fund line item. For Fiscal Year 2009, the Statement Department is requesting $65 million in Economic Support Funds for Iran (page 79), this is more than triple the spending amount for Fiscal Year 2008, which is estimated at $21.623 million. I believe this tripling in Economic Support Funds is due to a couple of factors including the restructure in the State Department and it's Iran desk. A second factor is the Fiscal Year 2008 Foreign Operations bill in which Congress appropriated $60 million under Section 693, a general provision for so-called "Programs to Promote Democracy, Rule of Law and Governance in Iran." It has been unclear since Section 693 was originally added as an amendment introduced by Rep. Crenshaw to the House Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for exactly which programs this funding was meant, i.e. whether this section was meant to increase funding for the Economic Support Fund or the Human Rights and Democracy Fund, or if it was meant to serve as an overall guideline for total spending on so-called "democracy promotion" programs. It is still a question that needs to be answered. Thus, the tripling in the request for the Economic Support Funds could indicate that either the State Department recognizes that Congress supports this program and they can get additional funds for it or that State Department is trying to streamline the so-called democracy assistance funds thorugh the Economic Support Fund line item.

While the FY'09 Summary and Highlights does not state exactly how much of the International Broadcasting Operations funds ($654 million requested) will be devoted to Iran, it does note that funds will be used to launch Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Azerbaijani broadcasts to Iran. It is also unclear how much of $522 million in requested funding under the Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs will be allocated to Iran-related programs, but the funding will "provide new opportunities for American students to learn critical need languages." In addition to four other languages, the initiative focuses on Farsi.

Below are details.

Page 29: Economic Support Funds

Democracy Issues in States of Concern: ESF programming encourages democratic reform and builds civil society so that states will respond to the needs of their people.

• Iran – ESF funds will support the aspirations of the Iranian people for a democratic and open society by promoting civil society, civic participation, media freedom and freedom of information.

Page 61: National Security Language Initiative

FY 2009 funding will also sustain the President’s National Security Language Initiative, building international capacity and knowledge among Americans. It will provide new opportunities for American students to learn critical need languages abroad and strengthen foreign language teaching in the United States. The initiative focuses on Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Russian, and Turkic languages.

Page 65: International Broadcasting Operations

The FY 2009 request provides $654 million for International Broadcasting Operations. Through this account, the BBG funds operations of the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (including Alhurra, Alhurra-Iraq, Alhurra-Europe, and Radio Sawa), as well as related program delivery and support activities.

This funding will enhance VOA broadcasts to Somalia and the Horn of Africa and launch RFE/RL Azerbaijani broadcasts to Iran. It will also significantly strengthen VOA, RFE/RL, and RFA Internet capability and improve Alhurra’s television production capability.

No comments: