Power to the Iranian people?

By Mark Follman
Published March 4, 2005 10:52PM (EST)

"The Bush administration is considering a more aggressive effort to foster opposition inside Iran and seeking ways to use a new $3-million fund to support activists without exposing them to the risk of arrest," reports the L.A. Times. "The approach would represent a change since President Bush's first term, when the administration was more wary of such potentially dangerous moves, officials said."

Potentially dangerous, that is, for the Iranians who might be ready to stand up for democracy.

"U.S. funds to reformers may doom them," one State Department official told the L.A. Times, "because they risk being discredited by their association with the nation the Iranian regime calls the Great Satan and would probably be targeted by the police. "

One thing that apparently hasn't changed since President Bush's first term: A lack of good intelligence in the region. More from the Times, on the Iran "plan" currently taking shape:

"'The trouble is that Washington lacks good intelligence about internal political forces and individuals, the first State Department official said. 'We don't have a good picture of what's inside Iran.' Moreover, the CIA has been reluctant to get involved in covert action there, he said. 'They've gone down that road before, and it's been a mixed bag.'

"More than a decade ago, dozens of CIA informants in Iran were executed or imprisoned after secret communications with the agency were uncovered, CIA officials said recently. 'The CIA wants a clear objective,' the State Department official added. 'Is the policy regime change? Everyone says it's not, including Condi. So what is it we're trying to do, and how are we going to do it without having a lot of blood on our hands?'"

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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