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The Office of Iranian Affairs

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In February, 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requested emergency funding from Congress to the amount of $75 million, on top of a previously allocated $10 million, “to mount the biggest ever propaganda campaign against the Tehran government”, in the words of The Guardian. The money “would be used to broadcast US radio and television programmes into Iran, help pay for Iranians to study in America and support pro-democracy groups inside the country.” The propaganda effort would include “extending the government-run Voice of America’s Farsi service from a few hours a day to round-the-clock coverage.” In announcing the request, Rice said the U.S. “will work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy in their country.”[20]

The Christian Science Monitor reported candidly on the “implicit goal” of the requested funds as being “regime change from within”, and similarly noted that “The money will go toward boosting broadcasts in Farsi to Iran, support for opposition groups, and student exchanges.”

A former specialist on the Middle East from the National Security Council, Raymond Tanter suggested the U.S. could work with an Iranian opposition group, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK). “If we are serious about working with groups from within,” he said, “it will have to be with the MEK, because there’s no other opposition force the regime cares about.”

Mehdi Marand, a spokesman for the Council for Democratic Change in Iran, similarly said that some in the Congress were ready to remove the MEK from the terrorist list. “If the US really wants to help the democratic forces inside Iran,” he said, “the only way is to remove restrictions from the opposition.”[21]

The problem is that the MEK is on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Based in Iraq, the group came under the sway of the U.S. after the 2003 invasion that overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein.

According to former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who was among a few lone voices pointing out prior to the invasion of Iraq that there was no credible evidence the country still possessed weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. was already working with the MEK. Well prior, in 2005, Ritter wrote that the Bush administration had authorized a number of covert operations inside Iran. “The most visible of these”, he wrote, “is the CIA-backed actions recently undertaken by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group, once run by Saddam Hussein’s dreaded intelligence services, but now working exclusively for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.” The MEK’s CIA-backed operations within Iran included “terror bombings”, Ritter charged.[22]

A State Department cable unclassified in March, 2006 and entitled “Recruiting the Next Generation of Iran Experts” began by asserting that “Effectively addressing the Iran challenge ranks as one of the highest foreign policy priorities for our Government over the next decade.” The document outlines a plan developed under then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to “promote freedom and demoncracy [sic] in Iran.”

To this end, the State Department created the Office of Iranian Affairs (OIA) under the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, which would “reach out to the Iranian people” and bring more Iran experts into the Foreign Service and more Persian-speaking officers into the OIA, the Intelligence and Research Bureau (INR), and other branches of the State Department. Part of the “outreach” effort would be based in Dubai, a “natural location” for a regional office due to its “proximity to Iran and access to an Iranian diaspora”.[23]

The Dubai office would be modeled on the listening station in the Latvian capital of Riga, according to the document, which was where the U.S. had a listening station to gather information on the Soviet Union during the 1920s (George Kennan was at one time stationed there). The Iranian media has referred to the station as the “regime-change office.” A State Department official based in Dubai said the office’s purpose “is to get a sense of what’s going on in Iran. It is not some recruiting office and is not organizing the next revolution in Iran.”[24]

But the State Department cable also stated that among responsibilities of the Deputy Director of the Dubai station would be to seek “ways to use USG programs and funding to support Iranian political and civic organizations” and “to alert Washington on [the] need to issue statements on behalf of Iranian dissidents.”

The OIA would also create an International Relations Officer Generalist (IROG) position in Istanbul to advance “U.S. policy objectives with the Iranian [expatriate] community” in Turkey and Israel. A similar position would be created for the same purpose in Frankfurt, London, and Baku.[25]

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times critical of the Bush administration’s designs on Iran, Charles A. Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and Ray Takeyh, also a senior fellow at the CFR, observed that the objective was “not just to contain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions but also to topple the Iranian government.” Their main criticism with the new “strategy for regime change” is that it was likely to “backfire and only strengthen Tehran’s hard-liners” by giving them cause to decry “U.S. ‘interference’” and thus lending them political leverage to implement a crackdown on dissidents.[26]

When asked whether the OIA was intended to promote regime change, a State Department senior official told CNN it was “to facilitate a change in Iranian policies and actions” before acknowledging, “Yes, one of the things we want to develop is a government that reflects the desires of the people, but that is a process for the Iranians.”[27]

Then US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton acknowledged in October 2006 that regime change was the “ultimate objective” of the U.S. sanctions policy, and adding that it “puts pressure on them internally” and “helps democratic forces” within the country and amongst the Iranian diaspora.[28]

Administration officials told the New York Times that then Vice President Dick Cheney was promoting the “drive to bring Iranian scholars and students to America, blanket the country with radio and television broadcasts and support Iranian political dissidents.” The program was to be “overseen by Elizabeth Cheney, a principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, who is also the vice president’s daughter.”[29]

