Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 

US seeks to help Iran democracy: Bush to blame

On February 15th of this year, Secretary Rice requested of Congress $75 million in emergency funding “to support democracy in Iran.”

“I want to thank the Congress for giving us $10 million to support the cause of freedom and human rights in Iran this year. We will use this money to develop support networks for Iranian reformers, political dissidents and human rights activists. We also plan to request $75 million in supplemental funding for the year 2006 to support democracy in Iran. That money would enable us to increase our support for democracy and improve our radio broadcasting, begin satellite television broadcasts, increase the contacts between our peoples through expanded fellowships and scholarships for Iranian students, and to bolster our public diplomacy efforts.”
Secretary Rice's February 15, 2006 testimony re: President’s FY 2007 International Affairs Budget Request


Well, things are going so bad for the Administration that apparently these new initiatives are having a retro-active impact U.S. Push for Democracy Could Backfire Inside Iran.

“In a case that advocates fear is directly linked to Bush's announcement, the government has jailed two Iranians who traveled outside the country to attend what was billed as a series of workshops on human rights. Two others who attended were interrogated for three days

“The workshops, conducted by groups based in the United States, were held last April, but Iranian investigators did not summon the participants until last month, about the time the Bush administration announced plans to spend $85 million " to support the cause of freedom in Iran this year.’ ” (emphasis added)

Well, “about the time” isn’t “the same time” as we later learn:

“Then on Feb. 12, with reports emerging in Washington of the Bush initiative, Afsahi was taken into custody. Ehsan Kamali, the law student, was detained at a filling station four days later. Both remain in solitary confinement in Evin Prison in the north of Tehran, their condition unknown.”

While generally U.S. and British officials were discussing Iran’s government (ABC News: U.S., Britain discuss promoting democracy in Iran 2/8/06), nothing specific about any new initiatives came out until Secretary Rice’s testimony to Congress on February 15th – 3 days after the Iranians were jailed. Further, all this is against a backdrop of increasing world hostility toward Iran and their nuclear development program.

The Post writers, Karl Vick and David Finkel, also include this useful anecdote:

“ ‘Unfortunately, I've got to say it has a negative effect, not a positive one," said Abdolfattah Soltani, a human rights lawyer recently released from seven months in prison. After writing in a newspaper that his clients were beaten while in jail, Soltani was charged with offenses that included spying for the United States.

So, prior to the announcement of these initiatives, Mr. Soltani spent 7 months in prison on charges “that included spying for the United States”. And that’s the environment our initiatives could negatively effect.

This is a Page One report?

UPDATE: Michael Ledeen over at NRO also has comments on this same Post article: http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200603141042.asp



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