Thursday, July 10, 2008

Regime Change Slush Fund Shrouded in Secrecy

Jason Leopold at The Public Record, has an excellent article today on the State Department's Iran Democracy Fund.

Leopold writes:

"An aggressive effort by the State Department to fund regime change in Iran is ongoing, but the State Department has refused to provide lawmakers with specific details of the program other than to say that the core mission of the initiative is to 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.'

Congress has appropriated more than $120 million to fund the project. The State Department has spent most of the money on the U.S.-backed Radio Farda, Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe, and to broadcast Persian programs into Iran via VOA satellite television...

Next Wednesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations will consider the fiscal year 2009 budget that calls for setting aside $65 million for additional regime change and democracy promotion efforts inside Iran...

But just the possibility that some Iranians may be linked to American led efforts to overthrow the Iranian government, or have accepted money from the Bush administration, has led to numerous arrests last year.

Emaddeddin Baghi, a human rights activist based in Tehran who was sent back to prison in September said “it is neither wise nor morally justifiable for the U.S. to continue its path” of promoting regime change by trying to give money to dissidents.

Last year, Haleh Esfandiari, was arrested and sent to a prison in Tehran on charges of spying for the U.S. He was incarcerated for eight months, four of which were spent in solitary confinement.

Some funds, according to State Department sources familiar with the how the program is run, have also been secretly funneled to exile Iranian organizations, and politically connected individuals in order to help the U.S. establish contacts with Iranian opposition groups.

In June of 2007, the State Department said it would spend $16 million on democracy promotion projects that extends beyond broadcasting. However, to date the State Department has not released details on how it intends to obligate or expend those funds...

In an October column published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Esfandiari, the director of Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East program said 'the fact that the identity of Iranian recipients of U.S. aid is regarded as classified information by the U.S. government feeds the regime's paranoia and casts suspicion on all Iranian' non-government organizations...

Shirin Ebadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2003, explained that 'no truly nationalist and democratic group will accept' State Department funds to promote a policy of regime change because '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,' Ebadi wrote in a May 30, 2007 column published in The International Herald Tribune. Ebadi’s column was published as Congress approved emergency supplemental legislation to fund the Iraq war, which contained a $75 million earmark for the State Department’s Iran Democracy project.

'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,' Ebadi added. '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.'

1 comment:

John Maszka said...

The only regime change we should be considering is from the inside out. Only once the people of Iran have embraced regime change should it take place according to their wishes.

We should leave Iran an honorable path of retreat. Engaging Iran in the global economy is the only approach that has merit.

Regardless of Iran's size however, we should be careful what we assume about Iran; it has some ten million men of military age.

Puor bien savoir les choses, il en faut savoir le detail, et comme il est presque infini, nos connaissances sont toujours superficielles et imparfaites.

Unfortunately, what we do know is that the Bush administration cannot be trusted to do what it says. Iraq taught us that lesson. Many experts have long been predicting that Bush would invade Iran before he leaves office. But of course, the Bush administration would never admit to such a thing.

“On ne donne rien si liberalement que ses conseils.”

But it is the man who follows his own counsel, he’s the one that should lead.