By Daan de Wit
This article has been translated into English by Ben Kearney
Iran accuses the West of interference. The British Foreign Secretary rejects this: 'The idea that the British Embassy is somehow behind the demonstrations and protests that have been taking place in Tehran in recent weeks is wholly without foundation'. Earlier Miliband denied 'categorically the idea that the protesters in Iran are manipulated or motivated by foreign countries'. His Dutch colleague agreed, and expressed his desire to see the various EU foreign ministers meet with each other: 'We should discuss how to prevent Iran from playing the European countries against each other and how more pressure can be applied to Iran to get them to put an end to the violence'. But as far as Iran is concerned, the Netherlands began applying this pressure long ago. NRC Handelsblad writes in an article under the headline Dutch govt subsidizes political change in Iran: 'The Netherlands and the United States are the only countries in the world that openly allocate funds to promote political changes in Iran'.
In my book The Next War - The Attack on Iran - A Preview, I write about Iranian concerns as regards this funding (p. 210, sources available via the website): 'The Office of Iranian Affairs has been a part of the State Department since early 2006, created with the purpose of promoting regime change in Iran. In mid-2007, Kayhan, the most influential conservative newspaper in Iran, made reference almost daily in its lead editorial to the amount of 75 million dollars that the U.S. was going to spend on the promotion of democracy in Iran. The newspaper called the network that would be spending this money a "spider's nest". The New York Times writes that if the spider is maintaining a headquarters in its nest, it might well be the Office of Iranian Affairs. According to an internal State Department memo, the office was part of a new effort to 'respond to the full spectrum of threats Iran poses', as well as to 'reach out to the Iranian people to support their desire for freedom and democracy'.
Page 216: 'There is 75 million dollars appropriated annually from the U.S. State Department for activities that promote democracy in Iran – that's on top of the 10 million dollars already made available via the aforementioned Iran Freedom Support Act. In 2006 the budget for American radio and television broadcasts aimed at Iran was slashed by 19 million dollars. This setback for the Bush Administration might be compensated for in part by the 15 million euros that the Netherlands allocates for 'the advancement of pluriformity of the media in Iran'. A portion of this amount goes to the previously mentioned Freedom House. 'The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has allocated funds to an American neoconservative organization for a program designed to effect peaceful regime change in Iran. The organization Freedom House, which back in 2003 supported the American invasion of Iraq, received approximately 630,000 euros from the Dutch government this year, as confirmed by the director of the organization', writes NRC Handelsblad in September of 2006 [...]. At the time that the American organization sought funding from the Dutch government, Freedom House was led by ex-CIA director James Woolsey, who has sided with those calling for regime change in Iran.
Various recipients of American money have had to pay dearly for their gift, and now find themselves imprisoned in solitary confinement in Iran. In reference to the Dutch support, NRC Handelsblad quotes one of these recipients in mid-2007: ‘We already have it difficult enough without help from the Dutch government'. Any number of activists have been rounded up and non-governmental organizations have been shut down. 'Nevertheless the Dutch Lower Chamber decided last week to once again make money available for the promotion of a diverse Iranian press. It was a remarkable combination: Hans van Baalen (VVD) and Farah Karimi (GroenLinks), who joined together in 2004', writes Vrij Nederland on the origin of the gifts. The American administration has again requested 75 million dollars from Congress for 2008. In an open letter to the American government in November of 2007, 23 liberal and conservative pro-democracy groups made their objection clear. But to no avail; one month later, the request was fulfilled. NRC Handelsblad notes how the Iranian authorities have reacted to the foreign funding: 'The Iranian Information Minister accused women's and student organizations of getting paid by 'foreign powers'. 'They have asked a number of foreign groups for training in soft regime change, and with financial support, intense propaganda and economic pressure, they are trying to drive a wedge between the people and the government'.' This reaction is not wholly without basis, considering previous American undertakings in this area, such as the proposal in 1996 by Republican Newt Gingrich to funnel 18 million dollars into a covert program to overthrow the Iranian regime. 'From then the Iranians were convinced we were coming for them', says Martin Indyk, who was assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs during the Clinton administration.
That impression won't be dispelled in Tehran after reading this article in USA Today from last Thursday, with the headline U.S. grants support Iranian dissidents: 'The Obama administration is moving forward with plans to fund groups that support Iranian dissidents, records and interviews show, continuing a program that became controversial when it was expanded by President Bush'. This suspicion on the part of the Iranian authorities is fueled above all by the successful covert CIA Operation Ajax, which in 1953 ousted Mohammed Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran. Dutch freelance journalist Eefje Blankenvoort, author of the [Dutch] book In Secret Anything Goes Here, says this in an interview with DeepJournal: 'The Iranians harbor an intense dislike of American politics, not of America itself, its culture or its people, but purely with American politics, American imperialism. That dislike of America has its roots above all in the ousting of Minister President Mossadeq, by way of a coup perpetrated by the CIA. Mossadeq wanted to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, and that set off alarm bells in Washington. The coup was carried out in cooperation with Great Britain, which placed all the power in the hands of the Shah. This led to a cruel dictatorship and was followed by the Iranian revolution, which took place in 1979.'
