Iran General NewsFunding Democracy in Iran

Funding Democracy in Iran

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Fox News Channel – Your World with Neil Cavuto: Now if you don’t fight them, coerce them. The Bush administration thinks there is a lot to be said to saying a lot about democracy period in of all places, Iran. Even if it can appear illegal. Megyn
Kendall fills us in from Washington, Megyn.
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Fox News Channel

Neil Cavuto: Now if you don’t fight them, coerce them. The Bush administration thinks there is a lot to be said to saying a lot about democracy period in of all places, Iran. Even if it can appear illegal. Megyn Kendall fills us in from Washington, Megyn.

Megyn Kendall: Hi there Neil. Well, for years there has been a US prohibition not just on American companies doing business in Iran but also on spending government money there. Sanctions imposed on a country the State Department says is a sponsor of terror. Now that may be changing. At his State of the Union Address, President Bush promised Iranians as they stand for their own liberty, Americans stand with them. What that meant was left unclear, but now we are starting to understand. For the first time since the US hostage crisis, the State Department has appropriated three million dollars to help promote democracy in Iran, inviting proposals from educational, humanitarian and non-governmental groups who want to help the cause. Critics say the move violates a 1981 agreement in which the US promised not to intervene in Iran’s internal affairs.
Something the State Department flatly rejects.

Richard Boucher (State Department Spokesman): Supporting democracy and human rights around the world is something the United States does everywhere; it’s not an attempt to decide someone else’s internal affairs.

Megyn Kendall: Protestors from groups like the National Council of Resistance in Iran which rallied in Washington late last year have been pushing for democracy in Tehran for years. The State Department considers that group a terrorist group. A label the group dismisses as propaganda, the product of pressure from Iranian clerics determined to discredit the democracy push. Now among other goals, the State Department hopes this money will help develop labor unions, political parties, an open and free media and other efforts that will promote respect for human rights.

Neil Cavuto: Thank you Megyn very much. Megyn Kendall in Washington. Well, add that three million to another fifteen million the US already spends annually on radio and TV broadcasts in Iran; but is this a good idea? My next guest says yes it is. Alireza Jafarzadeh is the President of Strategic Policy Consulting and a FOX News Foreign Affairs Analyst. Good to have you.

Alireza Jafarzadeh: Good to be here, Neil.

Neil Cavuto: It’s interesting because I always wonder where this money goes when we try to promote freedom in Iran. Where do you think it goes?

Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, Neil I think first of all, this is a good idea, not because of the financial value of the money, but I think because of the political message. It sends a signal to the Iranian regime, that the United States is ready to take some tangible steps to help the democracy movement in Iran, to help unseating the Ayatollahs. It helps the Iranian people, because it encourages the opposition both inside and outside of the country. So, I think the significance is really beyond the three million dollars.

Neil Cavuto: But did we get that kind of bang for our buck with Radio Free Europe or Voice of America in countries that had totalitarianism regimes or are there other forces that eventually change that around?

Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well you’re right, there was money appropriated, some 15 million dollars for radio and television broadcast into the country, that’s basically Radio Farda which is a Farsi broadcast. But I think that’s not enough as you can tell because you need to make a connection with the real opposition on the ground; those who can make a difference in actually bringing down the Ayatollahs and standing up against the regime. That’s why it’s very important where the United States stands in terms of the opposition. What this measure signals that the United States is, hopefully, ready to take some actions. I think what the President said at the State of the Union Address that America stands on the side of the Iranian people, as they stand for liberty, sets the pace.

Neil Cavuto: Yea, but that means doing something. We’ve got to do something beyond just democracy broadcasts into the country, right? And we are not doing that.

Alireza Jafarzadeh: You are right Neil. I think what the United States needs to do is to empower the Iranian opposition; to remove any restrictions on the opposition. Megyn was just making a report earlier about imposing terrorist label on the Iranian opposition. You cannot encourage regime change when Iran’s main opposition is labeled as terrorists. So, that’s the first step, that’s what needs to be done. You need to pressure the Europeans to do the same and take practical steps in helping the opposition.

Neil Cavuto: All good ideas, Alireza. Thank you very much, good having you on.

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