April 11, 2005


U.S. aims to spend money in Iran (Barbara Slavin, 4/10/05, USA TODAY)

For the first time in a quarter-century of estrangement from Iran, the Bush administration is openly preparing to spend government funds in that country to promote democracy.

Congress has appropriated $3 million, and the State Department is inviting proposals from "educational institutions, humanitarian groups, non-governmental organizations and individuals inside Iran to support the advancement of democracy and human rights," according to an announcement posted Friday on the Web site of the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Although the amount is small — and Iran's government may try to bar Iranians from accepting funds — the move is a significant departure for the United States, which by policy and treaty has not publicly sought to funnel money into Iran for such a purpose in 25 years.

"It's a sea change," says Les Campbell, who is in charge of Middle East programs at the National Democratic Institute, which receives U.S. funds to promote democracy and human rights abroad. "We're very interested."

Such practices, like the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy, worked well in toppling the Soviets, but were coupled with very public and frequent pronouncements from the president that Communism had failed, the regime was rotten, and the future was democratic. Iran requires the same.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2005 7:29 AM
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