Thursday, February 16, 2006

Too Little Too Late

Great move, trying to use some good ol' soft power. Only it's about five years late.

Under the proposed supplemental request for the fiscal 2006 budget, the administration would use $50 million of the new funds to significantly increase Farsi broadcasts into Iran, mainly satellite television broadcasting by the federal government and broadcasts of the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, to build the capacity to broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

An additional $15 million would go to Iranian labor unions, human rights activists and other groups, generally via nongovernmental organizations and democracy groups such as the National Endowment for Democracy. The administration has already budgeted $10 million for such activity but is only just beginning to spend the $3.5 million appropriated in 2005 for this purpose.

Officials said $5 million will be used to foster Iranian student exchanges -- which have plummeted since the 1979 Iranian Revolution -- and another $5 million will be aimed at reaching the Iranian public through the Internet and building independent Farsi television and radio stations.

The rub?

But Martin S. Indyk, a Clinton administration official who now heads the Saban Center on Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said the democratic forces the administration wants to support have failed in the past to take on the clerics and have little basis of support -- and would be tainted by U.S. aid. "It's hard to see how $75 million makes a dent in that political reality," Indyk said.

The Clinton administration, under pressure from Congress, tried to assist such groups in the 1990s, Indyk said, but Iran interpreted the effort as an attempt to overthrow the government and responded by funding a series of terrorist attacks in Israel.

Regime Change Iran, as always, has much more. This is the sort of move that needs to be made, although it will be more difficult to pull off than it sounds getting the money to the people who need it so that they can use it. The symbolism, though, is powerful. It clearly shows the U.S. is ready to put its money where it's mouth is in terms of displacing the Mullahs from power. It's a gamble, but it could work to help further exacerbate the tensions currently happening in Iran between ultra hard-line Ahmadinejad and his various less insane detractors. That's where it should come in most handy. But, again, it would've been helpful to move on this with these kind of resources much earlier.

UPDATE: France calls it as it sees it. That's refreshing. I don't think things will go well at the Security Council for Iran. They have the miniscule hope of being saved by Russia's (or China's) veto, but even that's not looking as good as it was. (H/t: Balloon Juice!)