Iran finds itself in the middle or at the end of the Green Revolution. ‘Far more often than is generally understood, the change agent is broad-based, nonviolent civic resistance—which employs tactics such as boycotts, mass protests, blockades, strikes, and civil disobedience to de-legitimate authoritarian rulers and erode their sources of support, including the loyalty of their armed defenders'. This is how Peter Ackerman characterizes the reason for the existence of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in a report (2005) from Freedom House. In my book I write about both organizations (p. 114): 'Freedom House operates outside the bounds of the government. This organization is nevertheless sponsored by the American government and, according to the Financial Times (2006), is awarded these funds in part to carry out clandestine activities in Iran. Freedom House describes itself as a 'clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world', and like so many similar organizations has embraced the idea that the world is being threatened by radical islam. This is seen as the new fascism and is therefore called islamofascism. In March of 2008 Freedom House issued a report critical of Iranian textbooks that could incite children to discriminate against women and minorites. The teaching material would be used by the authorities as 'an important element of her indoctrination process'. The chair of the board of trustees of Freedom House is Peter Ackerman. With his own money and with money from the aforementioned IRI, as well as the allied National Endowment for Democracy, Ackerman established the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), which encourages nonviolent regime change wherever it's needed. [The earlier quote from Ackerman] is strongly reminiscent of the color and flower revolutions in Eastern Europe, such as the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003 and the Orange Revolutie in the Ukraine a year later'. And thus the Green Revolution as well.
The Next War, page 214: 'In order to teach Iranians the lessons learned from nonviolent revolutions, the ICNC organized workshops in Dubai in 2006, just like the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, which owes its existence to a million dollars of U.S. taxpayer money. The participants at these gatherings were addressed on behalf of the ICNC by two members of Otpor!, the Serbian grassroots student organization that was a major factor in forcing the resignation of Slobodan Milosevic. One of the participants described the time in Dubai as a James Bond camp for revolutionaries - seminars were given on email encryption techniques and the use of specialized software that can quickly upload information and simultaneously erase the original from the computer. In the lobby of the hotel where the meetings were held, the gathering was identified as a conference by the Griffin Hospital'.
Early this year the Tehran Times reported: 'Iran has broken up a CIA-backed network that sought to carry out a “soft revolution” in Iran through people-to-people contacts. The “soft revolution” plan is based in Dubai and is similar to a U.S. plan that targeted the Soviet Union in 1959 [...]. “The U.S. intelligence agency was seeking to (repeat) its experiences of color revolutions through such public contacts with influential persons and elites.” [...] The Intelligence Ministry official said that $32 million of the $75 million allocated by the U.S. Congress to destabilize Iran was spent on this project. The CIA used institutions such as the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Soros Foundation, AIPAC, and charity organizations and sought the help of William Burns and other people in the United States and agents in the Azerbaijan Republic, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. [...] These persons were ordered to put pressure on the government to change its policy and to sow discord between the government and the people, he explained. The Intelligence Ministry found out about the secret plan from the very beginning and “even allowed the operation to be conducted to a (certain level) so that we could inform talented people with full confidence that they should not be deceived by such scientific centers,” he stated'.
Page 215: 'During one of the sessions [in Dubai], segments of the 3-hour long documentary A Force More Powerful were shown, made by Steven York of YorkZim on the ‘unknown heroes' of six different successful nonviolent regime changes. Together with YorkZim, The International Center on Nonviolent Conflicts has developed a video game that carries the same name as the documentary. The game actually shows how to organize the sort of regime changes covered in the documentary. Director York also produced the documentary Bringing Down A Dictator, that tells how the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic 'strengthened by patriotic fervor when NATO bombed Yugoslavia' stepped down as leader of Yugoslavia as a result of a popular revolt started by students ‘trained in nonviolent action and partially financed by the US and western Europe'. The documentary is narrated by Ben Kingsley, the actor reknowned for his role as Gandhi in the film of the same name. The Washington Post describes how, with American taxpayer money, 5000 cans of spray paint were purchased that were used to paint anti-Milosevic statements on walls, and 2.5 million stickers were printed up with the slogan 'He's finished'.
Engaging slogans are important. And that goes for the activist groups themselves: Otpor! (resistance) in Serbia, Zubr! (bison, the national symbol) in Belarus, Mjaft! (enough) in Albania, Kmara! (enough) in Georgia, Pora! (it's time) in the Ukraine. Ian Traynor of the British newspaper The Guardian describes how the 'trick' that was employed with Milosevic was hauled out for the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine in November of 2004, funded and organized by the American government, 'deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations'. A key role was reserved for Richard Miles, the U.S. ambassador in Belgrade. Traynor says that these operations are now so slick that the methods have become a template for winning other people's elections. The nonviolent overthrow of regimes as a proven alternative to war'.