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A Wrong Policy to Make "Iranian Bombs" Right

By Hooshang Amirahmadi


On 15 February, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and two unidentified senior officials of the State Department outlined the broad contours of a new Iran policy that centers on the Islamic regime rather than its behavior. Dr. Rice made her remarks at a Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the officials briefed the media. The policy centers on international isolation and domestic destabilization of the regime. The dual pressure is expected to result in regime change or regime reform. In either case, a prospective nuclear Iran will be safer. 


The policy is designed in response to the "defiant" mood of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom one official called a "terrorist," a charge never before the US has so explicitly leveled against a leader of the Islamic Republic. It is also hoped to dampen Israel's pressure for military action against Iran, put additional pressure on the EU, Russia, China, India and others to stay the course with the US, and embolden the opposition to the regime at home and abroad. The policy is also designed to gain the support of the Iranians as their Government is targeted. 


The new policy will "broaden" the international consensus on Iran's nuclear threat, which will make Iran face the UN Security Council soon, to address the full scope of its "threatening aggressive policies," including support for terrorism and violent extremism, and the "democracy deficit in Iran." To that end, the US intends to engage its regional allies, including the Persian Gulf Arab states, G-8 partners, and the NATO in a dialogue on the need to form a common front against the "threat" from the radical Islamic regime.


To complement the international isolation of Iran, the Bush Administration will, in the meantime, put in action a funding package to actively "support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom." Thus, the State Department is asking the Congress to increase the fund for the purpose from the existing $10 million to $85 million for 2006 and possibly 2007. To circumvent the existing US sanctions that prevent disbursement of such funds to Iranian entities, licenses will be secured from the Office of Foreign Assets Control.


The fund will be used to "empower civil society" and "promote democracy" in Iran, increase satellite TV and Radio broadcasting to the country, expand outreach to young and professional Iranians, and enhance communication for public diplomacy. The recipients will include Iranian human rights activists, labor union leaders, political dissidents, students, academics, and NGOs inside and outside Iran. The identity of individuals receiving the money will not be made public for fear of retribution by the Islamic Government.


The recipients are to use the fund to build support networks, expand internet access, shore up civic education, and foster political participation. As one of the official said, the Administration hopes to use the fund to "deepen" ties with the Iranians and initiate a political movement in Iran akin to the Polish "solidarity model." In response to an Iranian journalist who said the funding will lead to more crackdowns on dissidents, the official said that the dissidents and experts the officials have spoken to all tell them that "exactly the opposite" is the case.


Many in the Administration and the Congress, as well as academics, policy experts and Iranian dissident individuals and groups, have been touting the idea of "regime change" in Iran for sometimes. "This is a very good idea," The New York Times quoted Professor Michael McFaul of Stanford University as saying. A few of his Iranian-American and American colleagues in the Hoover Institution also advocate regime change. Those behind the policy believe that the simultaneous internal destabilization and international isolation will make the regime bend.


The two key assumptions justifying the shift in favor of an emerging regime change policy are that Iran cannot be stopped from building nuclear bombs, and that a secular democratic nuclear Iran is less threatening than a radical Islamic nuclear Iran. There are four additional problematic assumptions as well: the Islamic regime has a shallow support base, reform in Iran is hindered by a lack of money and information, democracy is the first priority for most Iranians, Iran can be isolated, and Iran can become democratic in the absence of diplomatic relations with the US.


In a forthcoming article, I will offer a further exposition of the new policy, critically evaluate its key processes and assumptions, explain the many difficulties the policy will face for implementation, explicate its pros and cons for the pro-democracy Iranians, and offer an alternative perspective on how the US might help with reforming the Iranian regime without presenting itself as an existential threat to the Islamic Republic. I shall draw from the past US experiences with dictatorships that became democracies in the Eastern Europe, Eat Asia, Latin America and Africa.


About the author: Hooshang Amirahmadi is a Professor of Planning and International Development and Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University, and President of the American Iranian Council. ;




... Payvand News - 3/13/06 ... --

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