A Washington Post article on the new office noted money would be spent on “opposition activities” and observed that “Although administration officials do not use the term ‘regime change’ in public, that in effect is the goal they outline as they aim to build resistance to the theocracy.” The Post also noted that a “setback” for the Bush administration had come when Congress cut $19 million from the funding that would mainly affect broadcast operations, thus affecting plans to increase Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts into Iran to 24-hours a day.[30]

The Financial Times reported in April, 2006 that the effort was being coordinated with the U.K. and noted that criticism of the administration’s strategy included some of the same Iranians the program was designed to bolster. “Serious Iranian opposition politicians are virtually unanimous in saying that foreign funding of activities designed to promote democracy, especially by the US or UK, would be counter-productive”, the Financial Times reported. The article also quoted Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a press adviser to President Ahmadinejad, as saying that Iranians are “alert” to the “propaganda of enemies”.[31]

In May, the Los Angeles Times reported that the OIA was headed by David Denehy, a specialist at the International Republican Institute (IRI).[32] The IRI has been a recipient of NED funds, and was active in Venezuela, including the year of the attempted coup, when the IRI received $299,999 from NED to “train” political parties (including the IRI, over $1 million in grants was given by NED to groups operating in Venezuela in 2002).[33]

NIAC president Trita Parsi explained the goal of the U.S. policy by saying, “The administration is trying to make regime change through democratization the policy, instead of making confrontation by military means the policy.”

The L.A. Times also reported that “at the Pentagon, an Iranian directorate will work with the State Department office to undercut the government in Tehran.” The new Iranian directorate, the report noted, “has been set up inside its policy shop, which previously housed the Office of Special Plans [OSP]”.[34]

The OSP was the office headed by Douglas Feith that was created to bypass the normal intelligence review process and stovepipe information bolstering the policy of regime change in Iraq, including information from Iraqi dissidents like Ahmad Chalabi, who was afforded little credibility outside Feith’s office.

In an article for Rolling Stone, author James Bamford revealed how a member of Feith’s cabal at the OSP, Michael Ledeen, set up a meeting with Iranian dissidents to further the goal of regime change in Iran. Ledeen had served as the Reagan administration’s intermediary with Israel during the illegal arms deal that became known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

At the meeting in Rome, Ledeen, along with Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode, met with an Iranian named Manucher Ghorbanifer in a safehouse provided by Nicolò Pollari, the director of Italy’s Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI). Pollari had just months before been responsible for providing to that Bush administration what would later be revealed to have been fabricated documents purporting to show that Saddam Hussein had obtained yellowcake uranium from Africa. The men discussed the possibility of using the MEK to further their goal of regime change in Iran, according to Bamford’s sources who were familiar with the meeting.

Additionally, Larry Franklin, who worked under Feith in the OSP, later met with two other men “who were also looking for ways to push the U.S. into a war with Iran.” The two men were Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). With the FBI watching, Franklin illegally passed classified information on a National Security Presidential Directive dealing with U.S. policy on Iran to AIPAC with the goal of having the influential Israeli lobby exert pressure on the White House to adopt the draft directive.

In the July 24 article, Bamford wrote, “Over the past six months, the administration has adopted almost all of the hard-line stance advocated by the war cabal in the Pentagon…. To back up the tough talk, the State Department is spending $66 million to promote political changes inside Iran—funding the same kind of dissident groups that helped drive the U.S. to war in Iraq.”

Writing in the New York Times Magazine in June, 2007, Negar Azimi wrote about how the Iranian newspaper Kayhan “editorializes almost daily about an elaborate network conspiring to topple the regime. Called ‘khaneh ankaboot,’ or ‘the spider nest,’ the network is reportedly bankrolled by the $75 million and includes everyone from George Soros to George W. Bush to Francis Fukuyama to dissident Iranians of all shades.”

Azimi added, “If the spider’s nest had a headquarters, it might well be the Office of Iranian Affairs, which sits on the second floor of the State Department” and “was charged with outlining, in close consultation with Denehy, how to spend the democracy fund.”

$36.1 million of the funds was to go to VOA Persian and Radio Farda. VOA has often featured Reza Pahlavi, son of the former Shah, who now lives in Maryland. On April 1, 2007, VOA featured the head of the Balochi terrorist group Jundallah, Abdel Malek Rigi, who was “introduced as the leader of an armed national resistance group.”

