Monday, September 10, 2007

Despite persistent, unequivocal declarations from analysts and Iran-based activists who say outside interference in Iran's domestic affairs undermines all local efforts at change, Joe Lieberman and a handful of "regime change" lunatics who know frighteningly little about Iran have passed the Lieberman Amendment to Restore Funding for Iran Democracy Promotion:

"there is work in the State Department -- working through third-party organizations, not directly from the federal government -- to support student groups, women's groups, the whole array of civil society, to give some hope to the people of Iran."

Putting millions of dollars at the disposal of unnamed "third party organizations" who pocket most of the funds and distribute the rest to also unnamed "grantees" sounds like a recipe for disaster. How and to whom will those receiving funds be held accountable, both financially and morally?

In addition, these funding acts inevitably taint anyone who is doing any Iran-related work, whether they are based inside or outside Iran.

Take for example this ad posted on Iranian.com. They are looking for an English to Persian translator who can help them with a project involving the translation of a number of books on Non-violent struggle. A little research shows that the organization behind the project is Non-Violence International, founded by Palestinian activist Mubarak Awad in 1989, a year after Israel expelled him for his non-violent campaigns against the occupation.

I heard Awad speak a number of years ago about his efforts in occupied Palestine. He was charismatic, friendly, and a great story-teller. And while I am also a big fan of translation, Persian to English or vice-versa, the current climate prompts me to be wary of all such projects. Seventeen years after its establishment, why has Non-Violence International suddenly taken an interest in providing its materials to a Persian speaking audience, and with which funds is it able to sponsor a enormous project involving over 600 pages of material?

These are questions that will be--indeed must be--asked of all Iran-related projects that are sure to spring up in the wake of this latest funding measure. The road to hell, as the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. While the intentions of Lieberman and Brownback are certainly aimed at increasing the likelihood of an attack on Iran, there may be others who accept such funds out of a combination of ignorance and compassion, not knowing (or not wanting to know) that they will be complicit in the march towards war.