November 28, 2004


U.S. Eyeing New Tact in Respect of Iran (ELI LAKE, November 24, 2004, New York Sun)

The State Department is looking at ways to reach out to Iranian democrats inside the country to see who would be willing to accept outside support in their efforts to reform and change the Islamic republic.

"We are exploring ways to begin working with groups inside the country," the chief of the State Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative, Scott Carpenter, told The New York Sun yesterday.

While the president's nominee for secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has yet to sign off on a new Iran policy, the recent interest in reaching out to Iranian democrats in itself represents a change for Foggy Bottom, which until now has shied away from any open contact with or support for Persian activists inside the country.

Mr. Carpenter stressed that his outreach to Iranian democrats was preliminary, adding that he was considering inviting dissidents and activists to regional conferences to explore the prospect of America working with their organizations on the ground as the National Endowment for Democracy already does in countries all over the world. "I'm talking with people who have contacts in the country. I've asked them to spread the word,' Are you interested? Would there be some ideas we should look at?'" Mr. Carpenter said.

The new chief of the Middle East Partnership Initiative, or MEPI, used to be a senior adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council and came into his job at the State Department this fall. While MEPI is based in the State Department, it has been a high priority for the White House. President Bush himself has touted it as an initiative he hopes to spur liberal reforms in the Middle East. The first director of MEPI was the daughter of the vice president, Elizabeth Cheney. [...]

Rarely discussed, however, in the context of America's Iran policy are the organic social pressures to oust the ruling mullahs, who in the last year have purged nearly all the politicians in their elected Parliament who favored a referendum on the powers of the supreme leader. Last month, a noted Iranian journalist and human rights activist, Emadeddin Baghi, wrote in the Washington Post of 8,000 nongovernmental organizations that have emerged in recent years replacing the traditional functions of the state. He ended his piece saying, "I remain hopeful and active in the Iranian movement to establish a democratic civil society."

In 2002 and 2003 especially, Mr. Bush publicly cheered on that movement. His secretary of state, however, did little to match a policy to those words. In 2002, the State Department opposed a Pentagon policy to provide non-lethal assistance to organizations in Iran and funding for satellite television stations run by Iranian exiles. Eventually, this national security policy directive was vetoed by Ms. Rice when she was the national security adviser.

Mr. Bush has given several such speeches already, but now is an ideal time for a Reagan-at-Westminster-type address, in which he speaks of the mullocracy as a failure by its own Shi'ite terms and hammers home the inevitability of its replacement by a liberal democratic regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 28, 2004 10:13 AM
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