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The State Department And Iran

You can count on the State Department for nothing.  Inside the Bush administration it argues for "soft power" directed at Iran.  Actually, it's just fine in Foggy Bottom to have foggy policies which, in the struggle with the Tehran of the mullahs, means no policy at all.

Experts argue that there is an ongoing conflict between enlightened and liberal Iranians who are imperiled by the regime of the ayatollahs and their thugs.  After all, one has to admit that the Shah left a more tolerant and educated population than it seemed at the time.  Their children are trying to find their place in the world, and it is located not in the dictatorship run by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his comrades.

For many years, the U.S. had been quietly supporting a quiet revolution of the communications on the Internet: to give people courage, to help people make alliances, to allow people to think and talk.  (Israel has been doing that too, and reliable people tell me that Israeli radio is extremely popular.)

Now, we learn from Eli Lake in yesterday's Sun, that the State Department "has ‘effectively killed’ a program to disburse millions of dollars to Iran's democratic opposition":

In an interview yesterday, Scott Carpenter said a recent decision to move the $75 million annual aid program for Iranian democrats to the State Department's Office of Iranian Affairs would effectively neuter an initiative the president had intended to spur democracy inside the Islamic Republic.


Mr. Carpenter, who headed the Middle East Partnership Initiative and was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs until he left the Bush administration this summer, predicted the $20 million devoted to supporting the activities inside the Islamic Republic would be relegated to what he called "safe initiatives" such as student exchange programs, and not the more daring projects he and his deputy, David Denehy, funded, such as training for Web site operators to evade Internet censorship, political polling, and training on increasing recruitment for civil society groups. 

It took a bit more courage for a young Iranian to be in such a program.  But these are the kinds of programs that succeeded in Eastern Europe.