Mehdi Khalaji, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who previously had worked for three years at Radio Farda, told Azimi that the VOA’s new administrators “do not seem to be able to distinguish between journalism and propaganda…. If you host the head of Jundallah and call him a freedom fighter or present a Voice of America run by monarchists, Iranians are going to stop listening.”[35]




[20] Ewen MacAskill and Julian Borger, “Bush plans huge propaganda campaign in Iran”, The Guardian, February 16, 2006

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2006/feb/16/usnews.iran

[21] Howard LaFranchi, “A bid to foment democracy in Iran”, Christian Science Monitor, February 17, 2006

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0217/p03s03-usfp.html

[22] Scott Ritter, “The US War with Iran has Already Begun”, Al Jazeera, June 20, 2005

http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0620-31.htm

[23] “Recruiting the Next Generation of Iran Experts: New Opportunities in Washington, Dubai and Europe”, Unclassified State Department Cable, released March, 2006

http://images1.americanprogress.org/il80web20037/ThinkProgress/2006/0293_001.pdf

“New ‘Office of Iranian Affairs’ Outlined in State Department Cable”, Think Progress, March 1, 2006

http://thinkprogress.org/2006/03/01/iran-doc/

[24] Lionel Beehner and Greg Bruno, “Intelligence on Iran Still Lacking”, Council on Foreign Relations, December 4, 2007

http://www.cfr.org/publication/12721/

[25] “Recruiting the Next Generation of Iran Experts”

[26] Charles A. Kupchan and Ray Takeyh, “The wrong way to fix Iran”, Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2006

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/feb/26/opinion/oe-kupchan26

[27] Elise Labott, “U.S. to sharpen focus on Iran”, CNN, March 2, 2006

http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/03/02/us.iran/

[28] Guy Dinmore and Daniel Dombey, “Bolton: sanctions ‘help regime change’”, Financial Times, October 24, 2006

http://us.ft.com/ftgateway/superpage.ft?news_id=fto102420061730242214&page=2

[29] Steven R. Weisman, “Cheney Warns of ‘Consequences’ for Iran on Nuclear Issue”, New York Times, March 8, 2006

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9801E0D61531F93BA35750C0A9609C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

[30] Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler, “U.S. Campaign Is Aimed at Iran’s Leaders”, Washington Post, March 13, 2006; A01

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/12/AR2006031201016.html

[31] Guy Dinmore, “US and UK develop democracy strategy for Iran”, Financial Times, April 21, 2006

http://us.ft.com/ftgateway/superpage.ft?news_id=fto042120061741075322&page=1

[32] Laura Rozen, “U.S. Moves to Weaken Iran”, Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2006

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/may/19/world/fg-usiran19

[33] Grant information obtained from the National Endowment for Democracy website, accessed June 23, 2009

http://www.ned.org/grants/02programs/grants-lac.html

[34] Laura Rozen, “U.S. Moves to Weaken Iran”, Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2006

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/may/19/world/fg-usiran19

[35] Negar Azimi, “Hard Realities of Soft Power”, New York Times Magazine, June 24, 2007

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/24/magazine/24ngo-t.html?_r=3&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print


Added: Jun-28-2009 Occurred On: Jun-28-2009
By: dan_man_
In:
Iraq, Iran, Middle East
Tags: Iran, Covert operations, MEK, Jundallah, regime, regime change, destabilisation, Congress, Tehran, government, United States
Views: 7296 | Comments: 12 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 1 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • It is not a question of puppet regime it is who is the better puppet master. You choose if you want to live under a brutal theocracy then go there and join them, if you want to live under the pimps Russia and China go sign up, oh it seems that you have, sorry...

    Posted Jun-28-2009 By 

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    • None of the above sounds pretty good to me.

      Posted Jun-28-2009 By 

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    • So what is your ideal living arrangement?

      Posted Jun-28-2009 By 

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    • Well for a start I'd like my country not to be blackmailed into supporting a war of aggression like what's just happened in the Middle East.

      It's also be nice if that "freedom & democracy" spin was replaced with a more realistic narrative - eg. the U.S. is the worlds largest & possibly most ruthless empire today.

      I don't think we should have to make a choice between who dominates us. My government is just as corrupt as US, Canada & Aussie so we go along with the Zionist More..

      Posted Jun-28-2009 By 

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  • Yes and so what? Your Dinnerjacket was actively funding Shia hate organizations in Iraq, trying to destabilize the restructuring efforts with hardware that took American lives, so STFU.

    Posted Jun-28-2009 By 

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    • USA had no right to be in Iraq in the first place. 2.5 million Iraqis are dead thanks to the efforts of 'the west' but you want to bitch about Iran huh?

      Posted Jun-28-2009 By 

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    • Rights? Look around and you tell me what is the lessor of evils, leaving Saddam in power? Yes there was a soul to collect in this war and yes, yes and yes again.
      Look at the real issues going on here, the demise of American influence and the rise of Chinese and Russian influence? Go ahead and pick your poison Red Pill and while you are so comfy and free in your chair in NZ remember those that have lost the freedoms that we are engaging in at this moment.

      Posted Jun-28-2009 By 

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    • So we should let the U.S. rule every country in the world with puppet regimes because .... "freedom"?

      I'm not buying that for a second.

      Posted Jun-28-2009 By 

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  • Where are the women?

    Posted Jun-28-2009 By 

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  • Better then bombing them :)

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