A LEVER OF CHANGE IN IRAN
By Dr. Michael Rubin
The U.S. federal money invested in Iranian civil society is minuscule, not enough even to build half a "Bridge to Nowhere." The congressional appropriation has grown from $1.4 million in 2004 to $66 million this year.
Of this, $36 million disappears into the coffers of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. The U.S. State Department applies an additional $5 million each to visitor exchange programs and to translation of the Department's Web sites into Persian. Only $20 million is available for Iranian democracy activists.
To blame democracy programs for Tehran's crackdown on dissidents, as opponents of the congressional funding have, is moral inversion.
Iranian authorities need little excuse to stifle dissent. In 1998 and 1999, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry coordinated a "serial killing" campaign against leading intellectuals. Revolutionary authorities shuttered several dozen newspapers before the U.S. Bush administration took office. Tehran's crackdown on Iranian bloggers began in 2004.
Nor do all Iranian dissidents see outside assistance as a kiss of death: Since December 2005, bus drivers in Tehran have struggled to organize the Islamic Republic's first independent trade union. For the past three months, their leader, Mansour Osanlou, has been in Tehran's Evin Prison. In an August, 2007, radio interview, his wife pleaded for more outside support. Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa has spoken out, but neither President George W. Bush nor any of the candidates seeking to succeed him have grasped this potential Gdansk shipyard moment.
Some Iranian reformers do condemn outside support. But this is no surprise. In Iran, reformers, by definition, seek to perfect theocracy, not implement democracy. When Iranian students rose in July, 1999, to demand freedom of speech and assembly, the reformist Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, supported their expulsion and incarceration. In the words of writer Laura Secor, the reformers are "the loyal opposition in a Fascist state." To base U.S. strategy toward Iranian civil society upon those who seek to subordinate popular sovereignty to unelected clerics is like filtering efforts to protect Darfur refugees through their Janjaweed oppressors.
Recent efforts to end democracy funding have been sparked by the arrests this year of four Iranian-American scholars accused of seeking a "velvet revolution." Tehran's actions were widely condemned and show how little confidence the Iranian regime has in its own population. They also demonstrate how effective democracy support can be. Popular regimes don't panic over ineffective programs and incarcerate 67-year-old grandmothers for months.
The National Iranian-American Council has suggested that, rather than encourage civil society, Washington should support more cultural exchange. In practice, this gives Tehran veto power. The regime constrains cultural exchange with the same fervor with which it limits discourse. At the height of Iran's "Dialogue of Civilizations," the U.S. State Department offered Iranian passport holders 22,000 visas; by contrast, the Iranian Foreign Ministry issued U.S. passport holders only 800 visas, limiting their issuance to those whom Tehran deemed sympathetic to its positions.
The Islamic Republic doesn't like ideological or political competition. Neither, apparently, does the NIAC. As the group lobbies to cut off funding of programs meant to foster Iranian civil society, it has accepted a six-figure grant from the National Endowment for Democracy to train Iranian nongovernmental organizations, perhaps those less threatening to the Islamic Republic. The NIAC's leader, who often trades on his access to Iranian authorities, should explain why it is okay for him, but not his competitors, to accept such money.
Successful democracy promotion must have teeth. As tensions rise between Washington and Tehran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, Congress should work to avoid escalation to military conflict. An Iranian constitutional democratic republic, in substance as well as form and therefore truly accountable to its own citizenry, would invest in better schools, hospitals, wages and infrastructure, and it would not divert billions for uranium enrichment and ballistic missiles. Empowering Iranian civil society presents the best hope to avert military escalation or a nuclear Iran. The last thing Congress should do is narrow the remaining policy options by de-funding support for Iranian democracy.
The Middle East & the Problem of Iran
American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East
Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three Page Two Page One
International Politics & World Disorder:
War & Peace in the Real World
Page Two Page One
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
Dr. Michael Rubin, a Ph.D. in History (Yale University) and a specialist in Middle Eastern politics, Islamic culture and Islamist ideology, is Editor of the Middle East Quarterly and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Dr Rubin is author of Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001) and is co-author, with Dr. Patrick Clawson, of Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Dr. Rubin served as political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003-2004); staff advisor on Iran and Iraq in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense (2002-2004); visiting lecturer in the Departments of History and International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2001-2002); visiting lecturer at the Universities of Sulaymani, Salahuddin, and Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan (2000-2001); Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (1999-2000); and visiting lecturer in the Department of History at Yale University (1999-2000). He has been a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Leonard Davis Institute at Hebrew University, and the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.
The foregoing article by Dr. Rubin was originally published in the Washington Post, October 19, 2007, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat.
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
LINKS TO PARTICULAR ISSUES & SUBJECT MATTER CATEGORIES
TREATED IN THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, U.S.A.:
American Government 2 * American Government 3 * American Government 4
American Government 5 * American Politics * Anglosphere * Arabs
Arms Control & WMD * Aztlan Separatists * Big Government
Black Africa * Bureaucracy * Canada * China * Civil Liberties * Communism
Congress, U.S. * Conservative Groups * Conservative vs. Liberal
Constitutional Law * Counterterrorism * Criminal Justice * Disloyalty * Economy
Education * Elections, U.S. * Eminent Domain * Energy & Environment
English-Speaking World * Ethnicity & Race * Europe * Europe: Jews
Family Values * Far East * Fiscal Policy, U.S. * Foreign Aid, U.S. * Foreign Policy, U.S.
France * Hispanic Separatism * Hispanic Treason * Human Health * Immigration
Infrastructure, U.S. * Intelligence, U.S. * Iran * Iraq * Islamic North Africa
Islamic Threat * Islamism * Israeli vs. Arabs * Jews & Anti-Semitism
Jihad & Jihadism * Jihad Manifesto I * Jihad Manifesto II * Judges, U.S. Federal
Judicial Appointments * Judiciary, American * Latin America * Latino Separatism
Latino Treason * Lebanon * Leftists/Liberals * Legal Issues
Local Government, U.S. * Marriage & Family * Media Political Bias
Middle East: Arabs * Middle East: Iran * Middle East: Iraq * Middle East: Israel
Middle East: Lebanon * Middle East: Syria * Middle East: Tunisia
Middle East: Turkey * Militant Islam * Military Defense * Military Justice
Military Weaponry * Modern Welfare State * Morality & Decency
National Identity * National Security * Natural Resources * News Media Bias
North Africa * Patriot Act, USA * Patriotism * Political Culture * Political Ideologies
Political Parties * Political Philosophy * Politics, American * Presidency, U.S.
Private Property * Property Rights * Public Assistance * Radical Islam
Religion & America * Rogue States & WMD * Russia * Science & Ethics
Sedition & Treason * Senate, U.S. * Social Welfare Policy * South Africa
State Government, U.S. * Subsaharan Africa * Subversion * Syria * Terrorism 1
Terrorism 2 * Treason & Sedition * Tunisia * Turkey * Ukraine
UnAmerican Activity * UN & Its Agencies * USA Patriot Act * U.S. Foreign Aid
U.S. Infrastructure * U.S. Intelligence * U.S. Senate * War & Peace
Welfare Policy * WMD & Arms Control
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
POLITICAL EDUCATION, CONSERVATIVE ANALYSIS
POLITICS, SOCIETY, & THE SOVEREIGN STATE
Website of Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
An Online Journal of Political Commentary & Analysis
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor