Op-ed writers poorly judged U.S.’s Iran-democracy effort

The op-ed by Dr. Trita Parsi and Emily Blout concerning the U.S. program to promote democracy in Iran was self-contradictory and misleading (“Fund bridges, not failed policy,” Sept. 11). In the wake of the Senate’s decision to fully fund the president’s request for democracy promotion in Iran, let me set the record straight.

Despite admitting that Tehran has never needed a pretext to repress its citizens, Parsi and Blout argue that U.S. support for pro-democracy projects in Iran has spawned a government crackdown on dissidents and reformers. They failed, however, to link Iranian repression to recipients of U.S. funding. To my knowledge, no one receiving these U.S. funds has been arrested since the program’s inception in 2005.

But this lack of any direct correlation between repression and U.S. funding is not surprising if one believes Parsi and Blout’s next argument, that Iranians have “uniformly denounced” the program and are not interested in U.S. assistance. That assertion flies in the face of data I have received on the program showing significant and growing Iranian interest in U.S. support. As Parsi and Blout surely must admit, someone must be spending U.S. funds if the Iranian government feels threatened enough to respond by repressing dissidents.

The real question is why Parsi and Blout are fixated on Tehran’s reaction to this program. Tehran should not be allowed to dictate policy to the United States. The decision to accept U.S. funds or operate without them rests with Iranians themselves. The decision to support Iranian aspirations for a free and open society rests with Congress and ultimately the American people. Some reformers in the future may pay a terrible price to the regime for accepting U.S. funding, but that is a risk they and we should be willing to take for the broader cause of reform. Cutting this program’s funding would signal that repression will deter U.S. action — a message we truly cannot afford to send.

Parsi and Blout claim to speak in the best interests of the Iranian people. To make good on that claim, they should not be willing to acquiesce in the face of Tehran’s desperate efforts to oppose peaceful democratic change in Iran.

Washington


How GOP members are failing conservatives
From Connie Manes

... For seven years now, Republicans have kissed the president’s back end, doing everything he, Karl Rove or Dick Cheney demands of them. Look where it’s gotten them.

They are now considered the most non-conservative bunch to be elected by their own party base. They have Americans deeper in debt then ever before. They’ve increased the size of government, not decreased it as conservatives are known for doing. They came into power claiming they had better moral values and that they would clean up the White House, only to see themselves humiliated by scandals.

They are supposed to be the party of less government intrusion, yet they’ve allowed the president more control of the common citizen’s civil liberties then ever before in our history. Last but not least, they helped get us into another Vietnam mess by authorizing the war in Iraq and by their continuing to obey the Bush/Rove/Cheney machine by refusing to stop the war.

When will the Republican Party finally say, ‘Enough already’? We’re supposed to be conservatives: We solve problems; we don’t make them.

Mattoon, Ill.