Financial Times reporter Guy Dinmore balked on Saturday at the news that "[t]he U.S. and U.K. are working on a strategy to promote democratic change in Iran," with the U.S. working through "[a] newly created Iran Syria Operations Group inside the State Department [that] is co-ordinating the work and reporting to Elizabeth Cheney, the senior U.S. official leading democracy promotion in the broader Middle East." -- The reality, of course, is that "'Democracy promotion is a rubric to get the Europeans behind a more robust policy without calling it regime change,' a former Bush administration official commented." -- The Financial Times also insists that an "Iran Syria Operations Group" is now in existence, despite official U.S. denials; so far, U.S. mainstream media is ignoring the existence of the group. -- It has not, however, escaped the attention of blogger Allen Roland, who called attention to a mention of the item in the American Progress Report. ...
U.S. AND U.K. DEVELOP DEMOCRACY STRATEGY FOR IRAN
By Guy Dinmore
Financial Times (UK)
April 22, 2006
The U.S. and U.K. are working on a strategy to promote democratic change in Iran, according to officials who see the joint effort as the start of a new phase in the diplomatic campaign to counter the Islamic republic's nuclear program without resorting to military intervention.
A newly created Iran Syria Operations Group inside the State Department is co-ordinating the work and reporting to Elizabeth Cheney, the senior U.S. official leading democracy promotion in the broader Middle East.
"Democracy promotion is a rubric to get the Europeans behind a more robust policy without calling it regime change," a former Bush administration official commented.
The new direction, the former official said, reflected a growing belief in the U.S. and U.K. that diplomacy through the United Nations and partial sanctions were unlikely to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. In the absence of a credible military solution, the argument went that international diplomacy could try to slow down the nuclear program while more "robust" efforts continued towards the ultimate solution of regime change, he said.
U.S. officials said the British input was important because of the Bush administration's lack of experts on Iran, the legacy of 25 years of frozen diplomatic relations. Some see the U.K. as having a moderating effect as the U.S. considers whether to fund opposition groups in exile, launch covert activities inside Iran, and/or "independent" satellite television broadcasting in Farsi.
But U.S. officials also detect a hardening of the U.K. stance in response to the confrontational approach of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran's president.
Seeking to fill the U.S. knowledge gap, the State Department last month set up the Iranian Affairs Office in Washington and announced new diplomatic posts for Farsi speakers. Barbara Leaf, an Arabist, is expected to head the office.
At the same time, the separate Iran Syria Operations Group was established to plot a more aggressive democracy promotion strategy for those two "rogue" states. Funding is to come from $75m that Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, announced in February she was requesting from Congress this year, plus some $10m already in the budget.
Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman, denied the operations group existed.
But two other U.S. officials and a European diplomat insisted that it did. They said the inter-agency group, which is supposed to co-ordinate with the Pentagon and other departments, is headed by David Denehy, a special adviser who served in the coalition government in Iraq, and Alberto Fernandez, a public diplomacy official.
Jack Straw, U.K. foreign secretary, accused Iran of deciding to "take on the international community" through its development of nuclear weapons and support of terrorism in a tough speech on March 13.
Mr Straw said the U.K. would "not take sides in Iran's internal political debates" and noted that Iranians were "understandably sensitive about any hint of outside interference."
But in language that echoed Ms. Rice's testimony to Congress a month earlier, Mr. Straw pledged U.K. support for the democratic "aspirations" of the Iranian people.
He focused on how to give Iranians access to "independent authoritative information" and said governments could help provide this.
The U.S. is planning to increase satellite television programming by Voice of America and may launch a new "independent" network with a prominent Iranian as front-man.
U.S. officials concede, however, that they are not encouraged by their experience in Arabic broadcasting in the wake of the invasion of Iraq.
Serious Iranian opposition politicians are virtually unanimous in saying that foreign funding of activities designed to promote democracy, especially by the U.S. or U.K., would be counter-productive.
Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a press adviser to Mr Ahmadi-Nejad, recently said Iranians were "alert" to the "propaganda of enemies," and in general Iran's rulers show little concern over existing U.S. broadcasts.
--Additional reporting by Gareth Smyth in Tehran
CHENEY'S SECRET IRAN OPERATING GROUP
By Allen L. Roland
Allen L. Roland's Radio Weblog
April 11, 2006
The Office of Special Plans ( OSP ) fed tainted intelligence directly to Dick Cheney in the run-up to the war with Iraq with the objective of regime change.
The Iran-Syria Operations Group (ISOG), has been set up by Dick Cheney's daughter with the same objective of regime change in Iran -- with a direct line to Dick Cheney.
The real objective of OSP was to justify a war with Iraq which is most likely the case with ISOG.
Are there any doubts as to who is running this country and who George answers to? The Center for American Progress filed this revealing memo today:
Under the Radar
IRAN -- RECENT COVERAGE FAILS TO NOTE ADMINISTRATION'S CREATION OF SECRETIVE IRAN GROUP
American Progress Report
April 11, 2006
Remarking on the recent coverage by the Washington Post and the New Yorker on the Bush administration's preparations for a military strike against Iran, Lawrence Kaplan, a senior editor at the New Republic, writes that "absent from either account . . . is any mention of the State Department's ramped-up campaign for regime change in Iran -- a campaign that intensifies by the day."
According to Kaplan, the administration has formed what it calls the Iran-Syria Operations Group (ISOG), a body headed by Vice President Cheney's daughter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Liz Cheney, and whose purpose is to encourage regime change in Iran.
The State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs is disgruntled by the Bush team's efforts to run its own Iran shop and skirt the traditional bureaucracy. The administration's pre-Iraq war creations of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) and the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans (OSP) may suggest one possible answer for why the administration feels the need to set up a secretive Iran operating group.
OSP was created to cull intelligence to make the strongest possible case for war with Iraq, while WHIG helped market the war based on the selective intelligence the administration collected.
Cheney is operating with more than $75 million at her disposal to ostensibly promote democracy in Iran.