Thursday, March 30, 2006
Asking the Right Questions About Democracy Promotion
Some academics, activists and those involved in the growing US business of spreading freedom and democracy are alarmed that such semi-covert activities risk damaging the public and transparent work of other organisations, and will backfire inside Iran.
“The danger is that this is a move towards covert political warfare that will completely stymie the whole idea of democracy building. This kind of activity endangers nearly 20 years of democracy promotion,” commented Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, a UK founding governor of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
“Getting crowds on the streets to overthrow regimes can backfire badly,” he said. He and other academics reject the notion that the east European experience can be applied to Iran.
There is concern in Europe too. Diplomats say the Bush administration’s request this year for $85m in pro-democracy funding – and its refusal to hold talks with Iran – will be seen as tantamount to a policy of “regime change”. They say this risks undermining efforts – continuing with a Berlin meeting of foreign ministers on Thursday – to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Mehrangiz Kar, a prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, has issued an impassioned plea to Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, to drop her funding plans.
The money would tarnish Iranian human rights organisations, turn them into businesses, stoke corruption and play into the hands of the security forces, she said, suggesting the US channel funds through international organisations like the United Nations and the World Bank.
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